Ferrara Fiorenza P.C.
 

Booster Clubs and Foundations Can Provide Support But Make Sure to Follow the Rules

With the ever-increasing financial pressure on school districts, private groups such as booster clubs and foundations often play an important role in supporting districts’ ability to offer extracurricular activities and to enrich students’ overall educational experience.  School boards and administrators must remain aware of the proper role of these entities, and ensure that proper procedures are in place for dealing with them. 

It is important for administrators and board members to remember that booster clubs and foundations are independent entities.  Most booster clubs and foundations are organized as domestic, not-for-profit corporations which maintain their own officers and directors and manage their affairs and finances independent of the school district.  These groups usually exist to raise funds and support school programs through the donation of money to fund program operations, as well as sometimes providing logistical support for events.  But, any financial support from these groups provided directly to the district must be treated as a gift.

The interplay between these groups and the board of education, must be closely monitored to ensure that each entity is performing its proper role.  It is of particular importance for the board of education to maintain independence from such groups in the board’s decision-making.  It is equally important that the board of education refrain from exercising control over the internal operations of the boosters or foundation. 

A board of education is permitted to accept gifts of money or property to be used for specific programs, but it may not delegate to a third party (1) its responsibility for determining whether or not to offer such programs; or (2) any control over the manner in which the programs are to be offered.  Conditional gifts must be closely scrutinized to determine if the conditions are legally acceptable and, if so, whether they are acceptable to the district.  Conflicts of interest can arise when members of the Board of Education also serve as officers or directors of a booster club or foundation. 

The specific activities of booster clubs and foundations are also subject to some limitations when they are held in conjunction with school events.  Booster clubs may generally conduct concession sales or solicit donations on the site of school events, provided that a board policy permitting such activities has been established.  However, gate fees charged for admission to school events, such as athletic contests or concerts, may not be shared with a booster club.  The receipts are school district funds which may, in turn, be used directly by the school district to support the program for which the receipts were obtained.

Booster clubs and foundations can play an important role in supporting school district’s programs.  The relationship between such groups and the board of education should be driven by the board of education’s independent decisions on district programming, with the booster groups providing necessary support to assist in the successful implementation of such programs. 

If you have any questions or would like assistance in working with a booster club or foundation, please contact us.

 

Excerpted from the December 2011 edition of "School Law Matters".  To view the entire newsletter, please click here.