This is Part 2 of a two-part series about how to offer fundraising opportunities in your gym.


Yesterday I told you about how we used to run fundraising in our gym as a for-profit entity. While my gym is still a for-profit, about three years ago, the parents in my gym started a booster club, so fundraising looks a little different. If you missed yesterday’s blog, click here to read it before you check out “Option #2” below. 


Option 2: Allow others to start a booster club. Note, that I did not say, “Start a booster club.” I would say that if I wanted to give you terrible advice that landed you on the Top 10 Most Wanted list with the IRS. (I don’t actually think they have a list like that, but you get the picture.) Over the last 13 years, we’ve had booster clubs twice in my gym. The first was in the first two years as a gym. A parent who was well-versed in non-profits asked me if she could start one. I truly didn’t know any better and told her to go for it. I got lucky. She did it correctly. She filed for a non-profit, created bylaws, and formed a board. They didn’t do much though, because the following year she became part of the drama in my gym and at the end of the season, she headed to a gym up the road. No one wanted to take over the booster club, so it dissolved. About three years ago, I saw the need for a booster club again. As the owner, it’s a really bad idea to be on the board or even be the “executive director” of a non-profit designed to fundraise to pay the fees at your for-profit business though. I knew that. So, I talked to a parent who was the executive director of our local United Way. She was also a military spouse who had run a booster club before for the squadron. She agreed to start a booster club. She filed for 501(c)3 status with the IRS, submitted the bylaws, created the bank accounts, and formed an executive board. She also started a Facebook group and educated other parents in the gym on how to join. 


Pros: Our booster club runs a ton of fundraising events. There is a core group of parents who are very involved and another group who participate from time to time. They set up a table at our welcome nights and open house events. There, they talk to both recreational and competitive parents about membership in the booster club and fundraising options. They do not have membership fees, but a percentage of all funds raised is required to go back to the booster club. The current executive board is very passionate about underprivileged kids. They have expressed an interest in scholarships for recreational athletes from very low-income families. They also have talked about partnering with Big Brothers and Big Sisters to provide additional scholarships for children who are part of their program to participate in classes at our gym. A few times per year when I need some serious manpower, I reach out to the booster club and offer a donation in exchange for labor. Examples include: Moving our cheer floor for showcase and parking at our annual Trunk or Treat event, which typically brings 5,000-6,000 people out to our parking lots. When we do this, I have an agreement in writing on how much we’re paying and what the end result is. For example, our booster club will provide six volunteers over the age of 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 29. All will wear our orange event-staff shirts and a reflective belt. They will assist with parking and will report to Dustin upon arrival. We pay a fair price for these volunteers and write out a check directly to the booster club. It isn’t a high-risk event when it comes to identifying open parking spots and waving cars in that direction, so it’s a good job for a volunteer. It also keeps our full-time and part-time staff from being really burned out since our four biggest events of the year all fall within the same six weeks. 


Cons: Ultimately, I could have asked our booster club to not be called Twisters Booster Club, but I felt it was in the best benefit of the athletes trying to fundraise if I allowed it. The hard part is – this group is not run by you. In fact, the owner should be a non-voting member at best. I go to the meetings and listen, but when it comes time to take a vote, I don’t get a say. We have built an incredible culture in our gym, and I’m pretty transparent with our parents, so it works really well for us, but if you aren’t there yet, or you’ve got a few wildcards, it might not work as well for you. For example, we allow the booster club to use our logo for their fundraising, but it must be modified to have the words “Booster Club”. Inevitably, people will affiliate them with us, so I have to trust that whoever is in charge isn’t going to tarnish my reputation. Furthermore, as a non-voting member, you don’t get a say on who will fill the spots on the executive board. Our current president isn’t returning next season as her daughter is entering middle school and wants to play volleyball instead. That means there is an opening, and while the parents in my gym can vote on who fills it, I can’t. 


Here are a few other important things in regard to how the booster club at my gym runs: 


  1. While I have nothing to do with it, I recommended their bylaws be reviewed by an attorney. My advice was no more than what I give you here in these blogs. Free. That means they could have elected not to do so, and I couldn’t have said much about it. Luckily, our gym culture is pretty phenomenal, and our parents have elected some really smart board members who are also affiliated with other non-profit organizations in the area and have a ton of experience in positions like this.
  2. I ask for a few things from our booster club, but I can’t legally enforce them. Here they are: 
  • I have asked the booster club to refrain from selling apparel with my logo or team names on it. My logo is copyrighted by the original designer, and I have the paperwork, however, that’s only useful if I intended to pursue legal action, which I probably never would. Instead, when “team shirts” were suggested by a member of the booster club as a fundraiser, the board members turned and asked my opinion. Again, I’m a non-voting member, but anyone who knows Danielle knows I’ve always got an opinion. I stood up and let them know they were welcome to do as they please, “…however,” I said, “Your tuition can remain a reasonable rate year after year because I don’t price gauge you to make a 50 percent profit. Instead, I create great apparel and I hope parents buy it. By doing that, we can make the necessary items, like tuition, affordable for everyone, and still offer pro shop items for those with disposable income.” As I spoke, I watched heads nod. At the end, the parent who suggested it said, “How about a car wash instead?” and everyone laughed. I’m honest with my parents, and I believe they respect our boundaries as a result.
  • I ask our booster club to notify our front desk in writing of meetings and upcoming events. I don’t do this because I want to micromanage anything. In fact, I’ve explained I want our staff to be able to help. If Culver’s Night is coming up, and someone calls the gym or emails to ask about it, I want our front desk to be able to provide the details, so we don’t have to say, “Can you please email….” The more helpful we can be, the more money everyone raises and the closer we can get them to their goal.
  • I have asked that our logo not be modified in any way. Branding recognition is important to me, and we invest a lot into our marketing (and yes, I tell them that.) I’ve explained to our gym parents many times that the more kids we get in the program, the better it is for everyone. If I can have a coach who coaches two or three teams, the coaches’ fees are less for everyone. Furthermore, the more athletes we have, the more likely we can place each athlete in their rightful age division and level rather than having to combine a mini level 1 and a youth level 1 simply because I don’t have enough athletes to field two teams with overlapping ages. I believe brand recognition is important, and our booster club can help us achieve these goals. They get it, and they’re great about meeting this request.
  • I will provide one hour per month of meeting space in the gym for no additional charge. However, if they want to rent out the gym for any other reason, such as a silent auction or fundraising event, they need to pay the fair market value. Exception: They run large yard sales twice per year. This is outdoors on a Saturday morning, and I do not charge for the outdoor space. In fact, I live in the country, so I’m buying a table this next year and selling all of Justin’s old tank tops and Hawaiian shirts that need to go anyway. I hear about gyms canceling slots for birthday parties and events because of a fundraiser. Unless you’re operating like Option #1 and taking a reasonable fee for rental space, do not do this. If you cut the gym’s revenue (and ultimately its profit), you’ll have to make it up somewhere. Who wants to fundraise just to see their fees increase the following season because the gym didn’t profit? Make decisions out of fact and not feeling. You have to treat the booster club just like any other non-profit entity.


I don’t recommend asking a parent to start a booster club unless you have some great, longtime parents who have earned your trust for the past few seasons. In fact, I’d venture to say you should have 90 percent GREAT parents in your gym if you’re going to give up that sort of control. Our executive board is made up of parents who are well-known in the community: a Commander’s wife, a college cheerleading coach, a federal civilian who runs a childcare center at the Air Force base, and a well-known community member who works for a government agency. They’ve got a lot to lose if they were to embezzle money or discriminate. 


While they’re all friends, they are not “that group of mom friends” who exclude others. That’s important because booster clubs can’t give preferential treatment. In fact, the more people they include, the better it is for everyone. I know any one of them would call out another if the books didn’t perfectly reconcile each month. I trust them, but I can’t say I’d have had a group of parents in our first year who I even knew well enough to say the same.


So, whether you’re looking to fundraise as a for-profit entity by selling marketing opportunities or you have considered a booster club in your gym, just make sure you’re doing it legally. Ensure you’re representing the entirety of the gym and if you want Danielle’s two cents here – go beyond your gym. Do something great in the community. All star cheerleading is a luxury sport. No one feels bad that you couldn’t afford more crystals on your uniform when they’re struggling to pay for school lunches. Find a way to not just fundraise to support an expensive hobby, but if at all possible, provide opportunities for children in the community as well. That is what will make your gym stand out in a crowd and will begin to shift the culture in your gym to “selflessness”.