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Stronger Together

Booster Club and school board to get control of fundraisers
Adam Stahle talks to members of the Solon school board about a proposal from the Solon Booster Club to bring all athletic fundraisers under one roof during the Feb. 20 meeting

SOLON– There are too many fundraisers.
So, the Solon Community School District (SCSD) Board of Education has endorsed a proposal from the Solon Booster Club to bring all athletic fundraisers under one roof.
At a board meeting Feb. 20, Booster Club Treasurer Adam Stahle unveiled “Stronger Together,” a project aimed to strengthen the club’s sagging membership and address the district’s concern over the number of groups seeking funds on behalf of school programs.
Board President Tim Brown noted students are putting increasing effort into fundraising, but the return investment has not been as great, and the number has grown significantly over the last several years.
Last year, he said, the board formed a committee to look into the issue.
“How do we make the system better?” he asked.
District goals included becoming more efficient at raising money and reducing the amount of time students spend on it, as well as bringing all efforts into legal alignment, Brown noted.
He said the committee pursued the problem in meetings with a revitalized Booster Club, to see how the group might fit into advancing district goals.
According to Stahle, the Booster Club’s mission to support student athletes has not changed, but participation within the club has seen a huge decline over the past five to 10 years.
In an effort to bring people back to the table and better serve student athletes, club members are seizing the opportunity to reinvent the group based on a philosophy of Culture, Experience and Opportunities (CEO).
“Our proposal is Stronger Together, bringing everybody under our umbrella,” he said.
The culture in Solon is amazing, Stahle said.
“It’s why a lot of people move here, that’s what they’re coming for,” he added. “And the experiences and opportunities we give our student athletes are outstanding as well.
“But we feel like we’re almost recreating the wheel when people fundraise,” he added.
There are only six organizations that can fundraise on behalf of the district, he noted– the Booster Club, Solon Spotlight, the Solon Education Foundation, the two parent-teacher organizations and the Math Club.
Other parent groups raising money in support of athletic programs are not officially linked with the district. The fundraisers are privately run with limited financial transparency, he noted.
“We will pass that umbrella to them,” Stahle said.
The Booster Club is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit, he said, and will not only post its financials online, but provide oversight on purchases and inventory and establish an operating budget for every athletic program.
With non-profit status, contributions to the Booster Club become tax deductible and the group can target corporate donations, he added.
The club would like to develop three-to-five major fundraisers a year (golf tournament, basketball tournament, Vegas Night) and allow individual sports to continue their own fundraisers with the money funneled through the Booster Club.
By casting a wider net and trying to find efficiencies, the club hopes to be able to provide additional resources like motivational speakers for all teams, Stahle said.
The group would also like to address the cost of playing sports for students and parents.
“It costs money to play football, it costs money to play baseball, it costs money to play golf,” he observed.
By getting a better handle on the budget and by fundraising as a community, the Booster Club hopes to take some of those family costs and cover them, he said.
The group has gone through the process of becoming a non-profit and is waiting on confirmation from the Internal Revenue Service, he noted.
Accounts have been established at Solon State Bank and Bridge Community Bank, a bookkeeper has been secured, and the group has met with the school board’s finance and budget committees.
With the board’s blessing, Stahle said, the Boosters would move forward in cooperation with Activities Director Casey Hack and bring coaches of the three sports with the biggest individual fundraisers (football, wrestling and girls’ track) on board.
Eventually, coaches from all sports would become involved in the process with the hopes of hitting the ground running on day one of implementation, he said.
Funds raised privately would be donated to the Booster Club and placed in earmarked funds for individual sports.
The district doesn’t currently have line item budgets for all sports, so the Boosters plan to look back at three years of athletic department expenses to create operational budgets for each.
“That would be some work, but the first year’s going to be the most work,” Stahle said. “After that, we’re going to have the template to do that.”
Working with the district, the Booster Club will forecast the budget out a couple of years to stay ahead of the curve.
Hopefully, he said, the effort lead to reinvigorated school spirit, bringing back the days when you had to show up for the freshman basketball game so you could have a seat for the varsity show.
And it might open the door for a future in which students live broadcast athletic events, he added.
“I think it’s a win-win-win for everybody,” he said. The student athletes receive more opportunities, the Booster Club obtains more members and the district gets more control and efficiency.
Brown agreed with the idea.
The SCSD has already identified designated the Booster Club as the organization to coordinate raising funds outside of district accounts in support of student athletes, he noted.
If successful, he said, it could lead to the point where only a few fundraisers a year are needed.
Board member Jami Wolf questioned how that would look.
“If you’re saying you’re not going to tell anybody they can’t fundraise for their particular one, how is this ever going to evolve to that point?” she asked.
Brown suggested it would be a gradual change.
As organized fundraising becomes more successful, he said, there would hopefully be less need for sport-specific efforts requiring time from students.
“It’s going to be a transition process,” he added.
Stahle noted the change would remove the liability for coaches and parents holding funds while still leaving financial control with coaches and the district.
Board member Dan Coons suggested the board needed a way to pull the plug on the arrangement if things went south.
“Do we have any oversight at all?” he asked.
Brown said the SCSD could keep tabs much in the same way Superintendent Davis Eidahl works with the Solon Education Foundation to provide needs for teachers.
Currently, Brown said, Business Manager Pat Moore is tasked with keeping track of all the different fundraising monies.
“It’s an accounting nightmare,” he said.