Find out some best practices for creating, sharing and implementing an operating budget.
Creating an operating budget is not the most exciting part of being a band booster. “In fact, it’s probably the least glamorous aspect of marching band, but it’s one of the most important,” says Terry Motsenbocker, vice president of development and finance at the Center Grove Band Boosters in Greenwood, Indiana.
Because of its importance, the budgeting process needs to start early—maybe even earlier than you think. “Starting early is key to staying within your resources for the following year,” Motsenbocker explains. “A lot of programs start their budgeting process in January for programs that begin in the fall.”
Motsenbocker recommends that parents with financial experience be recruited for this task. “It’s helpful if the people putting the budget together understand the process, the financial terms, all the details,” he explains. “Along the way, the boosters should keep the director in the loop to achieve his goals and adhere to his vision.”
The Round Rock (Texas) Dragon Band Boosters president and treasurer meet with the director in mid-February to begin planning for a fiscal year that starts July 1 while the Fort Mill (South Carolina) Band Booster Club begins the process in the early spring.
The goal is to map out all the expenses for the following season, making sure to include everything the director needs. “We’re here to help the director realize his ideas for the following season,” says Alison Shoepe, booster president at Round Rock.
Assess What Works
After meeting with the director, the president and treasurer sit down with the rest of the booster board to create the budget. “During this process, we keep in mind that what worked last year may not work as well next year, and we try to err on the conservative side,” Shoepe says. “For example, our Bingo program is not performing as well this year; people just aren’t playing Bingo like they used to.”
A conservative approach should also include a realistic expectation of what parents can give. “You need to anticipate that some parents can’t or won’t pay,” Motsenbocker says. “You need to ask yourself if you will provide financial assistance, or if you will exclude students who can’t contribute.”
Round Rock also sets aside fallback funds. “Our bylaws state that 20 percent of our operating budget be held as reserve over the summer as start-up income for the fall,” Shoepe says. “Two-thirds of our expenses occur between July and October before we’ve started to bring in money from our fundraisers.”
For Fort Mill, the current booster board shares the approved budget with the new booster officers due to the timing of the planning.
“We hold elections in April and invite our new officers to the planning meetings,” says Kelley Baird, booster president at Fort Mill. “Certain line items may be adjusted slightly after the theme of the next season’s show is announced in April.”
Sharing the budget with the entire booster organization is another crucial part of the budgeting process. The experience can be eye-opening for many parents who don’t realize it can cost up to half a million dollars to run a successful marching band program.
“It’s important to be transparent with the parents,” Motsenbocker says. “The parents need to feel included in the budgeting process as it’s their investment.”
The sense of inclusion can become even more important when a director plans a special event, such as a trip to the Tournament of Roses Parade or the Bands of America Grand Nationals competition, which may be outside the parameters of the normal operating budget. “Ideally, you tell your parents as early as possible, as much as 18 months ahead of time,” Motsenbocker says.
With special events, extra fundraising efforts can become important elements of the budget. Several years ago the Fort Mill band boosters implemented “Raking for Dublin,” where students, parents, and siblings raked leaves at the yards of homes and businesses to raise money for a trip to Ireland. The effort proved so popular in the community that the booster board now includes the fundraiser in the regular operating budget.
Ultimately, when the booster organization puts together the operating budget, the members need to work as a team toward a common goal. “It’s important to have a good support system, and your support system is your booster club,” Shoepe says.