Windermere, FL (Vocus) March 10, 2010
It’s always a shock when it’s discovered that a trusted friend and volunteer embezzled thousands of dollars of school funds. Unfortunately, embezzlement of school booster funds seems to be happening more frequently embarrassing many schools and their administrators.
“When need meets opportunity, money goes missing,” stated Sandra Englund, President and founder of Parent Booster USA. “Unfortunately, most school volunteers and school administrators don’t know how booster clubs should be properly operated and managed.”
To curb abuse, Parent Booster USA, a national support organization for school booster clubs, published a Booster Club Start-Up, Operations and Financial Practices Guide. PBUSA’s financial practice guidelines provide practical, step-by-step instructions for how to set-up financial controls for school booster clubs.
“I remember counting hundreds of dollars in cash brought in from a t-shirt sale on my bed. Just me and the cash. It hit me then just how easy it is for money to go missing and how important it is for all organizations to implement good financial controls,” stated Englund
By following proper guidelines, not only are schools and their booster clubs protected, but volunteers also protect themselves from being accused of taking cash.
“Two years ago PTO president contacted me after being accused of embezzling money,” said Englund. “She was originally accused of stealing $62,000. That amount has been reduced to $15,000…and although formal charges have never filed, she’s had to go to hearings every 1-2 months to try to clear her name. All because her PTO did not have or use good financial reporting guidelines.”
In response to the increasing reports of theft or mishandling of booster club funds, more schools, school districts and even state governments are starting to take action. In 2007, Tennessee passed the School Support Organization Financial Accountability Act as one way for schools and school districts to provide more oversight of school booster clubs. Under the Tennessee law, school booster clubs must follow specific rules to be able to use the school’s name, logo and facilities to raise funds for the school. Fundraisers also must be approved. Most schools and school districts, especially those outside Tennessee, remain unaware of the basic rules and requirements for operating a school support organization legally.
Federal laws require that school booster clubs file tax returns if they raise $5000 or more per year, and to establish an audit committee to conduct an annual financial review. The problem is that most parents who sign up to volunteer, and most school administrators, are unfamiliar with the rules and have no idea how to abide by them.
More information about Parent Booster USA, including how to obtain a copy of its financial guidelines for school booster clubs, is available at http://www.parentbooster.org.
School Administrator Workshop
Parent Booster USA is hosting two workshops about booster club operations for school superintendents, principals and other administrators in the DC metropolitan area. The workshops are slated for March 17th in Rockville, MD and March 19th in Alexandria, VA. The workshops are free to school administrators and include lunch. More information and registration is available by clicking on “EVENTS” at http://www.parentbooster.org.