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Must we include non-paying parents in our booster club banquet?

Your Legal Questions Answered

Must we include non-paying parents in our booster club banquet?

I am the president of a nonprofit booster program for a high school band. There is a set contribution we ask parents to pay to help run the program for the year.  Do we have to include the parents who do not make the contribution in the end of year banquet?  There is nothing in our bylaws about the banquet.

As a legal proposition, the answer probably depends on how you are marketing the program and whether you are telling the parents that their payment is a tax-deductible charitable contribution.  This isn’t likely to be a subject covered in your bylaws.

If you market the payment as a cost to participate in the band, which would be a non-deductible fee for service agreement, you could presumably exclude anyone who has not paid.

If you market the fee as a voluntary tax-deductible charitable contribution, for which the donors do not receive any goods or services in return, it would sharply undercut your claim if you don’t invite those who had not paid to one of the significant program events.  It could convert a contribution into a non-deductible fee for service.  I understand the resentment for the “freeloaders” who aren’t paying their fair share of the costs, but that is what a voluntary contribution is all about.  It is voluntary, and not required.  Public radio and television have to deal with that every day.

As a programmatic matter, however, do you really want to exclude the parents who are unwilling — or who can’t afford — to pay?  Are you going to try to distinguish between those who could and those who can not contribute?  Will the exclusion of parents who don’t contribute make their kids feel better about the program and add to the camaraderie of the group? 

What is the club really trying to boost?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


After serving for 22 years in my school district in many booster capacities, I came to realize it is simply the nature of the beast. I understand the frustration, but at the end of the day, is the exclusion good for the kids and the program?
Sure, it’s annoying there are those who appear to be able to contribute. There are also families who can’t afford to pay, which is most likely embarrassing for them, and their child. You can certainly use the banquet as a moment to speak and explain what the contribution allows you to provide the band program. And you could touch upon other ways to contribute that don’t involve money. But, the point is probably to celebrate the year’s achievements, which would be better with as many band families as want to attend.

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