Our School Won't Let Us FundRaise...

So pretty much, ever since my team started 3 years ago, the school we’re based at hasn’t let us do anything to raise money other than get sponsors. And, their reasoning for this, is that they don’t want us taking money away from the school. But, every other club (trust me, we’ve checked) is able to raise all the money they want and we’re kind of just sitting here like…what? Not fair! But yeah, I was just wondering what everyone’s thoughts on that was. And if they have any solutions to this issue. Thanks!

Form an external 501©3 as either a “Friends Of …”, “Boosters For …”, or “Parents Of …” organization and have them fundraise. Total price of setting ours up was about $1,000 after all was said and done, although you may be able to get an attorney to set this up pro bono because of your situation.

Our school is the same. Every fundraiser we’ve tried to pull has been systematically blocked for a different reason each time (Bake sales are unhealthy, hex bugs/lightbulbs are too expensive, car washes could damage someones car, and so on), while other clubs and teams are shown shocking degrees of freedom. I know that you’re going to get a lot of posts in this thread advising you to talk to persons x, y, and z to get the situation resolved, and while you should always try, I recognize that there can be complex, silly, and unfortunate politics behind this kind of thing, which can make these situations nearly impossible to fix.

But you don’t need sympathy, you need solutions. The WORST thing that you can do is sit around and complain about how it’s unfair, and how your team can’t compete on a level playing field as a result. My team did this for quite a while, and it got us absolutely nowhere. Instead, do whatever you can to work around your situation, and push boundaries when you can. You said you still have permission to seek sponsors, so go the extra mile on that. Try to move towards making your finances more independant of the school, through your own 501c3 or an umbrella organization, and conduct fundraisers off school property. Partner with other local teams on fundraisers (You’re in a team-dense area, this should be easy for you guys). You have a lot of options, and the most important thing to do is act.

Our district considered a new fundraising policy that would have negatively impacted us more than it would have impacted some of the other groups that do fundraising in more traditional ways. We sent feedback through the administration and the union, and I know that other groups also sent feedback. They ended up adopting a policy that made a lot more sense than the original proposal. That’s the way you’d like to see things work out if people are reasonable.

I’ve focused our team on fundraising that doesn’t compete with other groups: LED Lightbulb sales and robotics camps. When you offer something that other groups aren’t doing, it becomes more difficult to argue that you’re taking away somebody else’s fundraising ability.

If your district has a policy that hurts the team, the best thing you can do is to educate everybody (administration, board, parents, etc) about all of the great things FIRST can do so they will be on your side. Have parents advocate for your team; the administrators and board members will tend to listen to what the parents have to say.

I feel that we need some more information to help for your situation. Still though I think the best start in any fundraising difficult situation is to find out who exactly is telling you no. If you know who is telling your team that the team cannot fundraise then it is much more simple to get the problem resolved. The first step is to go to that person directly and ask him/her why your team is not given the opportunity to fundraise. The next step is too explain to that person the costs of running an frc team and then explain the need for proper fundraising with a cost/profit graph showing the expected money that your team would gain from doing the fundraiser. If your team is still stonewalled after showing that doing fundraiser “x” will help fund the team by “y%” then your team’s next option is to get either(preferably both) administration/school board support by reaching out to these people. If the entire school district is against you(highly unlikely) then the best solution is to form an independent nonprofit club from your team members parents. Many athletic booster and band/choir booster clubs are formed this way that still work well in a district.

I hope I helped but internet forums can only provide so much. To succeed in fundraising it takes a team effort and I wish your team good luck. :slight_smile:


I would approach the problem in another way entirely.

Start by informing the administration of the non-trivial cost of running an FRC team, and how much sponsors currently cover. (Also add difficulty of sponsor-finding.)

Then, instead of asking that they allow you to fundraise, ask them “What fundraisers outside of asking for more sponsors would you allow us to do to raise [enough to cover the gap]?” If the answer is “None”, then politely ask how the other clubs (and athletic teams) raise their funds, or if they have a different set of restrictions.

The trick here is working WITH the district. If you approach them with a “what will you let us do” instead of a “we want to do this, please approve”, they might be more willing to listen.

If, on the other hand, the school is singling you guys out for this policy, then having some nice hard data on why/how much/how you tried to get a change would be really nice for people like, oh, the school district, who I’m sure would like to know if the school administration is trying to shut out a student club. Not to mention parents, who would probably love to throw some pressure on the administration.

Others have had good suggestions, heed the ones that make sense for your local situation. My perspective is one of both a team mentor and a district school board member, so I’ll offer what may or may not help.

Going off of the original post, it would seem that local politics is at play. As Tip O’Neal famously said, “All politics is local.” Because of this, you should know that some of the earlier suggestions of boosters organizations may cause more harm than good to your cause. There is a possibility that your district may pull your charter, if you don’t follow correct procedures for establishing this type of organization. In our district, we were strongly encouraged against forming a booster organization, as bad actors in other booster clubs had caused some financial and legal problems for the district. We play ball, and work through our student body government. This means we are restricted in our local fundraising, but not cast out of our school.

Given your stated situation, it is likely that members of some other booster organization may be contributing to your problem. Perhaps there is a senior teacher advising another club, and doesn’t want the encroachment. You really have to know exactly why your school is barring your fundraising, before you can plan a course that addresses your problem.

What is the posture of your school Principal towards your team? How about your Superintendent? If one or both are supportive, then approach them to find out exactly why your team is barred. Who told your team the ground rules? Was the entire team told directly by a school administrator, or was this relayed through a teacher?

School boards are good places to go when you run out of other options. Talk to your district Superintendent to get on the agenda. Give a good demonstration or presentation, your Chairman’s presentation if you have one, and follow-up with a brief plea for redress. They will not be able to instantly solve the problem, but they can ask to have district policies changed. The board only has one employee, the Superintendent. The board have influence over what the Superintendent puts his or her focus on.

If you are unable to get on the agenda, go to the next posted board meeting. All school boards have a public comment time, usually at the beginning of the meeting, where anyone can make any statement that they want. Have several students sign up for slots to speak. Make sure you have a well-rehearsed and well-controlled statement from each member who chooses to speak. The goal is to make a strong favorable impression. You need allies, not more opposition.

Whatever you do, don’t whine. Be positive, and explain the positives of your program. Every team is facing the challenge of reduced sponsorship, so explain how this situation is making local funding more necessary. What you are looking for is the ability for your community to be allowed to express financial support for STEM education, as they do for local sports teams.

**Edit: ** One benefit of going to a school board meeting, is that local press is usually present. Your situation can get more attention, and more pressure can be borne from informed community members. After your presentation or public statements, bend the ear of the local reporters, to see if they would be interested in doing a positive story on the work of your team.

I was going to say this, so I’ll second it.

Address the problem. You need to set up a school board meeting where you demonstrate the robot, talk about the team, and then discuss the hardships and double standards you’re seeing when trying to fundraise.

Be blunt about asking which benefits the students more: a stem program to teach leadership, science, technology and math, or a football program. Ask the hard questions.

It’s easy to institute and maintain a double standard of unfairness when it is mostly hidden and no one has to deal with it directly. Bringing it out in the open is the best way to make these hidden roadblocks disappear.

Thank you all so much for your input. I’ll make sure to discuss all the ideas with my team and go from there. You all have been severely helpful and informative. Thanks again!