Driving Saturday mornings we have all seen a similar picture: Middle or High school students waving car wash banners to raise money for their school band or soccer team. Schools are really strapped for cash and cutting back wherever they can, so those extracurricular, academic, and athletic programs rely on booster clubs to raise money.
Generally, booster clubs are non-profits run by parents. But a simple “booster funds theft” Google search shows hundreds of results of cases nationwide where some of those parents who are either presidents or treasurers were stealing from their own kids — tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to a recent NBC News investigation, Kimberly Compitello was treasurer of a booster club for the Oscar Smith High School marching band in Chesapeake, Virginia and who stole nearly $14,000 from them behind their backs between 2011 and 2012. And she is not alone. Booster club thefts have had a devastating impact on schools and communities across the country.
In another case, an Ohio volunteer parent admitted to stealing at least $439,000 from a local athletic booster club over eight years. Local investigators found he had signed and cashed more than 300 unauthorized checks from the club’s bank account for his own personal purposes.
Most embezzlement cases were not discovered via audits, because booster clubs are not required to have them. They are most typically found by an accident or via an anonymous tip. Additionally, the matter can be challenging for schools to address, because booster clubs are separate entities and are not officially tied to the school district. The people serving as officers and handling the money are busy parents volunteering their time, so this innate independence can be a double-edged sword.
According to the National Booster Club Training Council, a survey of booster clubs showed that 90 percent of those that responded said they had not formally established any accounting policies and procedures, which is an indicator of weak internal controls that can lead to monies being stolen.
Club officers or school administrators can be hesitant to add on accounting procedures for fear people will feel like their trustworthiness is being questioned. But increase in volunteer thefts like this should push school communities to be more transparent and accountable about the money that goes in and out of their accounts.
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