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Sunday, April 28, 2019

High school booster clubs

Is your high school booster club struggling with membership, participation, and fundraising? Here are some great ideas and strategies to try, and things to ponder.

Ah, the old high school booster club. Long a main staple for supplementing school budgets by underwriting student experiences that enhance learning and create lasting memories. Many also award college scholarships. This largely parent-driven type of organization, like many other types of community service clubs and civic organizations these days, is grappling with challenges centered around areas like membership, active participation, and fundraising.

While this post is primarily intended for parents and others that are typically involved in high school booster clubs, high school and college students looking to get into areas like event planning, fundraising, marketing, food and beverage, entertainment, and/or volunteer work at some point may also find the information and ideas presented here to be helpful, as there are some great suggestions and important trends being discussed.

As with all of my posts, I welcome any questions, feedback, insights, and experiences you may have in the comments section below. Do you have any fundraising and event ideas not discussed in my post that are working well for your own high school booster club? Please, feel free to share in the comments! Let's make this a real conversation and learn from each other. In the end, it's all about providing opportunities for our children, students, and communities.

I've been involved in a number of organizations over the years, including two chambers of commerce. I currently serve as president of the Muskego Lions Club, and I handle marketing and assist with booking bands for Muskego Fest.

What we're learning and seeing the last several years is that the traditional dinner/raffle/auction and golf outing formats, in general, are really struggling. There are too many of these around, and they're all competing for the same wallets and volunteers. When it comes to festivals, in particular, we're finding out that live music and beer, alone, doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore, either. For those of us living in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, it sounds funny to say that, I know. But people aren't buying beer like they used to. In the past, beer sales could be counted on to easily carry the financials for a festival or large-scale event, but not so much anymore. Finally, service clubs and organizations, all over, are struggling with membership and active participation, so fortunately and unfortunately, you're not alone here.

With all of that said, one possible solution is to focus on much smaller fundraisers that are easy and quick to set up, but do more of them throughout the typical year. Meat raffles are always popular. Team up with bars in the area that will let you do them. Ideally, it would be wonderful if these bars will donate the meat. But even if you need to buy it yourselves, the raffle can still be very lucrative. Sell the tickets at $2 each or 3 for $5. 50/50 raffles are still popular, as well. Doing them in conjunction with meat raffles can be fun and profitable. Again, $2 each or 3 for $5 is a good price point to stick with.

Does your high school booster club have the capability to take donations and payments by credit card, and, if so, year-round? There are quite a few great credit card processing options out there that aren't very costly or contract-based. So if you can accept payments and donations by CC all the time, you're making it that much easier for people to give.

Fishing jamborees are extremely popular. If planned and advertised properly, you can potentially bring in thousands of dollars between entry fees, event sponsorships, silent auction items, and raffles, including meat and 50/50 raffles.

A couple of places to chat with here in the greater Muskego area that do jamborees all the time are Danny Haskell's (on Little Muskego Lake), and AJ's (on Big Muskego Lake).

Murder mystery dinners and trivia nights are very popular options, as well. I see both advertised frequently. When it comes to trivia, specifically, I remember when the concept really started to take off in popularity around the mid-late 2000s. I know some old college classmates that started whole businesses based around trivia nights and events in the Milwaukee area and have done well with them. It's a trend that's managed to stick around and retain high levels of popularity, and today, we see a lot of trivia nights and events centered around specific themes, like hit book and movie franchises.

Reverse Bingo is always fun and lucrative. Best paired with a larger event. The concept is simple - rather than trying to fill up a Bingo card, players want to hope that their cards don't hit on a single number. Once a card has a called number, that card is out. The last person standing with a clean card wins the prize. The prize can take the form of a 50/50 arrangement, or, depending on your card sales, a flat dollar amount, like $500. If no one is left with a clean card, which can certainly happen, there is no prize - the house (your club!) keeps everything. A great price point to sell these cards at is usually around $5 each or 3 for $10.   

Do you ever approach other community service clubs, organizations, and foundations for monetary donations and financial/volunteer partnerships? This is a wonderful way to boost (pun intended!) your bottom line, build and strengthen alliances around town, and increase awareness and engagement for your cause.  

How often do you hold business meetings as a club? If it's once a month or once every couple of months or so, is it possible to move to twice per month, but limit the time of each meeting to say 45 minutes or so? We're finding that millennials and young families want to serve and do various charitable work, but they simply don't have the time to meet for longer periods.

Do you have any big annual sponsors? You'll have to promise some incentives for this. Devise a robust marketing package that provides regular exposure for business sponsors throughout the year via various avenues like social media, mailers, fliers, signage, event and game programs, press releases, and direct patronage (holding some meetings and larger events at those businesses). 

Do you have photos/videos from experiences you're helping to fund, like student trips, prominent speakers, scholarship awards, sporting events, post prom, etc.? Share them. Share your story. Proudly let the broader community (not just the immediate school community) know what you're up to.

Hopefully, you've found this post somewhat helpful and informative. Again, I welcome your questions, feedback, insights, and experiences in the comments section below. What's working for your own high school booster club? What's not? What changes have you made to improve your situation?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Using dated sources for research

A number of days back, I wrote a post on how to choose quality sources for research, in which I discussed ways to identify reliable .com sources. Typically, students are generally advised to avoid .com sites because of all the junk that exists out there on the Internet through them, but there certainly are many trustworthy .coms, as well.

Tying into the broader discussion on selecting sources for research papers and projects, today I want to talk about another general rule of thumb we typically tell students to stick to - the one about not using sources that are more than five years old. I'm here to tell you that you can, in fact, cite sources older than five years - older than 105 years - with a catch.

The reason why we typically advise students to avoid sources older than five years is because any information and data contained in them is considered out of date, or quickly heading that way, at that point. Makes sense, right? That general rule, though, assumes we're always talking about present-day, real-time information and data.

But...

If you want to cite historical studies, data, facts, philosophical arguments, biographical information, news stories, firsthand accounts, etc., etc., you can certainly go back in time as far as you'd like to, or need to, if the source is relevant to your work. Absolutely.

A couple years ago, I was writing a paper of my own for one of my doctoral classes. The main article I made use of to build my case cited a couple of articles from the 1890s! But they were highly relevant. I may share that paper here on this blog one of these days. It's about how to gain genuine expertise at something (anything). Simply having 10, 15, 20 years of experience at something does not necessarily equal expertise. It was an interesting paper.

Anyway, happy researching and writing!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Weekend dance party

A couple of fun videos of the Peanuts Gang to kick off the weekend. As you'll quickly discover though, these aren't the usual Peanuts tunes...

A special thanks to Mr. Robertson's sister, Amy, for finding these videos a while back.

Enjoy!




Thursday, April 11, 2019

Choosing quality sources for research

When it comes to identifying quality sources for research papers and projects, we often teach incoming freshmen to avoid .com Web sites and, instead, to stick only to .org, .edu, and .gov sites. The reason why we often teach students to avoid .coms is because there's a lot of junk out there among those types of sites. No doubt about it. Anyone can buy a .com and post whatever content they'd like to on it, but the other domain extensions just named, especially .edu and .gov, come with some big restrictions. You have to be an accredited, degree-awarding institution (.edu), or a government entity (.gov), respectively. 

But the truth is that .com sites can potentially be rich sources of factual, unbiased, well-rounded, and well-written information, commentary, and analysis, as well. If you can adequately defend your use of .com sources for your research papers and projects, you can certainly use them. Among the endless sea of .coms out there on the Internet are reputable Web sites like History.com, Biography.com, WebMD.com, ScientificAmerican.com, and countless newspapers and magazines, among others.

Here are some great tips and strategies to help you in deciding if a .com Web site is a trustworthy source that can be included in your research paper or project. Keep in mind that while this post is talking about identifying and selecting good .com sources, the following pointers are certainly useful for evaluating any kind of source.




Look for the author's credentials - If an author or multiple authors of the content (the article, blog post, video, study, etc.) you're looking at are listed, do you see a small section describing their expertise? It may come in the form of a paragraph or several solid sentences, and may describe the author's level of education, number of years working in his or her industry or field, and/or any other information offering you insight as to why the author (or group of authors) should be considered an authority on the subject. This section may even take the form of an entirely standalone, separate page found elsewhere on the Web site.

Google the author(s) of the content to see if any similar articles (or videos, blog posts, etc.) are coming up that they may have written or created on the same overall topic. Using your best judgment, then, does it seem like these content creators and writers know what they're talking about?

Individual author or authors not listed? This can certainly happen, and it is not necessarily a case for alarm. The author may be listed instead as "Staff" or something similar, or not listed at all. In this instance, browse around elsewhere on the Web site. Is there an "About us" or an "About our publication" kind of a page that may give you some clues on the site's credibility? How do the other articles and content on the site look like to you? Trustworthy?   

The use of statistics, the inclusion of opposing viewpoints, links to other Web sites and studies - Does your potential source list any stats or figures? Does it link to any other reliable-looking Web sites, articles, posts, videos, studies, etc. in order to build its argument or case? While your potential source may come from a specific viewpoint or take a specific position on a topic, does it at least acknowledge opposing viewpoints? Does it let you know where the other side(s) is generally coming from?

Opinion pieces, editorials - can you use them? Heck, yes! But again, look for and take into consideration the credentials of the author or authors. Put more simply, consider the source. That's the key caveat here. Everyone has an opinion on everything. But is the opinion you're looking at here an educated one? In other words, is the author building a sound, reasonable argument? Is there a strong case being made that's worth serious consideration? If a former chair of the Federal Reserve is offering his or her opinion on where s/he thinks the U.S. economy is heading in the next few years, and it's published on WSJ.com (the Web site of The Wall Street Journal newspaper), you can trust that it's going to be an authoritative claim. It's going to be rooted in the high-level education and uniquely high-level work experience of the author in the fields of economics and government service. If the piece is helping you build your own case in your research paper or project, then run with it.

Hopefully, you've found these pointers helpful as you navigate the endless sea of Web sites out there on the Internet in your search for quality sources for your papers and projects. Happy researching and writing!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A moving film on empathy

Yesterday, our school watched this. It's very brief, coming in at just under four minutes, but it's powerful. It's entitled, "Under The Surface". I thought it was definitely worth sharing here. Not much room for any further commentary or analysis. As you'll see, the film speaks for itself.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Advice for high school and college students

Note: The following was originally published on DiscoverMuskego.com back in November 2017. I thought it was worth sharing here. Hope you enjoy and find it to be of some value. 

Advice for High School and College Undergrad Students

By Aaron S. Robertson

November 2, 2017

In addition to serving as publisher of DiscoverMuskego.com, the author serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and as president of Muskego’s Library Board. Currently a doctoral student at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, he is the business manager for Estate Services, a remodeling contractor in Muskego. All views expressed here are strictly his own.

A few days ago, I wrote arguing that the partnership between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Muskego-Norway School District is one of Muskego’s best kept secrets, and that it goes a long way in enhancing Muskego’s workforce development efforts, and hence, its overall economic development. The partnership achieves this by providing students with opportunities to gain practical knowledge and insights into the world of work; in other words, it seeks to bridge theory (what is taught and learned in the classroom) and practice (how it’s applied in a work and business setting).

I’d like to follow up on that piece with some advice to high school and college undergraduate students meant to further prepare them for work and business.

1) If you’re still in high school, don’t rule out a technical college for your education, at least to start with. There are plenty of great, high-paying jobs available out there that don’t require a four-year degree. Get an associate’s degree in a proven skillset or trade first, and then you can always pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree and higher later on down the road. A bachelor’s degree in a business or management field, teaching, or an area that compliments and enhances the core of the associate’s degree, can all potentially pair very well.



2) It’s never too early to begin networking. Establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships in the community and in the world of work and business early on can provide you with a competitive edge when it comes time to enter the workforce, seek advancement, or start a business of your own. Not only will you have established connections that can serve as references or referral sources, but you will also be acquiring a wealth of practical knowledge and insights by learning from them.

3) Whether you’re in high school or college, get involved in clubs and activities. Participation in these co-curricular opportunities is a great way to supplement your in-class learning by developing or strengthening skills in areas like communication, negotiation, leadership, planning, budgeting, problem solving, and teamwork, among others. Another benefit to such participation, coming back to the second point, is that you have an opportunity here to begin developing meaningful relationships with fellow students as you learn and grow together around common interests, goals, and ideas. These relationships can translate into lifelong friendships and networking opportunities.

4) Set some SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. Specific, meaningful goal setting is so crucial to achieving the results you desire in any facet of life. And if they’re not written down, they don’t exist. Just saying to yourself, “Someday…” will never work, because, as one legendary band has taught us, someday never comes.



5) Don’t dismiss the jobs you’re doing now at your age as just “kid” jobs. What I mean by this is that, every job you hold is an opportunity to build new or strengthen existing skills and talents that can only enhance your future prospects. Don’t think because you’re working a fast food job, or cashiering in a grocery store, or stocking shelves right now that the experience will never mean anything ever again in a few years once you have your degree in hand and your first “real job”. Take your work seriously. Learn. You’re building skills in areas like customer service, problem solving, teamwork, communication, and technology, among others. And don’t forget about the networking value.

6) Keep up with news and trends in business and technology. Your next opportunity is waiting. Keep up with the business section of your local newspaper, seek out articles and content online, and maybe even get a magazine subscription or two.

7) Financial literacy. Learn all you can, and start now – credit cards, life insurance, long-term care insurance, retirement savings options, socking money away in an emergency fund, investments, loans, etc., etc. START NOW.

Follow this advice, and you’ll soon find that you’re becoming as badass as the tune “Green Onions”, the Booker T. & the MGs smash hit performed here by their friends, The Box Tops.



Here are some resources to help you get started:

Khan Academy
www.khanacademy.org

Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The site features courses in math, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, and more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.

TED Talks
www.ted.com

Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”.

From its Web site:

“TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”

Credit Karma
www.creditkarma.com

A free resource allowing you to regularly monitor your credit via access to your credit reports, weekly updates to your credit scores, and alerts if something seems suspicious. Also features articles and tutorials on a wide array of personal finance subjects, and offers you customized recommendations on credit cards and loans based on your current scores. In the recent past, the site added a mechanism that allows you to directly dispute with the credit bureaus any negative listings on your credit reports with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Like a lot of young people, I had run into credit card trouble in college. I've managed to clean it all up since, and it's great to have a resource like Credit Karma at my disposal to help me stay on top of my credit. I have made use of the Direct Dispute tool recently to challenge three old negative listings on my credit reports, and have managed to have all of them removed, quickly and easily. I have also taken up a few of the customized recommendations on credit cards. I’ve had a Credit Karma account for a couple of years now, and I highly recommend it.

Partnerships between school districts and chambers of commerce

Note: The following was originally published on DiscoverMuskego.com back in October 2017. I thought it was worth sharing here. Hope you enjoy and find it to be of some value.

Partnership between Muskego’s chamber of commerce and school district one of the city’s best kept secrets

By Aaron S. Robertson

October 30, 2017

In addition to serving as publisher of DiscoverMuskego.com, the author serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and as president of Muskego’s Library Board. Currently a doctoral student at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, he is the business manager for Estate Services, a Muskego home repair and remodeling contractor. All views expressed here are strictly his own.

A little shy of two weeks ago, on October 19, I had the immense privilege of participating in a luncheon at Muskego High School. The purpose of the event was to bring students and area business and community leaders together to discuss and reflect on the many career and educational paths that are available out there.

During this mentoring lunch, a joint effort between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism’s Education and Mentoring Committee and Muskego High School, we broke up into two groups by gender, each in a separate classroom. From there, we broke up further into smaller tables, with one or two mentors joining a group of students for conversation and a pizza lunch. I was joined at my table by Rob Schopf, owner of the Indian Motorcycle of Metro Milwaukee dealership on Racine Avenue. Rob and I shared our stories of education, training, and work over the years with several young men that appeared genuinely interested in what we had to say. Likewise, we were certainly genuinely interested in what they had to say, and it was a great give and take of questions, talking, listening, and connecting.

After lunch and these small group discussions, the larger room joined together for elevator pitches, with each student and mentor standing up briefly and introducing themselves to the room. Mentors shared what they do, or did, for work, and offered meaningful career advice to the students. Students shared what they hope to study or do for work someday. After this, we broke up again into smaller groups for further conversation. This time, however, we changed the groups up in an attempt to match students and mentors around similar interests and work experiences based on what they shared in their elevator pitches.


The experience was as much of a learning opportunity for us mentors as it was for the students. We all became teachers and students of one another. For me, it was particularly rewarding to hear the stories of the other mentors. We had a diverse collection of talent assembled and backgrounds represented. Some of the mentors are college graduates, while others didn’t pursue formal education beyond high school. Some are still working, while others are retired. Some worked or are working for others, while others have pursued business ownership. Areas of expertise represented included sales and marketing, customer service, banking, engineering, trades, tech, police work, elected public service, office management, and entrepreneurship.

The partnership between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Muskego-Norway School District is one of Muskego’s best kept secrets. It’s critical that high school (and college) students are given these opportunities to bridge theory and practice and begin making connections to the world of work early on. This has become a particular area of interest for me over the last decade or so, since graduating college myself, and is one of the chief reasons why I recently started offering tutoring in Muskego. With work, technology, and education and training needs in a constant state of flux, communities that have these kinds of partnerships in place are going to be able to successfully navigate both the challenges and rewarding opportunities of workforce development, and hence, local economic development. While perusing the Waukesha Freeman on Thursday, October 26, I came across an article in the Greater Milwaukee Jobs section that grabbed my attention entitled, “Workforce Plans Put New Emphasis on Paid Internships, Apprenticeships,” written by Dan Zehr. One of the story’s interviewees was Andres Alcantar, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. Mr. Alcantar made the same case when he observed, “Occupations are being transformed, and it’s important we give students insight into what this means for them in terms of opportunities.”

In addition to this mentoring lunch, other events and activities that take place throughout the year in this powerful partnership include, among other items, mock job interviews and resume advice, interviewing skits, and career bus tours around town. And then of course, there’s the Chamber’s annual scholarship program.

If you’re interested in learning more about the work of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism’s Education and Mentoring Committee, visit http://www.muskego.org/pages/EducationMentoring, or reach out to the Chamber office at 414-422-1155, where staff are always happy to connect with you and answer your questions.