Buoyed by support from corporate sponsors, the Hannibal High School Booster Club has raised nearly $450,000 over the past four years.

The Hannibal High School Booster Club sought a boost of its own in 2014 when leaders went in a new direction by installing a Pirate Pride corporate sponsorship program. 

It's safe to say the results are paying off.

Buoyed by support from corporate sponsors, the booster club has raised nearly $450,000 over the past four years, money it distributes not only to athletics but also other clubs and organizations affiliated with the school.

“Probably a countless number of kids that it's benefitted in one way or another through the high school,” said Hannibal activities director Clint Graham. 

Terry Sampson, who serves as president of the club, describes its recent revival as a “transformation.”

“We went from being only a supporter of athletics to being one that supported all clubs, groups, organizations and activities listed in the Hannibal High School program guide,” Sampson explained. “We started supporting not only the football team and basketball teams, but all the fine arts, choir, show choir, band, Future Business Leaders of America, DECA, Key Club. That was quite an undertaking, so we needed some substantial money to do this.”

While the booster club has long existed with fundraisers such as a lemonade stand in Central Park on Fourth of July, an annual Meet the Pirates event and a Push-Pull sticker campaign, there weren't enough funds coming in to match the club's new lofty vision.

That's where supportive businesses and individuals enter the equation.

For $3,000 per year, corporate sponsors come onboard and receive incentives including signage at athletic facilities, advertising in sports and fine arts programs, announcements at home football games and business logos printed on 2,000 shirts given to students.

Forty-five corporate sponsors signed up for the 2017-2018 school year. 

“We really thought we'd be lucky to get 20 to 25 sponsors, and we've grown in four years from 29 the first year, 37 the second year, 40 the third year and we're at 45 this year,” Sampson said.

The Pirate Pride sponsorship program is managed by a five-member executive committee. Per booster club bylaws, teams, clubs and organizations submit requests to either Graham or principal Ted Sampson. They decide whether to pass it along to the executive committee, which makes the final determination.

Requests for $5,000 or more must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the booster club's nine-member board of directors that includes the executive committee and four additional officers. 

According to Terry Sampson, who also serves on the school board, the executive committee keeps a pie chart to ensure it fairly spreads the money between athletics and other activities.

“Last year, we gave out 130-some thousand dollars,” he said. “A large part of that last year was toward facilities because of that scoreboard, but typically it's pretty close as far as percentage.”

The new Porter Stadium scoreboard, 22-foot tall by 36-foot wide, features a full matrix video board installed this May. In addition, a video board was added in Korf Gymnasium, as were new soccer, baseball and softball scoreboards at Veterans Sports Complex.

The scoreboards were primarily financed by donations from the Hannibal Regional Healthcare System and Advance Physical Therapy. The booster club helped with the installation costs, which were in excess of $30,000.

The booster club has also made donations to efforts such new risers for choir and new band instruments as well as conferences and annual conventions for other organizations.

“They've given our kids an opportunity to participate in a lot of things we may not have been able to do without them and the help of the corporate sponsors,” said Graham, who enters his fifth year as activities director. “It's become a big accomplishment for the district and for the programs. It's been pretty incredible to watch the growth.”

Graham mentioned none of the money raised goes to waste, adding that the donations go toward “above and beyond” purposes that otherwise likely wouldn't have funding.

“We spend it down,” he said. “Those 45 sponsors are all giving $3,000 a year, but at the end, if you come to me next May, all that money we've raised, it'll be gone. They keep a little bit in there to help with the startup for the next year, but it all gets spent.” 

According to Chris Watson, an original executive committee member who helped launched the corporate sponsorship program, the idea sprouted from discussions with Kirksville High School.

“Kirksville had adopted this program of advertising,” Watson said. “We listened to that. If we were going to actually do the program, we had to redo our booster club. We had to turn into a 501(c)(3) organization. We would have to redesign the officers and duties, and they would have to form an executive committee.

“And that's what we've done. It's just absolutely amazing. We never really thought it was going to grow this big.”

Now Hannibal may pass their successful model onto other schools in the North Central Missouri Conference.

“Fulton's AD has been able to talk to his administration and it looks like they're going to look at doing it as well,” Graham said. “I said, 'I'll tell you whatever I can, because at the end of the day, it's going to help our kids because when you come to Hannibal, you're going to have nice stuff, and when we go out of town, I want our kids to have nice stuff too.' If you're putting this back into your programs, it's going to benefit the entire conference. It's a win-win for everybody.”