21 Actionable Fundraising ideas for Schools and Sports Teams
and how to Leverage the INTernet to make them better
I love Youth and High School sports, but I HATE the fundraising the goes along with them. I rant about this often...just see my Confessions from a CEO diatribe as an example. But as the old boss saying goes, "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions." So, here are 21 Actionable Solutions for using the Web, Email, Text to turbo charge your Sports Fundraising needs.
Do you have a killer idea that's not on this list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add it!
Marketing Is THe key to many fundraising woes.
I've seen amazing fundraiser fail to actually raise money because they failed to bring the crowd. No matter how you feel about sales and marketing, you simply have to bare your teeth and admit that fundraising is a form of sales. Certainly it's an altruistic form, but none-the-less, the goal is to exchange "funds".
I recently attended one such example, which I wrote about and suggested potential solutions that I picked up from the startup work -- Marketing Tip for Sports Fundraising
Keys to fundraising marketing-
Spreading the word is only half the battle. Social media, emails, flyers, ads, and press are all channels to get the word out. Use them wisely to save energy. Make sure you are spreading the word to the right people! See Marketing Tip for Sports Fundraising to see how one fundraiser failed to market appropriately.
Be there when people are ready to donate (or buy). People are busy! Even with great intentions, your donors will often fail to give because the forget, they can't find the link to your site, they can't make the event, or it's just too hard. Making it Easy and Timely should always be at the front of your mind.
So, without further ado, here are the 21 Actionable Sports Fundraising idea, tailored to leveraging the internet to amplify your efforts.
1. Ask Letter, Contextualized Crowdfunding
Let's not beat around the bush, sometimes it's just best to ask for the donation. Done right, this is the fastest and easiest way to raise needed funds. That's what crowdfunding is all about - reach out to your friends and family for a hand.
BUT, the harsh reality is two factors are constantly working against simple donation pages:
- First, we all have grown accustom to ignoring life's noise and this is especially true with fundraising campaigns.
- Second, even when an effort does catch our attention, we must constantly fight what is called the Bystander Effect (paraphrasing - people are less likely to help if they think others will handle it).
At FanAngel, we designed the platform specifically to battle these difficulties.
- Contextualize pages -- for team fundraisers, making an easy way to display individual athlete's name, photo and individual fundraising goal helps short circuit the Bystander Effect.
- Social and news updates build online community. It is important to realize fundraising is largely about community building. Online communities are built around news, social posts, photos...
- Outreach consulting -- Every campaign is different. Being as specific as possible with messaging, incentives, sharing is key. Ask our experts at email@example.com for advice.
2. Applebee's Flapjacks and other RESTAURANT events
Success of the Restaurant Night (or morning) can vary wildly based on the marketing and profit sharing scenarios.
If you are lucky enough to live in NY, NJ, GA or FL, then you may be close to a participating Applebee's to host a FlapJack Fundraiser. This is a great fundraiser for older groups (High School teams) who need to raise $3,000 with relative ease (and more with additional options at the event).
If not, steal the idea!!! The basic outline goes like this: find a restaurant that is closed for breakfast and ask if they would be willing to host and (partly) staff the event (if your fundraiser is for a HS team, partly staff with your athletes). Pay the restaurant $4/ticket and sell to the public at $12-15/ticket. Pre-sell a minimum of 100+ tickets online to make sure the event is worth hosting (see All-or-None rewards). Then amplify the event with raffles, gear sales, etc.
Other restaurant nights can be great too, typically sharing 15-20% of sales (Chipotle does 50%!!). But the Flapjack model takes the (pan)cake for ease vs profit. If you decide to do a go the 15-20% route, check out GroupRaise to quickly find participating restaurants in your area.
See our more detailed comparison in our post about Restaurant Nights.
Leveraging FanAngel or another online tool has several important advantages:
- Use our All-or-None Rewards to make sure you can sell enough tickets before holding the event.
- Have a URL for buying Will Call tickets, instead of delivering paper tickets.
- Allow fans to donate if they can't make the event.
- Use social media, email, PR to get the word out, but 90% of the people will come from the athlete's family/friend network...so leverage more direct methods (email, phone, face-to-face).
3. Banners, Program Ads, schedule poster
There's a good reason why stadiums sell naming rights and jumbotrons are filled will sponsors. It works! The relationship between sports teams/athletes and business is tried and true and that goes all the way down to local sports and mom & pop businesses.
However, the year-in, year-out processes can be a pain. On one hand, you have parents carting kids all over town with sign-up fliers in hand, only to find the owner isn't in. On the other hand, you have owners who get hit up constantly and would prefer a succinct menu of all their options...at the start of the school year or season.
For a more detailed discussion on the topic, see Tips for Fence Banners and more.
Using online tools can greatly save time and energy for all involved --
- Keep an email list of the consistent banner/ad/schedule buyers and use email and a fundraising campaign reward (or other credit card option) to sell the banners online.
- Include a URL on the leave-behind flyers, so you can stop playing phone tag or random return visits. (FanAngel page or other online store).
- Use Google Drive or Dropbox to transfer logos and banner mockups.
- Post on social media and web site the logos of some (or all) of the sponsors as they come in...and when the banners arrive.
- Create a gimmick -- e.g. Bring a photo of this banner to Pizza Planet and get two free drink with your large pizza order.
There are several variations of this fundraiser, all of them revolving around the uncomfortable comedy of the situation.
- Duct tape coach, principal or even athletes to a wall.
- Shave the head(s) of the coach, principal or even athletes.
- Equip the Coach - start with a photo of the coach in his/her swimming suit. As donations come in, cloth him/her in the team uniform/equipment. The series of photos works as a Progress Thermometer.
(Obviously, be careful when using athletes for this fundraiser...make sure the parents approve!)
- Promoting through social media and email is key.
- If athletes are used, make sure they post their own videos online promoting the event.
- All post should link back to a campaign page for taking donation. Include a mailing address for those who are still hesitant about putting the credit card online.
5. Flock of flamingos
Another great High School fundraiser is the Flock of Flamingos fundraiser. A small investment in a few pink friends can turn into a season long money maker. Charge $10-20 to have these plastic feathered friends appear on your friend's lawn. Offers of Flocking it Forward (donate to move the flock to another address asap) keeps the funds "flying" in. Insurance against the flock landing at your address can also be sold.
- Create a fundraising page to order a flocking and buy insurance.
- Include the URL on your "You've Been Flocked" sign, so victims can Flock it Forward asap.
- Post on Social Media as homes get flocked.
6. garbage bags, detergent, and Soap
Sometimes the simplest ideas work best. Online companies selling colorful garbage bags are quick ways to earn cash. More resourceful boosters opt for the Costco route. Either way, everyone needs these household items so it's win/win.
- Use FanAngel (or similar) page to pre-order online.
- Include URL with any take home flyers.
- Order online at suppliers like Resource Solutions or go to Costco,
7. Kid's Night Out, Movie Night
If you're a school, you likely have a gym and projector. Heck, you might even have a popcorn maker. Leveraging what you have is the best ways to make money fast and easy.
Consider sharing duties between the local elementary, middle, and high school. High schoolers to help watch the kids, elementary as the "watchees".
Promotion is key to success. Every head is almost pure profit, so getting the word out is key to success.
- Use FanAngel (or similar) page to pre-order online. But definitely sell at the door, too!
- Use social media, email, and even PR to get the word out.
- Send fliers home from all schools, include in email newsletters, use physical signs...
8. Lift-A-Thon, Jog-A-Thon, "Pick Up Trash"-a-Thon
The various "A-Thon" fundraiser is like putting Ask Letter, Contextualized Crowdfunding on (dare I say) steroids. This variation has all the benefits AND can amplify your returns, BUT there is a little more setup and management.
For sports teams, consider hosting this fundraiser as a pre-season kick starter. A lift-a-thon has the added benefit of motivating the athletes to share their progress (ego). Encourage this! Promoting your fundraiser is the hardest part, use every advantage you can get!
If the season has started, you can use Wins, Points, Touchdowns...as your "A-Thon" metric. In addition to fans, family, and friends, take this idea to local business. Ask businesses to donate online and then agree to announce their donation during games ("With that Touchdown, Pizza Planet just donated $50").
- FanAngel, FanAngel, FanAngel...this is one of our platforms most powerful features.
- Use social media, email, and even PR to get the word out. Encourage athletes to post their own videos, linking back to the fundraising page.
- Send fliers home from all schools, include in url to online page, but allow mailed in checks too.
9. Drive-thru Barbecue
The best part thing a drive-thru barbecue (or similar) is that it doesn't feel like a donation. Thus, there is a lot less friction selling and buying tickets. The worst part the work and cost can eat into your profits.
- Get as much of the food donated as possible.
- Give credit to sponsors as much as possible (to-go bags, signs, social media, etc.). The more the sponsor (whoever donated the food) sees this as advertising, the more likely they will help again.
- Have the athletes do as much work as possible. Donors will be inspired by the cause if the athletes are taking ownership of their own fundraising.
- Order online via fanangel.com or similar. Allow people to donate if they can't make it.
- Use social media and email to promote.
- If a restaurant is providing the food, take a quick video of the athletes at the restaurant...promtoting the fundraiser and tahnking the business.
10. Temporary Tattoo
Showing school spirit through temporary tattoo is a no brainer! Buying 1,000 tattoos for less than $200 makes this a pretty profitable option.
- Consider using a crowdfunding reward to get a list of pre-orders. Sell pre-orders by the dozen for $10+.
- Include free tattoo as part of Season Ticket sales or some other value add.
- Setup a stand at a game or school event and sell at $2-3 per tattoo
Check out temporarytattoos.com for more details on ordering.
11. Teacher vs. Student Sports
A Student vs Staff game is great for building local community support. Sell tickets for entry, include barbecue or pizza slices, hold raffles...lots of opportunity to extend the fundraising.
This is also a great opportunity to combine other fundraisers on this list, like Shaving a Coach's Head and selling tattoos.
Ways to amplify using FanAngel and other online tools:
- Sell tickets online.
- Ask for Pledges on the Winning Team or include a 3-point Challenge of some sort (or similar).
- Create a teaser video and post on social media. Use lots of amp'd up staff and students spewing Mr. T like taunt ( I pitty the fool)
- If no food is sold at event, partner with a local restuarant to host an after party with shared profits.
12. Barbecue, Spaghetti Feed, Crab Feed
These events can be amazing opportunities to build community support, while also raising lots of needed cash. However, when done right, they are a lot of work.
- Make these annual events that everyone can get excited about.
- Collect email address and sell tickets online.
- Find an inexpensive community center to rent so that you can serve alcohol. Alternatively, a unique destination where you can charge a premium ticket price.
- Auction are typical at these event and are usually a large portion of the revenues, but are again added work. So collect email address from typical auction item donors so you can be more efficient next year. Also, make sure to vet and verify all vacation rewards. Timeshare vacation can often backfire.
13. Gear! Make it unique.
Spiritwear can be awesome if you know it will sell. Too many schools and booster clubs end up with tons of unsold items. This is where online designing and pre-order can really help.
Consider creating an online t-shirt contest on 99designs.com and get students to vote on the winning designs. It's a minimum $299 investment, but the quality of design can be excellent (see my tips on using 99designs here). Then use FanAngel or another means to pre-order gear in the proper quantities.
- Try 99designs.com to find quality designers on the cheap.
- Sell a majority through pre-orders. Don't overbuy extra. Pre-orders should make up 80%+ of the total sales. A sense of urgency is important to promote prompt sales.
- Don't get the cheapest t-shirt material. High quality material will cut into your profit, but it's best for long-term success as fans will wear them more and want to buy again in the future.
- For team uniforms/gear check out squadlocker.com fundraising and their fundraising option.
14. Rent an Athlete or Team
A form of indentured servitude? Maybe. But the lessons learned from "earning your way" can be worth it. After all, why do we support youth sports? Isn't it to teach goal setting, hard work, and achievement.
Use an auction at a hosted event or our online auction campaign to get the most out of these "rentals".
Alternatively, reach out to local fraternal or charity organization (shiners, rotary, etc.). They often are running events (e.g. golf tournaments). A split of profits or flat fee can be an easy win for a team of volunteers.
- Use an online auction (like FanAngel)
- Video the athletes being corny, flexing muscles, saying show strong they are, etc. Then have the ahtletes share via social media.
15. Christmas Trees
Trees, wreaths, and poinsettias can become a yearly staple for a selected team or band. Typical school fundraisers like this are "you get what you get" style -- no unwrapping of trees (as you'll have no way of re-wrapping them).
Charge extra for delivery and get dads with trucks to make the rounds.
- Sell online and keep email addresses. People will continue to buy long after their kids have graduated.
- Often these are two day events, so one family will camp at the school to keep on eye out for tree bandits.
- Sell hot chocolate and cider at the event.
16. Car Wash
Going old school with this fundraiser. Digital integration? Ok maybe it's a stretch, but you'll definitely want to post on social media, promote via email and any school websites. If you want to be a real digital ninja, you could even use a free scheduling portal like setmore.com, which can takes online payments too.
17. Jersey Sponsorships
Appropriate for most youth leagues (as well as adult leagues). Jerseys are great ways for companies to show support. Keeping an email list of former donors and creating donation pages keeps the process streamlined for year-over-year ask.
- Use dropbox or google drive to transfer files.
- Use a fanangel.com or similar to take credit cards.
- Tell your athletes to wear their jerseys outside of game day. If sponsors know their names are worn all over town, they are more apt to continue to support the cause.
- Don't use the cheapest t-shirt material. The higher quality shirts will get worn MORE, which means the sponsors will be seen more.
18. Poker Night, Casino night
Vegas baby! This is a great fundraiser that is fun, can generated large sums, and can be used year after year.
Make sure to check your state law for specifics (allowed prizes, structures, etc.). With the right marketing and prizes, these events can draw crowds that are well outside your normal fan community.
Follow your state law, but here are potential ideas:
- Sell tickets and initial buy-in online to get an accurate head count.
- You may want to hire a third-party company that can help run the games and bring supplies (chips, tables, chairs...)
- Include "re-buys" and "add-ons". These are great money makers.
- Include prizes like Vegas trip or Buy-Ins to big poker tournaments.
- Run additional cash games (separate prizes) for those that are knocked out of the tournament early.
19. Dog Wash fundraiser
A dreaded chore is always better when someone else does it! That's why a dog wash can bring in big bucks. Hoses, tubs, shampoo and you are on your way. Or consider partnership with a local pet store who has a washing station.
- Sell tickets online.
- Use an online scheduler to spread out the appointments.
- Take photos and share on Instagram. For fun, hold a cutest wet dog contest (online voting). You could even charge $5 to enter.
20. Shoe Drives
One fundraiser meets another. Not a big money makers, but you can make a few bucks and feel good knowing that your old shoes are helping those in developing counties...instead of sitting in a landfill,
Check out funds2orgs.com for more information. They can hand hold you through the whole process.
21. Detergent, Soap fundraisers
Another example of "you gotta buy it anyway" style fundraisers. Expect to make up $15 per 5 gallon bucket, so raising $3,000 for a team is very reasonable and $25,000 for a school possible.
Check out Good Clean Fundraising for a supplier with great reviews.
- All orders are pre-orders, so use FanAngel to accept credit cards and contextual/personalize the purchases. If you are raising money for a non-profit, you can setup these so the user gets an automated $15 tax receipt (the difference between the market value of the product and the donation).
- Promote via social media, email newsletters, etc.
- Create an Evite to announce the pick-up party.
22. Golf Tournament
#22 -- one extra for good measure.
Pro athletes and teams run annual golf tournaments as their main charity initiatives -- why not youth and HS programs? Contact your local course to organize a date and time. Do it early as courses often need a long lead time.
As mentioned in the Rent an Athlete idea, you might be able to piggyback on someone else's tournament.
Use an event registration site (or FanAngel's event registration feature) to sell tickets.