How to Maximize Fundraising Efforts for Your Youth Sports Team - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

In the world of youth sports, fundraising is almost always a part of the game. Different sporting organizations approach it in various ways. Membership fees can sometimes cover the bulk of the expenses necessary to run a youth sport season.

However, there is almost always a need to use fundraising to help cover extra costs or be able to provide things like field or court enhancements, new equipment, or gifts for volunteers. And in other cases, fundraising has to provide the majority or even the entirety of the resources necessary to facilitate sports programming.

There are nearly countless strategies out there for fundraising for youth sport. They can vary widely by adoption, effectiveness, acceptance, and engagement depending on how well they are organized, how relevant they are for your community, and how they're implemented. The only limit to your fundraising success is your creativity.

Let's look at some helpful ways to improve.

Evaluate Your Current Strategies

The first step in improving any effort is getting a clear picture of what's currently happening and why it is or isn't working. If you're interested in increasing your current fundraising outcomes or effectiveness, start by evaluating your previous attempts at fundraising.

What about those methods worked? Which ones were most successful, and which were least successful? Can you pinpoint the reasons for either success or failure?

For example, say you used raffle tickets last year to raise funds for your middle school softball team. You gave each of your players a book of raffle tickets at the start-of-season meeting, gave your players instructions, sent letters home to their parents explaining them, and set a clear due date and set of expectations for returning the money.

Perhaps the result was poor - you received back a small fraction of what you were hoping to raise, despite asking your players several times to remember to sell the tickets and return the money. Were there elements of that effort that, if done differently, could have changed the outcome? Or do you need to scrap that strategy and try something new? Without thinking through it and evaluating honestly, you won't know.

Are You Utilizing All Available Channels to Share Your Campaign?

Oftentimes, fundraising efforts are ultimately dependent on the audience that is receiving your ask. Without reaching the right people, it is very difficult for fundraising efforts to be successful. This might mean that you need to reconsider the channels you're using to get the word out about your campaign. Who are the types of people you think are most likely to contribute to your team or organization? Where do they communicate and spend time? Is that on the community bulletin board or on Facebook? Identifying the ideal places to spread your message can sometimes significantly change the outcomes of your fundraising campaigns for the better.

Tracking What is Working

Above, we talked about the power of doing a "fundraising audit" and thinking through past fundraising efforts in order to glean learnings that can inform future attempts. This principle is actually important to make a regular part of your fundraising. Until you start regularly evaluating what is working and what isn't, you won't be equipped to make effective decisions about your efforts.

This could be as simple as a spreadsheet that itemizes how much money came in from each of your fundraising campaigns over the course of a year so that you can see which ones are doing the most for you and can either eliminate or switch out any campaigns that are underperforming.

Keeping a record of how fundraising efforts perform over time will help you hone your fundraising strategy and save tons of time and effort in the long run by concentrating on the best-performing tactics and eliminating those that aren't working.

Creative Additions to Your Fundraising Efforts

Fundraising doesn't have to be stale and ineffective. Plenty of guides and resources exist that can help you employ creativity in the way you design your fundraiser, craft your messaging, and execute your campaign(s). It can be extremely beneficial to you, your organization, and your athletes and players to invest a little bit of creative energy thinking through how your fundraisers could be made more effective, sustainable, and fun!

And the best part: You don't have to do this alone. Ask your players, parents, volunteers, fellow coaches, or administrative staff, and more to contribute to making your fundraising process better. With just a little bit of care and effort, you can transform your team's fundraising success.

Articles by Sarah Daren