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June 23, 2017 • Athletic Administration

A.D.ministration: Athletic fundraising in small communities

Getting signage for athletic facilities and securing corporate sponsorships are common fundraising approaches for many high schools. This may be much more difficult, however, for schools in small communities, because there may be fewer businesses to contact and involve in your efforts. And those stores and companies within your district may be of the mom-and-pop variety, making it difficult to raise significant revenue.

To counter this hurdle, schools in smaller communities may have to consider other alternatives to raise funds for their athletic programs. Athletic directors may want to consider old-school, one- or two-day fundraisers. These events are easier to manage because they’re not spread out over several weeks.

Make no mistake, there is a lot of planning and work involved in these standalone events. You don’t simply show up and start counting the money. But with the organizational aspects, there are additional benefits. If you involve your athletes, they will have an opportunity to gain leadership skills and enhance team bonding. That allows you to gain more than money, and it can be a real win-win for your program.

  » RELATED: How a school raised $587K in 4-and-a-half months

Here are some tried-and-true, single-event fundraisers that schools in rural areas may want to consider.

1. Pancake/spaghetti dinner.

Schedule and advertise the event for a Friday evening or Saturday. While you can sell tickets at the door, advance sales have the advantage that some people may forget or be unable to attend. However, they still helped fund your program.

Make a list of everything you need and the necessary quantity — food ingredients, plastic silverware, cups, plastic plates, napkins, condiments, etc. Next, get a volunteer to be responsible for getting donations for each item. With 100-percent donated items — from parents, neighbors, teachers — all meals are a complete profit.

On the evening of the dinner, athletes would serve as waiters, busboys, hostesses and dishwashers. Behind the scenes, the parents and coaches would do the cooking and handle the responsibilities in the kitchen.

2. 5-kilometer race.

Unless the running route is on school property, you must get approval from the community to close and use certain streets on the day of the race. Advertising and having runners pre-register is important. To partially or fully pay for T-shirts, which are typically included with race registration, you should list names of families or businesses that contributed to the event.

On the day of the race, volunteers must direct the runners at intersections, turns in the road and at the finish line. An electronic timing system from the cross country team can really help make things easier at the end and present a more professional appearance. And you want drinks and refreshments — all donated — available near the finish line.

3. Craft/flea market.

This can be held outside in a .parking lot or inside the gymnasium, cafeteria and hallways. In either situation, you have to measure and mark vendor spaces and then advertise and network to secure vendors. Individuals or companies who want a space would pay, for example, $20 if they supply their own table. Add another $10 if a vendor needs a school table.

On the day of the sale, you need individuals to show vendors where their space is located. And you can have athletes help vendors unload and carry their merchandise for a donation. Extra money can be earned if you have a concession stand selling all donated refreshments.

4. Auction.

As with pancake dinners or refreshment stands at flea markets, your auction should feature donated items. You are only limited by your creativity. A four-night stay at a family’s vacation bungalow, a certificate for an evening of babysitting by an athlete or an afternoon of a team raking leaves are all possibilities.

On the evening of the auction, potential bidders register and get a number, which can be printed on a notecard. With a list of the available items, a clerk records the sale price and the winning bidder’s number. At the end of the evening, or when a bidder wants to leave, you add up that bidder’s bill.

Coaches and athletes are largely responsible for finding items for the auction, but almost anything is possible. Using creativity can make the event a great deal of fun.

5. Peat moss/bulk item sales.

This isn’t like a candy or cookie sale where athletes walk around for three weeks asking classmates, families and neighbors to purchase items. With bulk items, you collect the money for a single product, it’s delivered on a scheduled, predetermined day, and pickup occurs only during the designated hours.

Depending on the product, you must think ahead where you want the product delivered. For peat moss, the parking lot is best. For cases of sports drinks, light bulbs or frozen pizza kits, the cafeteria might be a better option.

6. Four-team tournament.

This may require two days for some schools. Assuming that you invite the right three teams to join you, this can produce a great profit. While you want realistic competition, you also want teams for which their fans will travel and support them. Filling the gym with paying customers is the priority.

The entry fee from the three invited teams should be established to cover the cost of officials. If this is done, the sale of tickets, T-shirts and programs will produce the profit. Add in a refreshment stand, which sells donated food and beverages, and you have the opportunity to turn a nice profit.

These single-event fundraisers can fill the void and produce good revenue for your program. They also can provide leadership and team-building opportunities for your student-athletes and establish an annual community event. That makes these fundraisers a worthwhile venture.


David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.


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