November 11, 2011 • Athletic Administration

Balancing Budgets: How Does Your Athletic Department Compare

Fundraising Facts

One of the most glaring athletic-director needs coming out of this survey is finding more time for fundraising efforts. A total of 85.8% of athletic directors say some of their athletic-department spending is met through fundraising. A majority (62.5%) of all respondents report that at least 20% of all their spending is met through fundraising. On average, respondents indicate 23.8% of all their budgets are met via fundraising.

Additionally, 55.3% of all respondents see fundraising as a “significant contributor” to the department’s needs moving forward.

According to write-in comments, fundraising was once reserved to buy those “luxury” items. Now those funds are necessary for covering the mandatory needs of teams and the department as a whole.

“In 2000-01, our overall athletic budget was $102,000. It is still $102,000 today and we have added wrestling. Over the last 11 years, the cost of equipment and especially the payment of officials have increased and revenue from ticket sales and concessions has remained the same, even as we increased ticket prices three times. We are bringing in the same amount of revenue with fewer people in attendance. Each sport now has to raise more money via its own fundraisers just to cover operating costs.”

One athletic director indicated that the budget at his school is $91,000, with only $5,000 coming from the county system. “Without fundraising,” he said, “we would not be able to run our program.”

Another athletic director said that budgets have been cut in half since  he started coaching 30 years ago. His district covers transportation and coaching salaries in the athletic department but players, coaches and teams have to fundraise for apparel.

In some school districts, fundraising still means taking better care of the students rather than simply providing essentials. A second-year athletic director said there was no fundraising prior to his arrival and the school struggled to stay “in the black.” Now that fundraising efforts have increased, ticket prices have been increased and the administrators took the time to write grants for facility improvements, “the total budget outside of transportation costs has nearly doubled and the student-athletes are being taken care of much better.”

Fundraising efforts come in a variety of methods, and while sales within the community remain strong, several athletic directors indicate a need to approach bigger-payoff clients, such as businesses. “We are connecting more with our business community and less with our residents. Increased advertising and commercial signage is becoming apparent,” said one athletic director.

Others say the payoff is not worth the effort. “Our community gets ‘fundraised’ beyond belief with other school activities so we try not to do any athletic fundraisers,” said one athletic director.

The role of fundraising at schools right now is a shared responsibility. While the booster club has primary responsibility (at 77.1% of programs), the coach (71.3%) and athletic director (60.4%) are not far behind. Athletes (48.4%) were not mentioned as often but still are part of the system at almost half of the schools.

So, coaches now are seen as role models, mentors, Xs and Os gurus and revenue generators. It’s a lot of responsibility to heap upon those who may only be making a couple thousand dollars for a season of work.

Adding Sports, Adding Fees
Previous generations did not have a lot of choices from season to season in terms of sports to play. Football, basketball, baseball, softball and track typically were the choices. Eventually, soccer and volleyball entered the fray with wrestling and gymnastics not far behind. Today, high schools are offering even more choices — despite stretched budgets — in an effort to accommodate the wants and desires of the student body.

Lacrosse is the sport most likely to be added to athletic programs according to the survey. This is not a surprise as U.S. Lacrosse reports that no sport has grown faster at the high school level during the last decade. The group estimates that 228,000 high-school athletes now play lacrosse. And, according to the previously mentioned NFHS survey, girls lacrosse was the fastest-growing sport in the last year with 6,155 more females participating in 2010-11 than in 2009-10.

The second-most likely sport to be added to athletic departments is golf with track and field/cross country coming in third. Some of the other sports cited included: volleyball, wrestling, swimming, soccer, bowling, rugby, field hockey, ice hockey, slow-pitch softball, badminton and archery.

As schools add more sports and deal with delicate budgets, student-athlete participation fees is a topic constantly debated. In a stark contrast from the days when sports were “free” to students, 37% of athletic directors say they collect participation fees from their athletes. The average fee collected is $105.28. This number only shows signs of increasing in the coming years as more schools experiment with participation fees.

Also, collecting fees opens up a whole new can of worms for athletic directors. Is it a flat fee for any athlete? Do athletes in “more expensive” sports pay more money? If the fees are the same across the board, do you then have to fund each sport equally?

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