July 30, 2018 • From the BenchWinning Hoops

Fundraisers that produce big returns with small investments

by Jay Johnson, contributing writer

Time is a precious commodity. It’s something everyone could use more of each day, and coaches are no exception. Coaches spend several hours each day doing various ancillary tasks associated with coaching a team. Those necessary evils beyond the traditional Xs and Os add up to make a difference.

Fundraising is among those time-consuming tasks. Coaches need to develop fundraising strategies that:

  • Require a minimal investment of time.
  • Have a profit margin of at least 90 percent.
  • Produce maximal dollars given the time and effort put forth by the coach or fundraiser.

Another key to a successful fundraiser is to eliminate the third party. Those individuals, groups or businesses are looking to profit off of your fundraising event, which is a margin killer. Dollars should benefit your team, not someone else’s bottom line.

There are a variety of programs that can produce maximal dollars in a short time with less effort than other fundraising events. Here are some examples. 

Booster clubs

A lot of schools already have booster clubs. Those that don’t should put one in place. Boosters are a fantastic group of individuals who are committed to the success of the team or school they’re supporting. Yet, we all know that some boosters are fundraising for the wrong reasons. It could be their connection to the coach, notoriety, or worse, to secure a position on a team for their son or daughter.

It’s a slippery slope, but given the right type of individuals, booster clubs can be a great asset for supplementary funding. Convince the members of a booster club to consider one or more of the fundraising activities described here.

‘Drive For’ your school, community events

These types of fundraising events, often provided through Dodge or Ford motor companies, can provide serious funding in a short time period. The school or community organization applies for the event through their community’s local dealership. The purpose is to attract potential buyers by providing an opportunity to test-drive a vehicle without high-pressure sales people present. In return, the vehicle manufacturer provides a $20 donation to the school for each of up to 300 test drives. The fundraiser takes place over five hours, during which time it’s possible to reach the maximum donation of $6,000.

Patronage accounts

This is a fantastic fundraiser that generates a 100-percent profit margin and is relatively easy to get started. Patronage programs require a business that is civic-minded and wants to give back to the public. Seek out chain stores or large businesses that seek publicity and promote public relations that result in a year-end tax deduction for the company. Some of the best patronage programs involve convenience store chains, gas station chains, propane/fuel providers and grocery stores.

Patronage fundraisers require a partnership between the school/organization and the business in order to transfer funds at the end of the fiscal year. Partnerships outside of a school system must meet a few requirements. These include becoming a charitable organization, developing a set of operating bylaws, establishing a board of directors, securing a 501(c) federal tax-exempt number and possibly a state tax-exempt ID. These are worthwhile documents for the organization to secure, given that each serves a purpose for other fundraising events, donations or purchases.

For example, a convenience store/gas station establishes a patronage account to benefit the high school softball team. When a customer goes to the counter to pay for their gas or merchandise, they tell the cashier to “put it on the ballfields.” The cashier then swipes the ballfields fab card that tracks annual purchases credited to the softball organization. At the end of the fiscal year, the store provides a 3 percent patronage check based upon the year’s purchases. The softball organization publicly receives a patronage check at a high-profile event. Your fundraising work has paid off with minimal effort.

Remember, patronage accounts do require a small amount of introductory work in the first year. Most of it is beneficial for other aspects of the organization. It’s possible that a patronage account fundraiser may be the right answer to your organization’s external funding.

Advertisement discount/coupon cards

This fundraiser benefits both the team and the advertising business. Be aware that this fundraiser requires an individual who is willing to invest in the setup time the first year to be successful.

Contact local businesses and establish what type of coupon they would be interested in marketing over the next calendar year. The business must then send their logo and coupon information to a predetermined printing company. The printer sets up some type of punch card with the various advertising coupons procured. The cost of printing the cards should be less than $2. Team members then sell the cards to the public for $20 each, giving the program a 90-percent profit margin. Given the right businesses with popular discounts, this form of fundraising can be very profitable.

Signage sponsorships

Signage at sports facilities has long been a means of raising funds through advertising. While the strategy is somewhat more time-consuming to establish, it’s a highly profitable source of revenue. The key is to offer reasonably priced signage packages. The only investment in this case is the time spent by the fundraiser contacting and securing potential advertisers and displaying the signage when received.

The process works like this: Businesses pay for the one-time cost of creating the sign up front to the sign contractor. The business also pays the team for the yearly advertising fee. In the years that follow, businesses receive a letter from the team fundraiser to renew the advertisement sponsorship and secure their sign location for another year. The funds raised are often without restriction and available to supplement any of the team’s needs.

Bag auctions

This is a unique concept that can take place in conjunction with youth camps, clinics and tournaments related to your sport.

The first step is to acquire popular equipment or apparel that people would normally purchase for themselves, but they also would be willing to buy a raffle ticket to win that item. This can be team apparel from a previous year, donated sales or promotional products, donated equipment from a sporting goods dealer, purchased items, tickets, or passes to other events. Next, sell numbered tickets on the day of the event to those in attendance. You can sell $1 individual tickets, six for $5, 15 for $10 or 25 for $20. The larger the event, the better.

Fans can then place any number of their purchased raffle tickets in bags displayed in front of the desired items. At the end of the event, someone draws a single ticket from each of the boxes. The person with the winning ticket receives that item.

Giving back

Whatever fundraising event the team chooses, there needs to be a return on investment to the business that helped with the fundraising. Teams can do this by hosting a “sponsors day” at one of their contests, announcing the owners of the businesses on game day. Provide them with a free hot dog, beverage and ticket. It’s a gesture that personally connects them with the team.

This is a great example of giving back. A good use of the discount/coupon cards is to distribute free cards to the individuals or companies that provided support. Team also can give discount cards to sign sponsors. Most likely, the discount cards were not all sold, and it’s a relatively inexpensive means to say thank you and spread some goodwill with those that provided an opportunity to raise funds for the team.

Coaching the athletes needs to be the No. 1 priority of any coach. However, fundraising can be a positive experience and a promotional tool for the program. Just remember to keep the fundraising costs to a minimum, eliminate third parties and focus on efforts that produce the greatest monetary gain for the team.

Jay Johnson is an assistant softball coach at Northwestern High School (Wisconsin) and an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.