Youth Sports Funding: The Six Main Sources of Cash—and How to Get Contributions from Them
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the basics of fundraising, it’s time to figure out who you should approach for cash, and how. We explored this at NextUp University, our virtual convention, in December of 2020, hearing from US Rowing CEO Amanda Kraus. Here were her tips on how to focus your efforts.
- Individual Donors
Priority level: Extremely high, because you’re likely to get the bulk of your donations from them.
Start here: Anyone with whom you share a connection, personally or through the game, is your best bet. If there’s a big potential donor you don’t know, it’s worth taking the time to find someone who does, maybe a member of the board or a parent. Cold-calling or emailing is the last resort.
Tricks of the trade: Do your research before meeting with potential donors, so you have an idea of what might motivate them to give. Did they or their child play your sport? Were they helped by a similar program? Once you meet, let the donor direct the conversation, but work in as much as you can about the positive impact your program has had, while including as little as possible about yourself. Afterwards, jot down notes so you can reference something from the conversation the next time you meet. And always send a thank you note, ideally hand-written.
- Board of Directors
Priority level: Very high, because their function is to support you strategically and financially.
Start here: Institute what’s called a “give/get” with your board of directors. Essentially, this means that all members of your board can be expected to write a check of their own (give) or raise funds (get). The amount needs to be dependent on the size of the organization, but asking for $5,000 or more is not out of the question. Until there is a formal “give/get” in place, ask for a more modest amount, and position it as an important gesture, rather than a requirement. In any case, it’s best to let potential board members know about the financial expectations before they sign on.
Tricks of the trade: Take the time to train your board about fundraising so the members are comfortable making donation requests. Bring in outside experts if need be. If you can, create promotional materials that they can use when they are soliciting other people.
- Fundraising Events
Priority level: High, because even though they are labor intensive, they can reap big rewards.
Start here: Plan an event around honoring a local politician or a family of supporters, or to give out awards. Make sure you hire a relevant and captivating speaker. Maybe hold a silent auction. Whatever the draw, definitely spread out the planning and executing burden. Create a committee of eight to 10 people, plus board members, to organize it, and let everyone you’ve involved know that you expect them to sell a certain number of tickets or tables as well.
Tricks of the trade: A cocktail party is much easier—and a good deal less expensive—to pull off than a sit-down dinner.
Priority level: Fairly high, because these organizations exist to give money away, although they are picky about who they give it to.
Start here: Determine which foundations are most likely to support an organization like yours. A good way to do this is to search Candid, the Foundation Center’s online database, to learn about who’s a good fit. You can also reach out to a foundation to ask if your organization might meet their criteria before you go through the process of officially soliciting them.
Tricks of the trade: Look at the funding pages on the websites of organizations similar to yours to see which foundations support their work.
- Government Funding
Priority level: Middle-to-low, because though the rewards can be large and the odds of renewal good, it’s often a long and challenging path to get funding (not including PPP, which some of you may have received).
Start here: Unless you are seeking federal funding, the process varies depending on your state or city’s specific requirements. Regardless, the first step is to find a program that supports organizations such as yours (again, look at the funding pages of similar organizations for possibilities). And go in knowing that the process will be time consuming, and require stringent reporting should you get funding.
Tricks of the trade: Government funding usually involves a LOT of paperwork, so put one staff member in charge of tracking and meeting all requirements and check in with them regularly to make sure everything is buttoned up.
- Corporate Funding and Sponsorships
Priority level: Low, because you’ll likely get a donation other than money.
Start here: Know going in that you’re most likely to get an in-kind sponsorship—in other words, you might get a restaurant to supply catering or a sporting goods company to supply uniforms. Other potential collaborations can result in matching gifts or a stable of volunteers.
Tricks of the trade: Try local businesses who will benefit from goodwill in the neighborhood, or large sports-related companies with a charitable reputation, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods.