If you're a high school athlete (or the parent of one) and your team needs funds for uniforms, travel, or new equipment, you might consider re-evaluating your usual fundraising and trying something a little different.
Instead of selling candy bars or getting businesses to purchase ads in a team directory, I think there's a huge opportunity for athletes to show a little more initiative, for the teams to generate even bigger funds, and for the sponsors to reap the rewards of supporting the team. Here it is.
1. Nominate 2 teammates to serve as fundraising chairpersons.
Parents can serve as advisors for this project, but don't take it over from the kids. If the team really needs money that badly, the teammates should care enough to take on this project themselves. Let the team nominate the most motivated, organized teammates to head the project.
2. Have the team pick the 20-25 local business they patronize most often.
Hold a team meeting and ask each member to write down the five local business that they visit (and spend money) most often. Where do you and your friends eat pizza? Where do you buy gas? Where do you see movies? What clothing stores do you frequent the most? Compare everybody's lists and pick the 20-25 businesses that appear most often.
3. Write letters (not emails!) to the businesses asking for sponsorships.
Write each business a letter (you can re-use parts of the letter but each one should be personalized to each particular business). Make sure it's a letter–email is too quick, too easy, and much more likely to be deleted.
Here's what should be in the letter.
- An introduction. Tell them where you go to high school and what team you play for.
- Explain that you are approaching local businesses looking for sponsorships. Tell them why do you need the money, what you are you going to use it for, and what is your goal is
- Explain that the team met and picked the businesses they frequent most often. Then tell this business specifically why they made the list. "We like your pizza much better than Pizza Hut's, and we have all our team dinners with you, too" or "Every member of our team buys a smoothie at your store at least once a week–my favorite flavor is banana raspberry, by the way."
- Offer to do something for them in return to help them promote their business. Suggest things you can do, like have a parent hand out coupons for 1/2 off smoothies at each one of your games for a sponsorship of $500. Or have the whole team where t-shirts promoting the business on game days for a sponsorship of $1000.
Here's a big one. For a sponsorship of $5,000, make a promise to the business that every team member and her parents will buy all of your gas or smoothies or pizza from the sponsoring business for a period of 1 year (you could make up little cards with the team name to give the manager every time you buy, so he or she knows how much business you're giving them).
I'm a small business owner, and I can tell you that a smart business will see that this math works in their favor. 15 players on a team means about 40 potential customers if you include parents. If each of those 40 customers bought just 6 large pizzas in a year, the pizza joint would make its $5000 back. And those customers will inevitably bring in more business in the form of friends who aren't even on the team. For the right business, it's both a profitable decision and a chance to do right by kids in the community.
You could also allow a business to suggest an idea for a particular sponsorship (you don't necessarily have to do what they suggest, for the amount the suggest, but they can at least suggest it).
- Have a reply form where they can choose their option, and make one of the options "Please contact me to discuss." Include a stamped reply envelope and hand-write a return address where they can send the form and a check.
- Once you get your funds, assign 5 different team members (not the fundraising chair persons–they're doing enough) to be in charge of contacting the businesses, thanking them, and coordinating the promotion of their business.
- Throughout the season, take pictures of your team promoting the business. Get a group shot of all of you in front of your lockers at school wearing the local deli's t-shirts. Snap a photo of the fans holding up their coupons for half priced smoothies. Take a picture of the starting center eating two slices of the sponsoring pizza place's pizza at the same time. Have some fun with it. Once every couple weeks, email a few of the photos to the store managers so they can see you in action.
- At the end of the season, pick the 2 or 3 most artistic members of the team (OK, or the most artistic parents if no member of the team is artistic) to make a nice collage with a photo of the team signed by the players, a big thank-you for sponsoring them, and a collection of the photos you took of the promotion. This shows the partnership–they helped you and you helped them. And it's something that a local business can put up on their wall proudly.
I know what some of you are thinking. It's too hard. It will take too long. It's not worth the effort. I get that. But if it's not worth the effort for you, then why should the local business sponsor you? What's in it for them, really? I think businesses should support the communities that support them, but why not set it up so both parties benefit?
If you do this and it works for both parties, you haven't just secured a one-time small donation. You've created a partner in the community, a business who will follow and support your team, and one who won't need to be convinced to sponsor you again next year.
You'll make more money for your team, you'll gain a long-term team supporter in the community, and you'll have a great story to tell colleges.