Fundraising 101

Most club teams will say that their least favorite part of being a club rower is the fundraising. It takes a lot of time and you seem to be doing it constantly. That’s one of the evils of not being a varsity program or needing to find ways to defray the costs for the athletes though. If fundraising is something you want/need to do, be ready to put a lot of time and effort into it – the only successful fundraisers are the ones where everyone contributes to make things happen.

Crowdfunding

By now I’m sure everyone knows what crowdfunding is but if you don’t, it’s basically a group of individuals who pool their money to support another person or group’s project, platform, research, relief efforts, etc. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the two most well-known sites, in addition to others like GoFundMe and Make A Champ (which is specifically for athletes).

Getting started is really simple and pretty self-explanatory for most sites like this. You’ll need to:

Write a “bio” or introduction explaining your cause, what you’re raising money for, and why (you can also include a video – perfect for those of you who have already made one for recruiting)

Decide how many “levels” you’ll have in terms of how much people can donate (the most common amounts I’ve seen are $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $250)

Come up with creative “rewards” for each dollar amount ($1 = a thank you email, $50 = your name included in the end-of-season video, $100 = 5 one-hour long private erg sessions, $250 = your name on the boat trailer, etc.)

Determine the length of your funding period (I think 30 days is the max on most sites.)

Set a goal of how much you want to raise – be realistic. Make sure you read the rules on pricing and funding too (i.e. Indiegogo’s flexible vs. fixed funding)

The other important thing is to read the guidelines for each site to make sure your campaign follows the rules. Kickstarter only funds “projects”, so if you wanted to go the route of the Naked Rowers and do a calendar, you could raise funds on here. A new boathouse, new docks, etc. are other ideas. To see an example of a successful campaign created by a crew team on Make A Champ, check out McGill University‘s page.

Last thing – make sure you promote yourself! Don’t just set up your campaign and let it sit there hoping for money to roll in. Have everyone post the links on their Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. and don’t forget to email it to your family and relatives too. Just make sure you don’t spam people or their feeds by posting the link 405 times a day.

Naming rights

If you have any unnamed shells basically it goes like this. If you donate $3k, $5k, $7k, or whatever number the team decides on, you can have this shell named after you or give it whatever name you want. For stuff like this, go after alumni of the program. I guarantee you they’d love nothing more than to have a boat named after them. You can also reach out to an entire class or a particularly successful past crew, solicit donations from them, and then name the boat “Class of 2006” or something like that.

Another thing you can do is have people “endow” seats. In the past I’ve seen seats go for anywhere from $250 to $700+ so be realistic with what you ask but don’t sell yourself short. Also take into account the condition of the shell. If it’s brand new or has raced in national championships, obviously it’s going to be worth a little more than an older shell.

The last thing you can do is have people buy “inches” in the boat. For example, for $10 an inch, from bow to stern right below the gunnel line, you can have your name or a message painted into the boat. Obviously the writing needs to be tiny so don’t trust the writing of names to anyone that has less than amazing handwriting.

Like I said, this is the one to bring up to alumni of the program. Remember, any amount helps! You don’t have to be Rich Uncle Pennybags in order to get your name on a boat. This is something to really stress to your college-aged alums as they sit in their bare bones apartments eating ramen noodles and sobbing over their minimal job prospects and impending student loan payments.

Ergathon

This is the least original idea on here because at some point or another everyone does it. If you put the time and effort into planning this though it could be a huge moneymaker for you. It works the same as any other “-thon” out there – you erg and get people to donate X amount of dollars for every set amount of meters or chunk of time you row. For example, say for every 2k meters you do, someone will donate $10, another will donate $20, and someone else will donate $50.

Here’s some organizational tips:

Find places to set up your ergs around town. Obviously the boathouse would be a good place (preferably outside for increased visibility, weather permitting) but other good options might be a local park or outside the grocery store. Make sure you get permission to set up outside businesses first though.

Create incentives for the rowers. Yea, raising money for the team is great and if you want to be that person that says that should be their incentive then fine, but you’re asking them to do a lot of work so having something to strive for might be nice. I would have prizes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in terms of who raised the most amount of money overall and then one individual prize for the rower on each team who raised the most money individually. A good prize for the first place finishers could be 50% (or all, if that’s possible) of his/her dues for the season are covered by the team. Try to make the prizes worth something to the rowers. Gift cards to Starbucks are great but for something like this, try to be a bit more creative.

Advertise! Let other people know about it besides just your parents. The more people that know, the more awareness you’ll bring to the team/sport and the more support you’ll receive from the community. Make fliers, distribute them around town, post them at school, at the library, on community bulletin boards, etc. Bonus points for getting it on the local news and/or radio.

Let people donate what they want instead of having predetermined dollar amounts listed. If someone wants to donate 50 cents for every 500m, let them. Any amount helps.

Use this opportunity to have an open house at the boathouse and give people a tour of the facilities if they’re unfamiliar with the team. Display your medals, trophies, plaques, etc. where they can be seen, have refreshments available, and be ready to provide information on how people can join the team if they’re interested. If you’re part of a larger club, have stuff available that talks about the other things your club offers, such as learn to row classes for adults and middle schoolers, sculling classes, fitness classes on the ergs, etc. This is also a great chance to get some recruiting done so make sure the boathouse looks presentable.

And some logistical ones:

Get the contact info (name, address, phone number, and email) of everyone who signs up to donate. They don’t need to give you any money up front unless they want to make a straight donation to the team. If they sign up to donate X amount per a set of time or meters, write it down and tell them you’ll contact them within the next two to three days to let them know the final amount.

Try to make sure every rower has an even number of backers, that way you don’t have your superstar with the 6:40 2k being backed by ten people and someone else being backed by only two. If someone says they specifically want to back this person, that’s fine, but if someone doesn’t specify put them with the next rower on the list and so on.

Create posters for everyone who’s erging and write their backers down on there and how much they’re being backed for. Display these on the ground behind their ergs (lay plastic wrap over the paper and then duct tape it to the ground). Have a goal for how many meters you want to erg or how long you want to erg for, and write it at the top so people can get an idea of how much they might potentially be donating. You don’t want someone to say “yea, I’ll donate $100 for every 2k you do” and then you go bang out 20,000 meters. The phone call saying “now you owe us $1000” might be a little shocking for them.

Give the rowers a minimum amount of time to commit to erging but obviously don’t give them a maximum. If they can only stay for two hours, that’s fine. Let them decide if they want to raise money per chunk of time or per a certain amount of meters.

Have everyone on the team be responsible for getting at least three backers (or whatever you decide) before the ergathon. This is a great opportunity to hit up your parents, grandparents, other relatives, teachers, etc. It’s also good for the team because if you can have these early backers already written down on everyone’s poster, the people that walk up at the grocery store or wherever you set up will see that people are already supporting you, which can give them a positive impression of the program and entice them to support you too.

And just some general guidelines:

Put together an ergathon committee that delegates responsibilities to everyone else on the team. This should include at least one of your coaches, a parent or two (if you’re in high school), and at least one representative from each class. For the big things, like advertising, finding corporate sponsors (local businesses, etc.), finding locations to set up, and putting together the prizes for the teams/rowers, give each class a responsibility. Freshman rowers are on this, sophomores are on that, juniors on this, seniors on that. Make sure you give the higher-responsibility tasks to the upperclassmen and the easier tasks to the underclassmen. The parents can be in charge of all the financial stuff – collecting money, tallying totals, reimbursing people for expenses, etc. – and your coach(es) can be in charge of generally overseeing everything and giving help when and where it’s needed. For the little things like cleaning the boathouse, everyone can (and should) help with that the day beforehand. For refreshments, put the coxswains in charge of that. (I made so many cookies and treats for my boats in high school, and so did my friends who were coxswains, so to me it just makes sense that we’d be in charge of refreshments.)

Your reputation precedes you. If your team is known for being a top notch group of kids who have had successful seasons in the past, you shouldn’t have any problem getting support from the community. If you’re known as a bunch of assholes who screw around, you’re probably going to have a tough time. Think about that before asking people for money.

Your team = your responsibility. This is primarily aimed at high schoolers but your parents are not in charge of putting this thing together from scratch. I. am. not. kidding. when I say that they and the coach(es) should be doing the least amount of work compared to everything you guys are doing. If you’re not willing to do at least 75% of the work necessary to get this thing rolling, why are you even bothering to do it in the first place? This is where pride for your team comes in. Do not be lazy and put your responsibilities on other people.

In that same vein, don’t let your parents take over just because they’re the adults and they think they have to. Make it clear that you guys want to be the ones in charge of most of it (because it’s your team) but that you want/need them there to help with certain things. Delegate responsibilities to them the same way you do to your teammates. In order to do this, you need to be the ones to go to the parent booster meetings, present the idea, and give them all the details that show you’ve thought about this ahead of time and are committed to making it happen. Be prepared to answer questions or find out the answers and be ready to report back at the next meeting. Obviously you’re in high school and there are certain things that are over your head so it’s fine to have the help you out but you (you as in “the team”) should be taking charge and doing the lion’s share of the work.

Write thank you notes. You want to give people a positive impression of the team and let them know you appreciated their donation so that hopefully they’ll continue to support you in the future. Take the time to send them a quick email or write them a thank you card, either from the individual rower or the entire team.

Sell stuff

I have no idea who came up with the ideas for the stuff we sold in high school but one year we sold Florida oranges, another we sold candles, and then for a couple years we sold candy bars. While I was in band we sold pizzas, cookie dough, and whatever else Joe Corbi’s had (that name still makes my friends and I cringe a little), in addition to selling poinsettias at Christmas time. We hooked up with a local greenery so if you have one of those near you I definitely recommend seeing if doing something like this during the holidays is a possibility. Pro tip, coming from the person who, every year for seven years, sold the most poinsettias out of anyone else in the band, go to every bank in your town and ask the if they’re interested in decorating for the holidays. Of course they’re interested. They’ll buy the biggest poinsettias for the entryways and then tons of smaller ones for the counters and side tables in the lobby area.

The most successful thing we did for band in the fall was these things call Band Bucks. They’ve been around for decades and are practically a staple in my town. What they are are these cards for tons of businesses around town that offer discounts on food at restaurants and coffee shops, as well as the local fast food places, oil changes and other car related maintenance, hair cuts, florists, photography services … the list goes on and on. The cards cost $10 and are the size of a business card, so they fit right in your wallet. It would definitely be worth going around town and seeing if local businesses, restaurants, etc. are interested in participating. As far as printing up the cards, if you don’t have a local place in town that you can do it I highly recommend MOO.

Rent-a-Rower

Rowers are known for being in shape and strong so it makes sense that people would want to hire them to do stuff, including helping to pack up a house to prep for a move, mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, painting houses, helping with construction projects, babysitting, house sitting, pet sitting, catering events, etc.

For high schoolers, doing something like this might not be feasible unless you do it on the weekends or during the summer when you’re not at school. College kids have a little more control over their time, plus they typically have cars, so this might be better suited for them.

Some general guidelines on how to set this up:

Set up a Google Form or a page on your team’s website where people can see the necessary information (i.e. max number of hours per job, your rates, etc.) and then “hire you” from there. If you’re in high school, have one of the coaches or parents be the contact person.

Have rules, especially if you’re in high school. Require parent supervision or no less than two people at a job in order to keep things safe. Obviously bad things can still happen regardless of the number of people there but in certain situations there is safety in numbers.

Make sure the client knows to keep in mind the scope of the job the athletes are being asked to do so that no one’s health, ability to compete, etc. is jeopardized. If they’re being asked to use any kind of equipment, have the client go over how to use them before anyone gets started just as a precaution.

Make your prices fair and known from the start. Offer discounts to friends of the team or if someone is hiring multiple people for multiple hours. Also make sure the hours of availability are posted and/or that you at least say you’re student-athletes, so some consideration has to be given to your academic/work schedule. Don’t blow off class or work to go do a job for someone. Don’t forget to also block out the weekends you have regattas so people know you’re unavailable.

Sponsorships

Everyone that has a Vespoli, Resolute, Concept 2, JL, etc. sticker on their water bottle is giving those companies free advertising any time someone sees their logo. Why not step it up and ask local businesses to sponsor you in exchange for having their logo or bumper sticker added to your teams boat trailer? Another thing I’ve seen is having all the sponsor’s logos printed onto a big magnet that is put on the side of the truck that’s towing the trailer. This would be a good opportunity to spread the word about the team amongst people in the community and get their support in exchange for some advertising space.

General guidelines for how to initiate this:

Don’t show up to these businesses that you’re trying to get money from looking like you just came from practice. You can still wear jeans and tshirt but make it a nice pair of jeans and a nice tshirt.

Be prepared to answer questions about the team, such as why you’re raising money, what the money will go towards, why/how sponsoring you would be good for business (what are they getting out of this), etc. Also be prepared to give them an idea as to where their logo would be on the trailer. They want maximum exposure to get their name out there so make sure all the spaces you’re offering are clearly visible and not obstructed by the boats in anyway.

Have a plan. Think about it ahead of time and plot out the places you want to go. Don’t just aimlessly wander around town and say “oh, that looks like a good spot, let’s go there!”. Research them a bit if you aren’t familiar with them too. Think of this sort of like a job interview – don’t go somewhere completely unprepared, not knowing what it is they do.

If you want to create levels of sponsorship, like “gold”, “silver”, and “bronze”, have perks to go with each one in addition to just having their name on the trailer. 10 hours of free labor, acknowledgment in the season video, naming rights, their logo added to the team website, social media shout outs, etc. For the higher levels of sponsorship, their logos should be bigger and more prominent than those in the lower levels.

Go in groups of two or three and/or bring along a parent to help you out with explaining the logistics and to answer any questions the company might have.

Write thank you notes or send a follow up email thanking them for their support and include a picture of where their logo is located on your trailer.

Create and sell team gear

Everybody loves/wants/needs team gear, right? And everybody needs to do fundraising, right? TeeSpring is a site that lets you do both. The process itself is a piece of cake – upload your design, choose the kind of shirt you want, set a “sales goal” and a price per shirt, and then fill out the “campaign info” (basically the same information that I talked about earlier with Indiegogo and Kickstarter).

The way you make money is by taking the difference in how much you choose to sell the shirts for and how much the shirts cost to produce. Say you printed your design on the white Hanes Tagless Tees, which are shown as having a base cost of $8.25 per shirt for 50 shirts. The next step, determining your sales goal, can change the cost per shirt. The more you order, the cheaper the individual cost. If you had a goal of selling 250 that would lower the cost to $6.81 per shirt. If you decided to sell your shirts for $15 each you would net a profit of $8.19 per shirt, totaling $2047 for all 250. The only “catch”, if you want to call it that, is that you have to get 250 orders (or whatever number you set your sales goal to) in the allotted time (anywhere from 7-21 days) before they’ll be printed. If you don’t reach your sales goal, the shirts won’t be printed and you won’t make any money.

Car wash

Self-explanatory (I hope). These are great to do during the spring and summer when everyone’s cars are covered in pollen but no one actually wants to go through the effort of washing their own car.

Raffles or silent auctions

Similarly to car washes, this is pretty self explanatory. You could sell tickets at your home regattas and the winner could win something like 3 free hours of rent-a-rower help or something like that. Alumni banquets would also be a great time to do a silent auction.

Bake sale

Super simple to do on a regular basis and you can set up pretty much anywhere. Regattas, on campus, dining halls/cafeterias, etc. are all places where you’d encounter people willing to spend $2 for some homemade desserts.

What has your team done in the past to raise money for the club? Feel free to comment with anything I might have missed!

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