Cover Photo Credit: Cola Daily
Sports are expensive. Whether from a toddler soccer group or an adult basketball team, playing sports comes at a price. Fundraising is an integral part for any team to help offset that price so athletes can play.
Throughout the years, many fundraising ideas have proven to be successful: selling discount cards, asking donations through services like VNN, fancy dinners/gala, chocolate bar sales, car washes, and other things. These are tried-and-true methods that have brought good money in for many organizations.
Even with these methods though, teams and organizations sometimes face stiff competition and mixed results. When I was in middle school doing a chocolate bar fundraiser for our basketball team, three other school clubs were doing similar fundraisers at the same time. At one point, I remember seeing at least 20 different people (not my team mates) walking around with the same chocolate bar boxes also trying to sell. Students were so sick of chocolate after a few weeks that I could not even sell the most popular chocolates when I got another box. When another club tried the fundraiser a month later, they struggled to sell their bars.
Easy fundraising ideas are readily available, but the unique ones will bring in more money, recognition, and engagement from those involved. Unique ideas do not have to be hard to implement, but just need some work to make them happen. Check out the following three unique fundraising ideas to bring in extra revenue for any sports organization.
Three Unique Sports Fundraising Ideas
Idea #1 - Food Truck Roundup
Food trucks are not a new phenomenon. The idea of serving mobile food started with hot dog carts in the late 1900s, but gained popularity in the 1950s with ice cream trucks. Since then, the food truck segment has been growing steadily with a 4,941 increase in trucks from 2015-2018. With their increasing popularity, sports organizations can utilize food trucks to bring in extra cash.
- Use parking/field space to have food trucks come and sell to guests for games or on designated night
- Food trucks give percentage of sales (20-30%) that goes back to the program directly
Photo Credit: WGLT
Why This Would Work: Food trucks are in a tough business. They not only have to compete with each other, but they have to compete with established restaurants. They are hungrier than ever to get good business.
This is evident in the competition trucks face with each other to get a daily good spot. For a truck, location is everything—a good spot gets good traffic. What better location, especially on a weekday, than to sell at a high school basketball game or at a youth flag football game? For food trucks, they have a captive, large, and ready-to-spend audience that they can sell to.
Food trucks are also mainly local people who love to be involved in their community. Many events that food trucks attend require an upfront flat fee and then a percentage of sales. By giving them an option to be on-site and not charge anything up front, organization leaders have an easy sell to bring these trucks in.
Earn money without spending on food products
- Ex: Trucks sell collectively $2200 on the night of the game
- Truck agrees to giving 25% of sales back to the organization
- Organization earns $550
- If you sell snacks in the stadium, you can still do that, and add those profits to whatever the truck makes
- Margins are better with food trucks
- Ex: Truck sells $7 meal/product
- Organization gets 25% ($1.75)
- Organization normally sells hot dogs for $1.50
- Margin after food costs is about $0.70
- This does not include the time & storage it takes to keep the hot dogs good
- Players can take the lead on contacting food trucks to come to games or tournaments
- Players or team manager can help coordinate with the trucks on-site and be a liaison
- Players build communication skills as they learn how to build a relationship with the truck owners/workers
Engage fans before games start
- You can promote which trucks will be there before hand with fans
- Fans can get to the game/tournament earlier than expected to buy the truck's food and enjoy it
- If done in a parking lot, fans can set up tailgates to enjoy the food together
Engage fans throughout games
- For some high school sports, where various levels (Freshman, JV, Varsity) all play on the same day, the truck can be there all night for family and friends that trickle in to purchase food from
- Most games allow for fans to go out and come back in to the venue. If fans can leave the arena and then come back in, then the truck can have constant customers throughout the night
- You can announce the food truck throughout the event as well to encourage fans to buy
Offer product variety to fans
- Instead of cheap hot dogs and nachos, have a corn dog, taco, hamburger, or other food truck to give fans quality food.
Having a food truck roundup is an easy, unique way to raise funds for a sports organization.
Idea #2 - Video Game Tournament
Video game tournaments are also not a new concept. In fact, games have become so popular that at least 75% of Americans have at least one gamer in their household. With rising tournaments like the Fortnite World Cup, FIFA eWorld Cup, and the NBA 2K league, video games are a growing way for people to connect. Sports organizations can utilize tournaments as a way to raise money and reach new fans.
- Host a video game tournament with anyone from the community welcome to participate if they pay the entry fee
- Game chosen can be the sport that the organization plays or another popular game
- Have an easy double elimination bracket for the tournament that people can follow
- Choose a venue that will work with you and that you can utilize their equipment. You can also do an online tournament as well.
Why This Would Work: When I was in high school, all of my basketball team mates would get together after practice or on the weekends to play NBA 2K. They would play for hours on end, and built some big rivalries. At times, they would have friends over who were not a part of the team to play as well. Seeing them play religiously showed me how much athletes like video games. Getting them involved in a tournament like this would be an easy sell. If an organization's team members love playing, help set up, and are allowed to participate, then they will easily want to get peers and friends to join in.
What about a venue to play at? This can be figured out in a few different ways. Gaming lounges are becoming very popular. Many host tournaments weekly or monthly as a way to bring in money from ticket sales. Organizations can work with these venues by having participants pay the venue fee and then having another fee to play in the tournament. Other venue options include school classrooms/computer labs (if the team is attached with a school) or online over the internet.
With player participation and venue ideas taken care of, all an organization would need is the game, consoles, and potentially a prize. Team members or participants can provide the game or consoles, while local businesses could donate gift cards or items for the grand winner. If some businesses already advertise at games, they would be good targets to reach out to first for prizes. After that, organizations just need to pick a day (preferably a Saturday before or after the season when team members can play) and then they are all set.
Photo Credit: Essentially Sports
Unique Fundraising Idea
- For all of the ideas out there, I have never seen an amateur sports organization do this as a fundraiser. I am sure some have tried, but even then, the competition is low in teams doing this
Engage New Audiences
- Schools and communities are starting to get esports teams and clubs. These people would be great to get the word out to since they know other groups and gamers that could participate
- Other communities have forums where people get together to play games. Organizations can reach these people as well
- Participants can be any age as kids as young as 8-9 could play. Games are universal and not tied to one age group
More Likely To Be Promoted By Players
- Players love to compete, and if this gives them another avenue to win something or raise the required funds to participate in the physical sport, then they would be more likely to get peers to purchase an entry fee instead of a discount card or car wash vouchers.
- If the game is well known (NBA 2K, FIFA, Super Smash Brothers, etc.) then players will have easier times getting friends to sign up
- Giving players goals on how many people they are required to register will also encourage them to get friends and family to pay entry fees
Gain Repeat Customers Each Year
- If participants see that the tournament is held each year, they will be more likely to participate in the next one if they had a good first experience. This is true if they have to defend their title or want to beat out competitors that previously knocked them out.
While a video game tournament may take a little bit more time to plan, the entertaining aspect of it will give an organization's players more motivation to promote and engage with the fundraiser. Instead of a car wash, why not do something fun?
For more resources, check out what some professional leagues have done in engaging their players and fans through video game tournaments: Major League Soccer, Major League Rugby, National Hockey League.
Idea #3 - Player-Designed Online Gear
When thinking of merchandise sales, organizations may think of selling physical products on-site as the most effective way to get fans team gear. Online sales may seem too complicated to set up. Things that teams think they have to consider with ecommerce includes building a website or landing page, determining shipping, managing orders and product fulfillment, creating a good user experience, etc. With all of these obstacles, why should teams sell online?
Teams should sell sports gear online because it can reach greater audiences, provide extra income, and does not have to require minimum product orders especially when working with platforms like Stadium Gear & Apparel. Taking it a step further, organizations should have players, or someone involved, design the apparel to bring in more cash than generic designs.
For more information on why teams should have an online apparel store, and where to get started, check out this article here.
- Have player(s) who is/are good at illustrating or graphic design create designs to put on different articles of sports clothing
- Work with a platform to put player designs on apparel products and then sell online.
- Use links to the online sales platform for players to promote throughout the season
- Rotate designs each year to give new fans and audience something fresh to buy, as well as new opportunities for players
- If players are just good with coming up with ideas and not drawing, organizations can pair them up with graphic design students at high schools or local community colleges to create. There are also websites like Fiverr.com where for a little investment ($10-40) professional artists can whip up ideas from players.
Why This Would Work: Having a player-designed online apparel store works because of how it engages fans and team members. If a coach asks a player to create some designs that the team can sell on t-shirts, hoodies, and socks for the season to raise fund that player is given a great opportunity. Not only can they put the designs in their portfolio, but they get to see people wearing and purchasing what they created. The player would put in their best work to make sure they were designs the team would be proud of.
After the player puts the designs online, friends, family, and peers would be more than likely to purchase the original apparel to support the team. These friends and family do not even have to come to games to purchase the merchandise. With online access, apparel can be shipped anywhere in the world! New revenue streams would open up outside the local community for the organization. As players see the designs sell, they will want to wear and promote the products further to their peers.
Organizations should not doubt the design talents of players. Below is a design from a 15-year old that the Intermountain Volleyball Association (USA Volleyball sanctioned amateur region covering Utah and Idaho) uses on our site for stickers and shirts.
Having designed apparel to sell online works. Additional benefits are listed below.
Gives players opportunity to build skills
- Players that design gives them something unique to put on their resume and another portfolio piece
- Players can also build marketing skills as they learn how to push sales for the products on their social media and through other channels
Making good money for not putting any investment up front
- Depending on the product and the pricing, organizations can make somewhere from 35-55% in profits from selling apparel
- On certain platforms, teams can have up to a certain number of products for free that they can sell.
Selling apparel people actually will buy
- When players design the apparel pieces, they are doing it from the perspective of what people their age would like to wear. This ensures that the designs are in-style
- When organizations rotate designs, they ensure fresh new looks that will do better in following yearly fashion trends
Hassle-free production and shipping online sales platform
- Certain platforms can take care of production and online shipping all at once
- Stadium Gear & Apparel's platform provides management of production, customer service, and shipping for products that have designs on them
- Once organizations agree to use the platform, they just have to send designs that they want with specific products, approve mock ups, and then promote the customized link for the products with their fans. No other management necessary
Give product variety for fans to purchase
- While t-shirts and hoodies are staple products, certain platforms can provide other products that designs can be sold on
- Stadium Gear & Apparel can put designs on tote bags, tank tops, hats, leggings, stickers, performance shirts, mugs, beanies, backpacks, sports bras, shorts, posters, and more.
Player-designed apparel is a great way to bring in easy revenue and engage fans. Online sales can reach new audiences and provide great returns.
Sports organizations are always on the hunt to bring in money to support their players. While there are many tried-and-true methods, food truck roundups, video game tournaments, and player-designed online apparel stores are ideas that can bring in good money.