Cover Photo Credit: Emerald Youth Foundation
My Fundraising Experience
Coupon cards, car washes, program advertisements, etc. These all remind me of my high school basketball fundraisers. I dreaded these days; the things we were given to sell were assets that I was not passionate about. Even after some strangers would come and tell us about how much money we could make, my heart was never into doing more than I had to for these.
We had the same fundraisers every year that only felt like a burden. When fundraising season was over, I always felt relieved. I could just focus on playing basketball without worrying about heckling my family and friends to buy something they did not want. During the next season though, I felt the same dread come upon me when more fundraising came around.
I appreciate what fundraising does for teams, but ours lacked originality and made me embarrassed to promote things no one wanted. Instead, I wished we did activities that helped fans get involved in more meaningful ways.
Photo Credit: The Go Card
Hardships of Fundraising
Other players, coaches, directors, and managers feel the same way I did about fundraising in high school—a burden that has to be addressed every year. The cost of operating a sports teams is high and money needs to be made for them to exist. Even after players or parents pay team fees (if there are any), coaches and directors still have to figure out how to raise additional funds.
Teams have tried many different fundraisers to offset costs, but which one is the most successful? I believe some ideas are better than others, including selling team apparel online. While selling team merchandise is not a new concept, selling apparel online is one that not a lot of sports organizations are taking advantage of.
Why are teams not using this tool to raise funds for their programs?
Perceptions of Online Stores
After talking to coaches, directors, and other sports leaders who have dealt with merchandise, I found some common reasons why their teams and clubs have not started online apparel stores to raise money.
- Don't have time to manage
- Too expensive for too little return
- Don't have website capabilities or time to start one
Don't have time to manage - For team leaders that are busy with player development and other administrative work, starting something new is daunting and inconvenient. Once they are up and running, online stores do take time and effort to fulfill orders, manage inventory, and market. With other fundraising options that appear to raise money faster, are easier to learn, and require less management, online stores are not seen as a great option.
Too expensive for too little return - For many clubs and teams who have sold merchandise before, they know how expensive bulk apparel orders can be. When they can't sell everything, teams face sunk costs and storage problems. Many have abandoned selling merchandise in general because of these issues. Teams may think that online apparel selling will be similar where they have to put in a massive investment up front and deal with risk of overspending and leftover apparel.
Don't have website capabilities or time to start one - To start an online store, teams believe that they have to select a provider, design the store themselves, and then pay the monthly or yearly fees to have the store go live. Many team websites do not have the current capabilities to add an online store or pay extra major fees to create something new. After the fees, teams are then required to learn to develop the website so that customers can have a great experience. This takes time and effort that teams can be using elsewhere.
While these are all roadblocks to selling apparel, teams should heavily consider starting an online store for the following reasons.
Why Have An Online Apparel Store?
Even with the perceptions above, teams must have an online apparel store if they want to reach broader customers, solicit greater donations, and engage team members better. Here are six benefits to having an online apparel store for any team, club, tournament, or other sports organization.
1.) Sell Product Year Round
While teams may have a certain season, their apparel can be sold online at any time. No need to wait for home games to have merchandise available. With an online platform that can be up for the entire year, apparel revenue can still be coming in even when the team is not playing. Usually, fundraisers are confined to a specific window in the season; this adds extra stress for the team, as they have to play, practice, and fund raise in the same time period. With having a fundraising mechanism all year long, teams can focus more on playing in the season and less on raising money.
Teams can use a variety of online platforms to start their store, but some do not allow for year round access. If they do allow access, teams usually have to pay yearly or monthly fees to keep the site active. Stadium Gear & Apparel is the best platform that does not charge monthly/yearly fees in certain packages to give fans product access all year long.
For teams looking to make money during the off season, an online apparel store is a great way to do so.
2.) Engage Players In Creative Ways
When you have engaged players, team fundraisers can be wildly successful. Players want to do their part, but they want to do it for something they believe in. For me and my teammates, selling coupon cards and program advertisements were things that every other team was doing. Once we hit our quota, we stopped caring and did not go above and beyond to raise extra funds.
With an online apparel store, you have more opportunities to engage players in various ways. For one, players, or others associated with the team, can help design apparel with art and logos they know their peers or families would purchase. Many young students are interested in graphic design and starting their own brands, so why not give them an opportunity to do so? [See 17 year-olds Eli Zied and Despina Kotsis who started their own world renowned apparel brands] Helping to design unique apparel alongside general merchandise would give players something to be proud of. The more proud they are, the more likely they will promote the apparel to friends and family and increase overall sales.
Another way an online store engages players is through its social implications. For players to meet sales quotas, they can take pictures wearing apparel with a link to where followers can purchase to support. This is even better when the designs are created by the players, as they will be more eager to promote it. Players can also learn skills by helping out with team social media and other marketing to further build out the store and sales. These skills look great for players resumes and other applications.
While other fundraisers only focus on selling physical products or services, an online apparel store can help engage players on social media if they are allowed to design apparel themselves. The more engaged they are, the better the fundraiser will be.
3.) Deal With Less Management
What if there was a platform where teams did not have to worry about shipping and inventory? What if they did not have to purchase a minimum requirement of inventory to get started for their store? Some online platforms, like Stadium Gear & Apparel, have these capabilities. After submitting designs and choosing the colors and product to sell online, teams do not have to worry about shipping orders, managing how much inventory there is of a product, purchasing a minimum amount of physical product to get started, or deal with returns.
With not having to take time to deal with shipping, inventory, and other management actions for the store, teams can focus more on playing while still raising money.
4.) Offer More Products
Apparel sales have usually stuck to just t-shirts and hoodies, but what about other products fans love? While t-shirts and hoodies are the easiest to buy in bulk to physically sell, online apparel stores have the capability to expand product offerings. From other apparel like performance shirts, socks, leggings, sweatpants, and hats to accessories like phone cases, pillows, backpacks, and even jewelry, online stores can sell these products without forcing teams to physically keep them in stock.
With all of these selections available, teams have to be careful in which platform they use. Many fundraising platforms like Custom Ink, Fine Designs, and Bonfire are great, but they only have t-shirts and hoodies available. Platforms like Stadium Gear & Apparel have access to all of the products listed above and more that teams can use to sell online.
While some fundraising platforms only focus on t-shirts and hoodies, sports organizations can utilize their online store to increase their product offering to customers with other sites.
5.) Reach New Audiences
Not all fans live in a close geographic proximity to where a team plays. For youth sports players that have grandparents, or high school teams who have alumni that want to support while far away, teams can use online apparel to reach these international audiences. Family and friends want to do what they can to support, and if online merchandise is available, they can purchase and sport their pride in the team anywhere they live.
An online store can also reach new audiences through players. If designs are created by players, (mentioned above in Benefit #2) they can easily promote their products on social media with direct links to the online store. 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every month, and more young people are using the platform to get new merchandise. If they can easily buy apparel through social media, these users can be a thriving new customer base.
Online apparel can reach new markets to bring in greater revenue outside of those who are in close proximity to the team.
6.) Have Easy Revenue Source
While all these benefits are great, the best benefit a team's online apparel store has is bringing in easy revenue. Unlike all the planning that takes place with other fundraising ideas, an online store that requires little management from teams can bring in extra revenue year round. In certain cases, online fundraising brought in more than expected once the community rallied behind the cause.
Some of these cases include various teams at multiple levels. Santa Barbara Track Club raised over $5,100 through online t-shirt sales to fund a trip to the 2016 Olympic Trials. AIMS raised over $2,950 for their students by selling PE shirts, and $6,600 was raised to bring Natural Horsemanship to a competitive level. While most of these were one-off campaigns, the potential for an online store is much greater in revenue than these numbers for teams who sell year round.
An online apparel store is an easy revenue stream for teams looking to supplement other fundraising activities.
How Can Teams Start?
An online apparel store's benefits outweigh the road blocks that teams may have about starting one. If teams are ready to bring in easy revenue, engage their players, and reach new audiences while not having to add time to managing operations, then Stadium Gear & Apparel's platform is the perfect place to start.
With an online store, more money will be in teams' pockets and management can spend more time doing what they do best: developing athletes into great players.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today