Most athletic departments need fundraisers to fill the gaps in the budget. Athletic director James Coffey shares some out-of-the-box ideas that have worked for him.
In my last blog, I discussed how booster groups can be the answer to a sports team’s fundraising problem. But even once you have a booster club, you still need to come up with successful ideas for fundraisers and events.
So in this blog, I’ll highlight some of the most profitable fundraisers I’ve been a part of in the last fifteen years. These are all large scale fundraisers that produced strong returns.
Sell a Locker
When you can tie the fundraiser to what you need the funds for, it only makes sense. We once needed to upgrade our boys’ and girls’ varsity locker rooms. The benches, flooring and lockers all needed replacing—we basically had to gut them.
We got quotes for the project and divided it by how many lockers we needed to install to get a locker price. Then we gave alumni the opportunity to “buy” a locker for $250, which included a nice plaque on the back of “their” locker.
Many donors put their name, the sports they played, and the years they attended the school. Some local businesses donated to have their business name on the plaque. Families with kids who played sports would get together and put their family names on it. We even had plaques in memory of former students and athletes.
It was a great way to renovate an existing area for our kids and honor the tradition of the town’s athletic department.
Raffle a Car
For this fundraiser, we were trying to raise $50,000 to pay for new stadium lights. Having a specific, simple goal is the key to a successful fundraiser.
We decided to get there by having student-athletes and community members sell $50 dollar raffle tickets for a new car. In this case, the dealer gave us the car under cost, but in return got great publicity for his dealership. And we got to keep all of the funds raised over that initial cost.
Now this was fairly easy for us to set up because the organizer had a friend who owned a car dealership. Remember to work your network for these sorts of fundraisers. You might be surprised by the big response you get!
This one was my favorite fundraiser while I attended high school, and while I was employed by my hometown school. Our special education department would rent a wrestling ring and put on “Wrestlemania” every two years. It was a big production, which took quite a bit of work, but they have raised thousands of dollars over the years.
Here’s how it worked: students could create tag teams of two, with personas, uniforms, the whole thing. There’d be 10 tag team wrestling matches, with students as wrestlers, managers, round card holders, etc. Teachers were the referees and ring announcers.
In the lead up to the event, the “wrestlers” would go down to the middle and elementary schools and sign autographs in their costumes. There’d be teams like “The Pizza Boys” and “The Dorks.” They’d have theme music and make a big production of it, which the little kids loved!
The biggest expense was the ring—the rest was just volunteer hours. Tickets were $10 to get in, and believe me, the gym would be packed.
At the end of the matches, there would be a “Royal Rumble,” which a student in special education always won. This wasn’t just a fundraiser, it was a community-wide event that everyone looked forward to.
The Great Reunion
This is exactly what it sounds like. All classes in school history got to be part of this reunion. Alumni could come alone, mingle with friends from town, or even organize with their class to rent several tables and hold their own class reunion at the event.
There’s a few logistics with this size of an event. A 50 x 50 tent would be rented and set up on our stadium field. The school board even approved a one-time allowance for liquor to be sold on school property, so beer and wine could be sold with dinner. We made it 21+ and had a Hawaiian theme when I was there. There were silent auctions, raffles and a live band.
We had hundreds of attendees, and even created sponsorship opportunities for local businesses. This event regularly brought in tens of thousands of dollars for co-curricular activities at my alma mater.
Make these ideas your own. Add your school or program’s touches to make these ideas work for you. And if you’re in need of a booster group to help support your fundraisers, here’s my earlier blog on how to set them up.
James Coffey attended Endicott College in Beverly, MA where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sport Management. He has spend the last fifteen years as an athletic director at three different high schools. Coffey was named the Massachusetts Secondary School District A Athletic Director of the Year in 2012. He has also spoke about the positive effects of social media on athletics at several New England conferences.