A Guide for Funding Your Youth Sports Organization
April 5, 2021
Soliciting contributions, hosting events, applying for grants –– we’re guessing that fundraising isn’t what drew you to youth sports. Still, you need money to run your organization, and it’s definitely not all coming out of your pocket.
Fundraising can seem tricky and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be! That’s what Amanda Kraus, the CEO of US Rowing, shared with us at our NextUp University conference in the fall–– and she should know. Kraus started Row New York with $5 and built it into a $5 million success. Follow her fundraising guide and you can achieve similar results at your organization:
Figure Out Where the Money Is Going to Come From
Kraus believes you have six options for fundraising:
- Individual donations. All it requires is an ask. And you’re most likely to get a yes from those who care about you or your cause.
- Financial support from the board of directors. If you have one, of course. Funding your program is part of the responsibility of being a board member, either by donating themselves or soliciting on your behalf.
- Grants from foundations. Foundations exist to give money away. The key is finding ones that give money to causes like yours.
- Event fundraising. This one takes more work, but it’s worth it—not only for the financial benefits but for the community-building and networking too.
- Government grants and funding. It takes patience and paperwork to get in the door, but some government agencies exist to support programs that benefit communities–– like youth sports! Plus, building relationships with local government can pay off in the long run.
- Corporate funding and sponsorship. While these contributions are more likely to come in the form of equipment or uniform donations, corporate funding can play a helpful role.
Write Out Your Plan
Whatever your organization’s size, you’ll want to lay out your fundraising plan in a document or spreadsheet. Documentation keeps you focused on your goals and lets you track your progress. The plan should include:
- A target amount. How much do you want to raise in a quarter or year?
- Potential funding sources. Do you want to target individual donors? Hold events? Apply for government grants?
- What you expect to earn. This number is the percentage of whole and raw dollar amounts from each potential revenue stream.
- The details of your outreach plan. This should include specific names of the individual donors you plan to approach, foundations and grants you can apply for, types of fundraising events, and more.
Sell Your Organization
Donors need to be convinced that you deserve their support. So, the story you tell and how you tell it is critical. Hire a communications director if you can, or task a staffer or volunteer you trust to pay attention to the images on your website, social media and print materials, making sure it all represents the purpose and values of your organization.
Use Data to Improve Your Pitch
Potential donors want to know that you can deliver on your promises. Be ready to “prove” your organization’s effectiveness with data that confirms your feel-good stories. Gather metrics around how you are helping kids with their physical well-being, social and emotional well-being, academic success, and more. It can help to zero in on one or two areas where you are seeing success and figure out how to emphasize that growth with data. Surveys, focus groups and staff feedback can help quantify your results.
Make the Ask
Soliciting donations can feel awkward, but here is the undeniable truth: the reason most people don’t give is that they haven’t been asked. Many with available funds are happy to give it away to a good cause–– they just need to know where to look. Make your outreach personal and direct and unique to your brand.
As in sports, practice helps. Do it again and again—asking for donations, applying for grants, requesting sponsorships—and you’ll get better at it, even if the answer isn’t always “yes.” Just think of all the kids you’ll help by keeping at it.