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Community Involvement is Essential for School Fundraisers

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on January 14, 2020 hst Print

When it comes to raising additional money for the athletic program, administrators have a number of approaches from which they can choose. For example, they could conduct various sales, run refreshment stands at contests, apply for grants, obtain sponsorships that include signage and advertising, and host tournaments. Also, capital campaigns are great for building or refurbishing venues. There are many possibilities.

Single-day events such as pancake or spaghetti dinners, golf tournaments, road races, flea or craft markets, youth tournaments and auctions represent additional possibilities and should not be overlooked. Why? In addition to generating extra funds, they can also serve to connect and involve the community. These happenings can become an annual tradition, if they grow and are repeated for a few years. As a matter of fact, ultimate success may actually depend upon encompassing community support and participation.

Why and how is community involvement helpful? Any time that schools can get more people attending events or participating in fundraisers, the more money they should be able to raise. This alone is a positive aspect, but it goes beyond the financial factor. Looking at a few specific single-day events should help to illustrate this viewpoint.

  • Pancake or spaghetti dinner. Start by trying to get donations of the food ingredients, paper plates, cups, napkins and other supplies that are necessary because this means there is less to purchase. This approach will increase your profit, and community members and local stores can be very helpful in this effort. In addition, the ambiance at these dinners can be enhanced by the performance of a musical group – for example, a barbershop quartet or jazz band. If you can use a group from the community, it is a great way to showcase their talents and to also help the fundraiser.
  • Road race. On the day of the race, there is a need for a number of volunteers. Along the route and especially at intersections, you will need individuals to stop traffic – cars not runners – to help at the finish line and to provide refreshments. Community members, especially from running clubs and individuals with technical expertise, would be a great source of support. Also, many races provide t-shirts to registered runners and it is quite common to have many sponsors listed on the back. These “walking” advertisements will be seen around the community for years afterwards and are very cost-effective ways for businesses and community organizations to support the fundraiser. Any post-race refreshments that can be donated, just as with dinners, increase the funds that will ultimately be raised.
  • Flea markets or craft fairs. For either event, you need vendors and there is no better place to find them than in your community. This provides an outlet for individuals to sell their goods and, in exchange, you collect a fee for a space and possibly a little extra by providing a table. In addition, community or school groups can sell refreshments, distribute informational materials and perhaps recruit new members for their organizations at these events. These selling outlets for unusual items and homemade crafts truly can and should encompass the entire community. And besides, they are fun.
  • Golf tournaments. While it should be obvious that golfers have to register to play in order to raise money, a good tournament has other needs. For example, there are normally awards that are won at the various holes – closest to the pin, etc. – and this is typically accomplished by having hole sponsors. In addition, you will need gifts and refreshments. When these items are donated by individuals and community organizations, costs will be reduced and profits increased. As with most fundraisers, golfers from the community will participate if they know the goal or purpose for the additional money that is raised. Therefore, good, clear marketing is critical for a successful event.
  • Youth tournament. If you host a soccer or basketball tournament, for example, the entry fee should always cover the cost of officials and provide some extra money. In addition, t-shirt sales and the refreshment stand revenue can push the income to a desired level. To meet the stated goals, schools should strive to entice a number of community- based teams to participate. By doing this, family, friends and neighbors should attend. In addition, officials will be needed, and the local association should be able to help. Recruiting volunteers from the community to operate the refreshment stand would cap-off total community involvement.
  • Auction. Bidding on items can be an exciting and fun event, which can produce a good deal of extra income. Whether it is a live or silent auction, you will need items to offer and it is ideal to get all, or the majority, donated. If the auction has a specific, designated purpose, such as for a scholarship or helping a family in need, people are much more inclined to donate. Much like other fundraisers, keeping costs low will create larger profits. Therefore, the school will need volunteers to obtain items to be auctioned, individuals to serve as clerks and a community member to serve as the auctioneer.

In addition to seeking donations and volunteers for these various single-day fundraisers, there is another aspect that should be considered to increase community involvement. Reach out to individuals and groups to actually help in organizing and planning the events. A school might also explore the possibility of hosting cooperative or joint dinners, contests, shows or activities that benefit not only the athletic program but a community organization as well. This would benefit everyone.

As emphasized in these examples, community involvement is essential for single- event fundraisers. Individuals will attend the various events, spend money, perhaps purchase an ad in an accompanying program and volunteer. It can and should be a win-win situation for the fundraising effort of the athletic department and the community.