Generating a sustainable income is a constant feature of any club administrator’s life. Money keeps a club healthy and supports member activities such as club meetings, runs and dinners.
It can often be difficult to know where to start any fundraising programme, particularly as clubs rely on volunteers, who don’t always see raising money as the most exciting activity.
Tony Fitzpatrick has experience of sports club fundraising in New Zealand, Japan and Finland and is a passionate advocate of developing passive income streams.
Tony has an interesting perspective on fundraising which is applicable to any club, whether dedicated to sports or old vehicles.
Are there any differences in attitudes to fundraising in New Zealand, Japan and Finland?
While my experiences so far in Japan and Finland are nowhere near as extensive as in New Zealand and overall have been mostly in the cricketing field, I have noticed some philosophical differences between the three.
In New Zealand we have an environment where clubs have become almost dependent on funding from gaming machines and have lost sight of a lot of the traditional methods of fundraising in favour of the easy (supposedly) handout. That said there are still some clubs who will get together for a working bee especially in the rural communities where they can still do things like carting hay for farmers and bud-rubbing for wine growers.
In Japan I noticed there didn’t seem to be a fundraising mentality at all, with involvement in sports clubs being more a user pays method. Commercial sponsorships were discussed although as we were in the early stages of setting up a club there we never got that far before I relocated.
In Finland sport is more government regulated so it seems that for sports and clubs meeting certain requirements there is a reasonable level of funding available, outside of that it again seems to be a very user pays mentality. I have noticed that clubs do seem to do some additional fundraising, choosing to do some sort of event to raise funds, as well as commercial sponsorships.
Are there any differences between fundraising activities undertaken by different sports, or even at different levels of the same sport?
I think generally a lot of fundraising activities seem to be consistent across different sports, with old staples like gaming machine funding, commercial sponsorships, raffles and special events along with more labour intensive activities like hay carting and other agricultural tasks.
There do seem to be differences between levels within the same sports often, generally due to the economies of scale and resources available to say a regional or national body as opposed to a local club.
What advice would you have for a club setting up a fundraising strategy for the first time?
Firstly, no idea is a bad idea, it is common within clubs for someone to come up with an idea only for it to be shot down by someone else as “that will never work” or “so and so tried that 10 years ago and it never worked…”, when, with a little bit of creative thinking and analysis of past events it could still be a successful idea.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to think outside the square, if everyone is running raffles people soon lose interest.
Thirdly, don’t be afraid to fail initially, if you don’t try anything for fear of failure well you won’t do anything. But don’t accept failure for too long before you finally cut an idea.
Sometimes you can introduce a new fundraising method only to find that in the first go you do a lot of hard work for little or no real return and wonder whether it was really worth it. If your first attempt doesn’t work as well as you had hoped, make sure you review it and analyse what worked and what didn’t and what could make it better next time, often it takes two or three attempts at new ideas to really make it work.
Lastly, look to develop a passive income stream which will provide you a base level of funding at least on an on-going basis which can be supplemented with more active and time intensive activities.
Clubs generally gain an income from membership and running events. What percentage of their income should come from ‘passive income’?
While it is hard to give an optimal figure due to the different sizes of clubs and the resources they have available to them, I would be aiming to try and generate enough money to cover any affiliation fees they have to parent bodies, so that at least these are sitting there each season ready to pay and aren’t so reliant on the prompt payment of member fees or immediate success of other fundraising activities.
How important is it to set a monetary target for income before starting fundraising?
This is very important, but it should be realistic based on conservative projections and past performance. Also it should be some sort of reflection on the anticipated time that members will put into a project.
If you are going to put 500 man hours into a project you would want the return to be somewhere around the figure of man hours x average hourly wage rate for your area. If your fundraising activities are going to involve people volunteering their time, then it should be valued on a commercial basis otherwise it would be a better return on time invested to ask all volunteering members to work an extra hour at their job and contribute from their wages…
How far should a club integrate its marketing and fundraising activities?
These should go hand in hand. Developing a marketable brand for your club, no matter how big or small generates all sorts of possibilities for extra revenue generation. There are so many ways of producing cost effective merchandise that could be on sold to members and supporters and you will be surprised at what loyal supporters and members will buy if it helps them show their pride in their club.
Wearables also have a double purpose where members will pay to buy some clothing with the clubs branding on it and wear it around with pride, thus exposing the club to their friends and acquaintances.
Do clubs need to commit upfront costs to finance a fundraising strategy before getting anything back?
This really depends on what the event is and what history the club has of running such an event. For first timers and newbies I would advise against getting too ambitious with commercial pay-up-front fundraising programmes unless you could find sponsorship to cover the purchase price, after which the risk of a loss has been removed and you only risk a poorly supported event.
Should the fundraising strategy be the responsibility of a single person, a working group or involve all the club members? What works best?
This should ultimately be the responsibility of a group, although there is probably a limit to the size of the group making decisions otherwise you risk getting in that position of never being able to make a decision, some people are just inherently risk averse and always expect the worse even if they have no reason to be and this can often derail the rest of a highly motivated group.
Maybe a group of 5-6 would be optimal in developing the strategy; however execution should be an expectation of membership with all members being expected to participate in some way. Conversely if your club is only small and only one person has any interest or drive in this area, well don’t let that stop them being the fundraising manager…
It can sometimes be difficult to find volunteers to manage the fundraising activity. How would a club get around this?
I don’t think there is ever an easy strategy to this other than continually stressing how important the fundraising activities are and their impact on the member’s bottom line, i.e. membership fees or benefits.
One way is to give the members the option of participating or not by setting fees at a level that doesn’t include any subsidy for income raised through fundraising activities, then offering credit or fee reductions to members who participate in certain activities or reach certain levels of fundraising income.
By ensuring that any fundraising activities are fun and are successful then members will soon be happy to put their hands up and help out.
In your book, The Fund-Raising Handbook for Clubs, you talk about making sure that members’ time is used wisely. How do you decide that the effort isn’t worth the reward?
As mentioned above, everyone’s personal time has a price, whether your activity is taking them away from family or work and this needs to be considered. Therefore any activity needs to be assessed by taking the total profit made from the event and dividing this by the total number of hours contributed to the event by volunteers.
If the figure arrived at is significantly less than the local average wage then you would have to reconsider the viability of the event. Events can be hard work and stressful for volunteers who are generally sacrificing their time from something else they would rather be doing so if they see that they are earning less to do this than they could by spending the equivalent time at work and just making a donation then they are going to be less inclined to volunteer next time.
About Tony Fitzpatrick
Tony Fitzpatrick was born into the field of sports administration with both his parents being heavily involved in cricket, rugby and netball. He has played, coached, managed and officiated at various sporting events for various teams from club level up to international level in New Zealand, Japan and Finland. Tony has organised teams, chased subscriptions, prepared regular newsletters, built websites, developed marketing strategies, maintained membership databases, organised events, found sponsors, employed staff and forever been fundraising for club purposes.
Article originally published by ClubWorks [February 2016]
Main Image Credit: Mark Angelo Sampan, Pexels