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Planning for Success

Mastering the art of fundraising has become an essential part of athletics. Whether you're keeping your budget from falling into the red or adding something new to your program, the need for money is greater than ever. Raising money is like competing as an athlete. It involves preparation, skill, and follow-through. All three are necessary, but the most important is preparation. As coaches say, championships are won in the preseason. It's the same with fundraising. You can't succeed without a good plan.


by Lem Elway


A plan establishes a focus for your campaign. It identifies potential pitfalls to be handled proactively before minor obstacles become major. It puts money in the bank. Many fundraisers start by deciding how to raise money, but that's premature. The first thing is to determine how much money you need and what you can realistically accomplish. This can be critical, because future fundraising is built on past success.


First, assess your needs. Why are you having a fundraiser? What is the specific purpose of the money? How will it be used? Next, make sure your current needs fit your long-term fundraising objectives. What's your grand plan? Where are you going? How will you get there? How long will it take?


The answers can help you write a goal statement, which can then be examined and discussed by everyone in your group. The people involved must agree upon and know the goal from the outset. You need to be prepared to alter the goal if circumstances change--key people drop out or join, economic circumstances evolve, or an insurmountable logistical roadblock emerges--but the important thing is to set a goal that everyone involved can understand and appreciate.


With the goal established, create a mission statement to describe the mechanics of the project. Your statement must communicate a vision that motivates people to become involved, connecting them to the project emotionally and financially. The mission statement is the cornerstone of any successful fundraising project. Having the mission clearly defined--and written--helps keep your group on task.



Is one big project best, or do many smaller ones better fit your organization? Some groups like to do a lot of small fundraisers, while others prefer large functions that allow them to make all their money in one shot. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and your job is to determine which fits your situation. Consider some of each. As time goes by, success is determined by diversity--and making it fun.


Short-term projects are usually designed to make about $5,000, while annual events can bring in more than $10,000. In short-range fundraising, your goal is to make as much money as possible in a short time and move on. In a long-range endeavor, you want to cultivate ongoing relationships with donors.


Don't overlook modest goals, particularly if you have a relatively small, well-defined need, such as new uniforms. I've used bake sales, candy sales, magazine-subscription sales, and the like. Not only are they doable with the resources you have on hand--the young people themselves often do much of the work--but they are a great way to get started, build interest, and find leaders.



As the nature and scope of your project become clear, maintain constant contact with project leaders and develop a timeline. Establish personal accountability with deadlines for short- and long-term goals, and put together a roster of project personnel grouped by committee.


To keep the project moving forward, get everyone together regularly. When planning big-expectation fundraisers, set up organizational meetings six months in advance to map out strategies, designate responsibilities, and report progress on intermediate goals.


As the function draws near, group meetings might need to be accelerated to make sure all the "i's" are dotted and "t's" crossed. That is a leadership decision, but it must allow time for solving surprises and trouble shooting. Remember, Murphy's Law is always in force.


Fundraising is a high-maintenance undertaking, but it can also provide rich rewards. Many factors contribute to success and failure, but two things are crucial: Promoting creative thinking so that people are stimulated, and having the ability to foresee problems and deal with them in a proactive manner.


Remember that regardless of the magnitude of a fundraising project, the ultimate goal is give all athletes the opportunity to have a positive and maturing experience through athletics. That in itself is the reason our efforts need to be well-planned.


Lem Elway is the former Head Baseball Coach at Anacortes (Wash.) High School and a member of the Washington State Coaches Hall of Fame. Currently a special education teacher at Rochester (Wash.) Middle School, he has taught at the middle and high school levels for more than 25 years in a variety of sports. is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.