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Ready to Roast

In order to offset the tremendous costs of travel for its nationally ranked football team, the Don Bosco Prep High School Touchdown Club in Ramsey, New Jersey is involved in several fundraisers every year. Its bi-annual roast of former players and coaches not only brings in the most money, it also provides the most bang for the buck.

By Dr. Ed Fox
President, Don Bosco Preparatory High School Touchdown Club
Ramsey, New Jersey

One of the things that I think we've done, which is vital in any organization that is looking to raise funds, is to know what are the demands and requirements to raise those funds. Basically, what are the funds that we need?

In our case, it's: What are our demands and requirements for us to be one of the best teams in the country? What do we have to do to make that happen? And obviously it's travel, which is extremely expensive. Over the past several years, our varsity football team has traveled to play in California, Alabama, and Ohio, against some of the top high school programs in the country.

But it's not just the traveling expenses, such as airfare and hotels. It's food. It's the water on the sidelines during the games and all of the other things we need during the trip. There's just so much involved.

That in and of itself is a motivating factor for us to formalize a strategy to reach those particular goals. One of things we've been lucky to have at Don Bosco is a very strong, collaborative effort of parents and people that are really behind our program. Our football parents won't be on the field, but we ask them to be big-time players, if you will.

There's a passion amongst our parents for the job Coach Greg Toal and his assistant coaches have done and what are boys have done. We take a lot of pride in their accomplishments. In 2009, USA Today named Coach Toal the National High School Coach of the Year and crowned Don Bosco as the No. 1 high school team in the country. We recently won our fifth straight state championship this past season.

This is my first year as president, having served on the Board for several years. What we've done with our Touchdown Club is, we've developed a team. We communicate and work together to figure out what our strengths and weaknesses are as it relates to fundraising.

We usually have one major fundraiser every other year. One of our biggest and most successful fundraisers is our roast and we raise quite a bit of money. A couple of years ago we had one for Ryan Grant, a Don Bosco alum who is now a running back for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL. Last year, we held one for Coach Toal. We all felt that anybody who was there, for whatever they paid, whether it was sponsoring a table or putting an advertisement in our journal, it was well worth it.

The biggest factor when having a fundraiser, such as a roast, has to mean that the person is not just sitting there and realizing they're donating money for something, but that they are actually enjoying themselves. It has to be fun. And it has to add some value to that person's day. You want them to leave saying, "Wow, that was really great!" You also have to select the right person to be roasted to make the event a success.

One of the big components to putting a large event together, such as a roast, is having a strong alumni group. We are fortunate to have a strong group of alums that stay in touch year round. So when it comes time to ask for their assistance, the process is seamless.

For the roast itself, we do an ad journal, which raises money. We have a lot of banners and sponsorships at the event. We provide awards for people being honored. And we have a silent auction that also raises money. This includes dinners, art, sports memorabilia, vacations, a 50/50, and all kinds of gift baskets. It's another added value for the attendees. It's a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun.

It takes a lot of work between the different committees that deal with every aspect from the promotional stuff, the meal, the planning of the event, the cocktail hour, a master of ceremonies, and the various speakers, etc. We had more than 400 people at the last event.

We figure that if people are willing to go out and spend $150-$200 for a good dinner then why not offer them something special for the same price.

If you can create an event that is fun and that people would be willing to spend their money on anyway, and they can take that money and help their kids, that's a win-win. That's the philosophy behind what we are doing and will continue to do.

The fundraiser shouldn't just be a standalone fundraiser. It should also help you market for the next event. It creates such goodwill if you do it right. It should not only be a night out, but something you talk about for a long time.

Everybody across the country has resources within their communities. This can be done anywhere. One of the things that we have going for us is that we have a winning team. That really helps. Although every parent, no matter how well the high school team does, should support that team. 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.