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Tailgating and Fundraising: Perfect Together

For almost 20 years, the Kearney High School Bearcat Booster Club in Kearney, Nebraska has hosted a tailgate fundraiser before a Friday night football game. This year's event took in more than $3,000.

By Cynthe Johnson
Publicity Chair, Kearney High School Bearcat Booster Club
Kearney High School
Kearney, Nebraska

We estimate that the tailgate fundraiser has been a tradition for at least 17 years. Our Athletic Director, Mark Armstrong, has been here for 13 years and he said that it was already going we he arrived. This year we held it in conjunction with our football game vs. Fremont High School. The tailgate party started at 5 p.m. and ended at game time. Tickets are purchased from Booster Club members or at the gate prior to the game and cost $5.

Our tailgate is held in the south end zone under the scoreboard at our home field, University of Nebraska-Kearney's Foster Field. We share a field with the local Division II college.

We have a volunteer position through our KHS Bearcat Booster Club called Spirit and Special Events. It currently has three people that are responsible for all the fundraising events. They organize, round up staff, and take care of the follow through. The publicity chair volunteer takes care of all the marketing.

We use numerous avenues to market our event and they are all free with the exception of printing posters. We print 150 posters at a cost of $40. They are sent through the Kearney Public Schools main office to all the schools in the district.

I send out a press release to all our local media approximately two weeks before the event. We have appeared on all the local radio stations and talk shows. We usually do an on-air give-away of tickets. The local newspaper announces the tailgate on the sports page.

Our tailgate is staffed by school and local volunteers. We borrow our grill and generators from local businesses and our table and chairs from the high school. We have three lines that people go down and pick up their food, with each line staffed with volunteers.

We sell a "Bearcat" burger or hot dog, chips, and a soda that cost $5 per person. All the food, drink and condiments are donated to us at no charge. The current sponsor is Runza of Kearney, a fast food chain that started in Nebraska.

We grill right outside the gate of the stadium and move the hamburgers to roasters. The hotdogs are the same hot dogs served at University of Nebraska Cornhusker football games. We prepare them in roasters then bag them. They are also kept warm in the roasters.

We always invite the opposing schools to attend our tailgate and they are very supportive. We also attend tailgates at other schools when they our held in conjunction with our game. I make sure to send the press release to their local paper.

The KHS Bearcat Booster Club uses a database for emails called Constant Contact. We currently have 500 members in the database. The members receive multiple emails about the event. The school system also sends a district-wide email the week of the tailgate and we use the Connect Ed phone system to call every household in the district.

Our fundraiser works because of the volunteers. The key is to form a committee so that one person does not do all the work. It's also important to line up as many sponsors as you can so the cost to the club is minimal, and to use all the free media in your area. 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.