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Party 'Til the Cows Go

While the name may be tongue-in-cheek, the annual Moo-Poo fundraiser does more than produce a few laughs. The event nets about $8,000, which helps football players at Ferndale (Mich.) High School attend a training camp and buy personal equipment. 

"Depending on the cows, the event can last anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours," says Ferndale Eagles' Nest Booster Club President Tim Collins. "One of the football coaches lives on a farm, so that's how the event got started, and it's the simplest fundraiser I've ever been involved with."

The event Collins is referring to is the Eagles' Nest club's annual Moo-Poo lottery, which typically sells over 1,200 squares. "We take the practice football field--not the new turf field--and we divide it into squares that are approximately two yards by two yards," Collins says. "Prior to the event, we sell $10 deeds, which have the plot numbers on them.

"On the day of the event, the football team puts a low-voltage electric fence with fiberglass posts around the field," he continues. "Then we bring in two cows and they wander the field. People who bought plots try to call the cows over to where they think their squares are--the plot numbers are assigned randomly and we have a key to the field's grid that we've developed to make determining the winner more efficient--and we all wait for the cows to go to the bathroom. There are three prizes and three poops--the first one is $1,000, the second is $500, and the third is $250."

If that doesn't happen within two hours, the event becomes a regular lottery where numbers are drawn to determine winners. "There are rules on the back of the deeds," Collins says. "They include details, like how the moo-poo has to be at least three-inches in diameter, and if it's on two squares, it goes to the one with the majority in it. We also spell out what happens if the cows don't produce in two hours."

The final number of plots depends on sales, since there are no blank squares placed on the field. "The maximum we can sell is 1,500," Collins says. "But we usually sell about 1,250. Then we determine the exact size of the squares--for example, each plot might be 2.5 by 2.25 yards, so the whole field is used. Finally, we use a computer program to randomize the order of numbers on the field."
 
Although this sounds like a rural community's event, Ferndale High School is on the northern border of Detroit. "Our school district crosses city boundaries and has a very diverse population," Collins says. "We have students from very affluent neighborhoods, middle class communities, and economically depressed towns. We have students who have never been out of their hometown, much less seen a real cow. So that aspect of the event is pretty cool."

Planning the Moo-Poo starts in January, with an application to the state for a permit to hold the fundraiser. "The head football coach does that, and it precludes him and his family from participating," Collins says. "In Michigan, you can't be the organizer and a participant. It keeps everybody on the up and up."

Advertising starts in February, with announcements in the local print and online newspapers, as well as a weekly newsletter sent by the school district. "We also have it mentioned at school board meetings, and since I'm the Chief of Police, I announce it at city council meetings," Collins says. "We have a bit of an advantage, being able to mention it there."
 
In the beginning of March, the deed certificates are printed and sales begin. "The freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity players all sell deeds," says Collins. "For each lot the player sells, he gets $10 off his camp fee or credit toward equipment.
 
"The varsity team goes to a training camp at the beginning of the season, and it costs $200 each," he continues. "If a player sells 20 lots, he goes to camp for free--but if he only sells 16, he has to pay $40 for camp. The junior varsity and freshman players earn gear based on their sales. We have a list of what we will buy, and how many lots need to be sold for each item."
 
The expenses for the event are low, which allows the direct exchange for players' sales. The permit costs about $20, the certificates' printing cost is minimal, and it costs $250 to get the cows for the day. "We also take out the $1,750 that's allocated to prizes," Collins says. "So once we've sold about 200 plots, which isn't hard, we've evened out the expenses. Anything over that is in our pocket."
 
If another club is interested in holding a similar event, Collins suggests checking with local government officials to find out if a permit is required. Once that is cleared, finding an enclosed area that can hold livestock and a farmer to supply the cows is next. "You do have a couple of things you have to consider," he says. "And once you've committed to it, you've got to do it. But we've been holding it for about 10 years, and it's really one of the easiest fundraisers we've ever done. It's easy for people to understand and it's funny. If people ask what it is, they laugh and buy a plot."



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