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Towels for the Team

The community of Caldwell, N.J. had a chance to start its holiday shopping early this year, with the James Caldwell High School Swimming Booster Club's beach towel sale. The towels feature an image of the school's mascot and the option of having a student-athlete's name woven into both ends. 

Until recently, personalized team towels were on the James Caldwell High School Swimming Team's list of items the coach recommended purchasing to use during the season. When he didn't include them on the list a couple of years ago, the team's booster club decided to pick up where he left off.

"We took the idea and made it into a fundraiser that goes into scholarships we have for the team's graduating seniors," says sale co-organizer Patty D'Angelo. "My co-chair suggested opening the sale up to everyone--it's a big football town, and you see the mascot printed on everything. So we took 'Swimming' off the towel and now it's just 'Caldwell Chiefs,' printed in the middle, along with the image and the student-athlete's name."

Planning the sale was simple, since the club used the same company that had fulfilled the swimming team's orders previously. "We researched a lot of different companies," D'Angelo says. "But none of the others gave the option to have individual names woven into each towel, so that made our choice easy. It makes such a difference to have each one customized.

"Our contact at that company is also easy to deal with and he gets back to us quickly," she continues. "It was not difficult for him to modify the design for our sale. After making the change in the file, he sent us an image showing what the towel would look like--and we were able to put that right on our flyers for everyone to see what they would be getting."

Publicizing the sale was also low-stress. D'Angelo and her co-chair created a flyer with the ordering information and e-mailed that to the swimming team members' families, along with the school's list-serve. They also sent information to the community's Patch.com site and posted flyers at a team dinner.

"We started our advertising about six weeks in advance," D'Angelo says. "But we didn't want to really hit people with too much in September, since it's a crazy time of the year for parents. So we started most of it on the first of October. We didn't want to wait longer because we were going to cut off ordering on November 1. The turnaround time for the towels is about six weeks--and we want to have them in time for Christmas."
 
The club ended up delaying its order deadline by a week, due to effects from Hurricane Sandy. "We were hoping we wouldn't have to do that," D'Angelo says. "But the storm kind of fouled us--last year, we had about 90 orders that profited us $720--we were hoping to get a few more this year, but I think we'll have a little less now."
 
Once the towels are delivered, D'Angelo will send an e-mail message to all of the purchasers. "Last year, people came and picked up their orders at my house," she says. "I e-mailed them to let them know the towels arrived. I said I would drop them off, but a lot of people bought them as gifts and didn't want to ruin the surprise. That worked well, so that's how we'll do it this year, too."
 
If other groups are interested in trying something similar, D'Angelo suggests keeping the logistics in mind. "The company we work with has a minimum order of 50 towels," she says. "Most other companies have similar requirements, and you have to reach that number or they won't accept the order.
 
"Also, check the price and find out if shipping is included," D'Angelo continues. "Those extra costs can cut in on your profit. You need to figure all of that out before you determine your pricing. The price of cotton went up this year, so this item cost us about $25 and we sold them for $30. But we take our orders up front, so we won't have too many extras lying around."
 
Another key to the sale's success was making it appeal to the whole community. "We offered it to everyone and not just our team," D'Angelo says. "We made the towel more generic, so more people would want it and then we made it available to everyone in our town. I think the more people you can reach, the better off you'll be with sales like this."



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