Episode 5 – Planning Your Grants and Fundraising

Your Sports Resource

In this episode, Renata discusses why you should plan your fundraising, grant, and sponsorship efforts as well as how planning can elevate your efforts. While this sounds daunting, Renata explains how you break it down and put one foot in front of the other. She also explains how to pull together a team to deliver on the plan. This episode will help you exceed your financial expectations and put your club in a position of having choices.

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00:00:03 Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource Podcast, where each week we’ll discuss strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.


Hi everyone and welcome to the Your Sports Resource Podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about planning for grants and fundraising. Fundraising or applying for grants to support your youth sports team is a no-brainer. A no-brainer in the fact that it needs to be done.


However, I’d like to challenge you for a second. Do you, or your club actually plan those efforts? Or do you simply just keep repeating what you’ve done before, or even worse, throw something together last minute? In this episode, I want to discuss why planning your efforts is important and how to go about doing so.


We will also touch on how to find the right people to lead these initiatives. Let’s face it, finding people to actually take on this work is a big stumbling block on any initiative or a piece of work that you’re trying to accomplish.


But before we get into planning, I feel compelled to discuss what not to use fundraising money for. It really should not be used to fund the coaches and staff because that money is never guaranteed year after year.


However, I understand if you’re short this year that you will want to use that money to help get through, but this should not be your plan. Your plan, or your goal as far as funding, your staff should come from your membership dues and other program income.


So, if you’re struggling here then you need to work through how to increase your membership or your program offerings. Or work through your structure and see if it’s appropriate for the size of your organization. So, what I mean by that, are you bloated? Do you have too many staff?


Now, this might be okay if you’re expecting growth and then you’re ahead of the curb. You have higher expenses right now. That’s okay, but only if that is the case, are some of your staff overpaid for the work they do, which believe it or not, is very common. Or do you have people who were underutilized? They may be able to help you in other efforts, so maximizing the staff that you have.


So, my point is that you want to get to a point to where you know if you’re not already there, where your operations is completely covered by membership or other program dues or fees. Now, I know this may be hard to hear or hard to put into play, but I’m always going to push clubs to start treating their organizations as the businesses they are.


Your youth sports club is not just a kids club, it is a business. So, it is time to treat it as such.


So, let’s talk about planning. Why do you plan? I’d like to provide you with 4 reasons why planning your fundraising efforts is not only helpful but essential.


First, let’s talk about the obvious. Nothing is guaranteed nothing. So, if your whole fundraising effort is based on selling things to or holding events for your members. What are you going to do when you know, right now we’re in inflation. So, what happens when inflation is too much to bear. What if they are just struggling to pay your normal membership dues?


You must be purposeful and proactive in your approach because nothing is guaranteed and unfortunately, that can be the case from year to year. What grants you received this year may not be available next year or you may not receive as much, so planning allows you to be targeted and it ensures that you are covering enough bases and those efforts are touching several different audiences.


What do I mean by several different audiences is that you want to cover bases in case one falls less, or one grows, so your members, your past members, your community, your stakeholders to available grants. So, covering all those bases ensures that you will receive similar financial gain, they may just not come from the same place.


And then two of those different audiences, your approaches are going to be different, right? So, such as events, online apps or tools, sales, and applying for what’s available. By the way, if you don’t have a list of your past members, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to get help, whether it’s financially or via a skill for a volunteer time, so please make sure you’re curating or keeping your past member list and keep them up to date on your club, whether it’s a newsletter or just a quarterly push out just to keep them engaged. Please do that. They are a wealth of knowledge as well as they can be great donors because they already understand your organization.


The second reason for planning your efforts is that the efforts themselves become easier to manage. There is a script of sorts of what needs to be done and when. Whether it’s planning an event or gathering the necessary details to complete an application, a road map means someone is not having to come up with ideas. It becomes less overwhelming. They can click on a link and tell the appropriate staff or board members for the information needed in order to apply.


So having that structure just makes the whole process easier, especially when you are most likely utilizing volunteers to do this work.


And this leads to the third reason, which is that as you start implementing your plan, it’s easier to forecast or do your financial projections.


Nothing is guaranteed. But you’ll have visibility of what may be coming in and when and then when it does, you can plan what to do with those funds as they come in.


If you want to put it into next year staff bonuses, buying new equipment that you didn’t get to this year because you didn’t have the budget. Whatever it is now you have the visibility to plan and better utilize those monies as they come in.


Lastly, when you plan, you will more than likely reach your targets. That’s common sense, right? The more you plan, the more you’ll achieve. That’s because when you plan, the process becomes easier. Coupled with the understanding that nothing is guaranteed, you will apply for more or do more than what you need.


That way if you don’t receive as much from a certain grant or a fundraising effort. You know if that fundraising effort doesn’t produce what you had expected, you’re covered because you’ve applied for more. That will never happen if you’re winging it and put your faith in hopes and wishes.


So, if you’re just repeating things year after year and you only have two efforts and one of those efforts is a big bomb, which could be due to the club. It could be just due to the environment that people are living in, like inflation. They don’t have the money to give. If you’re just working off of those two main things, you may not reach your targets, so planning helps you get through that process.


All right, let me take a moment to tell you about yoursportsresource.com. This is a website that is dedicated to volunteers and leadership staff in youth sports. There’s a ton of free resources on topics such as board roles. There’s also information on fundraising and the marketing of your club. Your Sports Resource holds monthly interactive webinars that help you focus your efforts and put plans into action. The website, again, is yoursportsresource.com.


All right, let’s talk about how to plan. Quite honestly, the planning should be a group discussion, whether it’s a board discussion or the appropriate operations and volunteers or all of the above. How I would start is to have an open discussion about ideas for fundraising.


There should be a mix of efforts and they will include what you already do that is still working, but I would also challenge you to think outside the box whether it’s adding a donation option on your website and marketing it or launching a complete social media fundraising effort. Whatever it may be, just add to your mix.


Then I would also get confirmation from the coaching staff on timing of these activities. You don’t want to plan them in the middle of high competition periods where families are putting out a lot of money, assuming those fundraising efforts are targeted at your membership, but it’s good to confirm that timeframe.


In that initial planning, I would also ask for suggestions for known grants. Sometimes people have a wealth of knowledge that they assume everyone else knows. So, while you’re in the room or the zoom call or whatever it may be asked those that are there if they know of any grants that you may be able to apply for. You may get quite a bit. You may get nothing, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, and in the planning for grants. You’ll need to do your research.


Again, you want to apply for more than you feel you need because nothing is guaranteed, so whoever is taking this activity on when we also need to sit down and do a bit of research on what grants are available, we have a list on the website on yoursportsresource.com. It’s obviously not a complete list but state by state we do have some opportunities on our website where you can find places to apply.


Lastly, and this is something I neglected to bring up earlier but finding sponsors should be a big part of this effort. So, you might just note that you want to start making sponsorships a priority and then ask where you feel there is an opportunity to put up sponsored details. The obvious can be on your website at the bottom of newsletters, but what else? signs at the practices and competitions? What about permanent placement scoreboards or trans that show competitor times ask for ideas so you can build it into your sponsorship plan.


Once you come out of that initial planning phase of gathering ideas, the next step is to ask about areas of need. So, what areas need more support? What items are in need of or need replacement? So, what equipment might need to be replaced? What are items that your coaching staff are going without? Do you need more space right? What would be a really good nice to have? Or a need to support your club’s growth and reputation.


Now, this is important for three areas, or for all three areas, fundraising grants, and sponsors. This way you have the information for the efforts. But you also have an idea of allocation when the funds come in.


So, what I mean by information for efforts is a lot of times when you’re filling out grants, and when you’re putting together your sponsorship packages, they want to know exactly what this money is being used for. So, you want to ask for that upfront.


All right, the next step is to build the plan. My recommendation is to separate the information out by fundraising grants and sponsorships. You’ll need to note the dates that could be the date of the event, as well as the due date for the grants. So, whatever the date is relevant for that activity.


Other things you’ll need to add to your plan is whose responsible estimated funds income links to grants or applications. We have a tool on Your Sports Resource that is labeled Fundraising Planning, I believe while it’s geared towards fundraising, it can be applied to all areas. Essentially, it’s just a spreadsheet that got columns that allows you to list out each step or each effort. Who’s going to manage it? The due date, any appropriate information. It’s all there just go grab it and you can start adding it in.


All right now, once you’ve built your plan, the next step is to present that plan back to the board or your operations team, or whoever is responsible for this work. Now that that plan has been developed, it’s easy to see if you might need to recruit help. Now, you might recruit, you might have a full-fledged fundraising committee.


You might break it out. You might have one or two people who’s really strong at filling out grant applications and you might have somebody else is great at conducting events or having an event committee. Whatever it is, you don’t know exactly what people you need to support these efforts until you’ve done that planning, right?


The other side of that is especially if you’re doing a brand-new full sponsorship push. That requires a different skillset again, right? So, you have somebody is strong at grants. You have somebody strong at planning it events.


Doing a sponsorship push is really heavy in relationship development, so you really need someone who’s strong at building those relationships. I wouldn’t say sales, I mean sales is part of it, but it’s more about building a relationship. it’s more about give and take and you want to build that long-term relationship, so that’s a specific skill that you will need to recruit for.


So, the last thing I’d like to discuss is how to find help not only to do the planning but to find someone or someone’s to help with the efforts. I firmly believe that people will come forward if they know what is expected of them. If you know me then you have heard this time and time again. Be specific in what you need.


So, we need someone who will help us build fundraising grants or sponsorship plans. We expect it to take two to five hours depending on how much research needs to take place. Or we need someone who is experienced in writing grants. We have our list or our plan and we will support you with the information you need to complete the process. We expect this to take anywhere from 10 to 40 hours. We need a few volunteers to help us build our sponsorship packages and help us communicate with the Community regarding those sponsorship opportunities we need skills in the areas of writing and building relationships.


So again, my point is, to be specific, tell them exactly what you need and how much time it’s going to take, and the skill set you’re looking for.


And here is a huge opportunity that most clubs either don’t think about or don’t feel like they can or should take advantage of. Don’t limit yourself to your membership. Sure, always start the request there. They are your best source of information, right? But you can also tell them to refer someone. They know that might have the specific skillset that you need, right?


So, when you send this information out to your membership, say hey, if it’s not you, do you know someone they don’t have to be part of our club? Now, I know that you’re probably thinking this won’t work, or that it sounds easier than done, but in my experience, the reason why people don’t step forward is because they’re filling the gaps with their imagination. They don’t understand what you need.


So, if you tell people what you need the skills you need, and the realistic approximated hours? Then there’s no need for them to fill that void with their imagination, or just automatically assume that’s not something they can do, so you must plan it out.


OK, well I hope this week’s message has been helpful.


If you go to yoursportsresource.com you will find tools and articles on planning how to build a fundraising relationship and how to create full sponsorship packages. We also have a list of state-by-state grant opportunities that get updated a few times a year.


So, there is plenty of information there. Please go to your sports resource for any help that you made.


Thank you for listening and please subscribe rate and review this podcast and more can hear about how they can improve their leadership of their Sports Club.


In upcoming episodes, I will talk about the Nonprofit Code of Ethics and responsibilities to its members and also how to recruit and retain volunteers, and I think there’s even an episode on annual general meetings.


You can also, as always, find more information on yoursportsresource.com. Thanks for spending time with me!