Fans of a Good Cause
Who do you picture when you think of a sports fan? A big, shirtless guy beating his painted chest with his fists?
Sure, sports fans are a passionate bunch. But if your nonprofit strategizes properly, you might get that guy — and his passion — on your side.
The world of sports has a rich history of generosity. When Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, the NFL donated $1 million to assist victims. Baron Davis of the Golden State Warriors contributed $50,000 to the American Red Cross National Disaster Relief Fund. Chris Duhon of the Chicago Bulls partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist victims in his hometown of Slidell, La.
Sporting events can be a terrific way to raise money for a wide variety of nonprofit causes. From runs to golf tournaments, they’re a fun way to bring out a diverse audience, raise money and promote your cause.
To learn more about how to get sports fans involved in giving, FundRaising Success spoke with Dale Moss, president and general manager of the Harlem Ambassadors professional show basketball team. Moss combined a career in professional sports management and marketing to create the Harlem Ambassadors in 1998. Similar in concept to that “other” Harlem basketball team, the Ambassadors put on a comedic, family-friendly performance that pits an all-star, co-ed professional team against novice players. Nonprofits around the country bring in the Ambassadors for fundraisers to get sports fans and their families out to support a cause. Organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, and smaller schools and clubs have raised thousands using this sporting event as a fundraiser.
Here, Moss discusses some of the key elements to a successful fundraising program geared toward sports fans. The umbrella over all of these elements? Think local.
Tap into local fans
One of the strongest tools your nonprofit has when reaching out to sports fans is tapping into local passion. Nonprofits can pique the interest of weekend warriors and bench jockeys alike by bringing local celebrity athletes to their sporting events. In the case of the Ambassadors, the nonprofit can make up an opposing team comprised of local celebs — from the high-school football team to former star athletes. Fans love watching their friends and neighbors get dribbled around as the star Ambassador players slam dunk basketballs right over their heads.
Get local coverage
Securing local star power for the sporting event is a great way to get local press. Invite a hometown disc jockey to play in your golf tournament, or ask a well-known sports writer to run in a half-marathon. Your nonprofit can use these names to promote the event to the local media.
Secure local sponsors
Moss says many nonprofits pay for the event, even before it happens, through local sponsorships. No venue is too small — from the local pizzeria to the local bank. Small businesses appreciate the promotion and can become further promoters for your sporting event.
Involve the community
Approach your local community leaders and members of the chamber of commerce, and ask them to get involved. Invite them to be on a planning committee as a way to secure their commitment.
Enlist the athletes
Invite the athletes participating in your event to go to a local school and talk with kids about information that supports your cause. For example, Ambassadors’ players talk to students about drug prevention as well as provide information about upcoming events. This becomes another way to leverage awareness of the sporting event as kids go home and tell their families about it.
Offer a big prize
Make your audience part of the “sport” by offering a big prize, such as a donated car or cash, to make a hoop shot or hole in one. Making this part of the event promotions is a great way to increase ticket sales.
Put on a great show
The most successful sporting-event fundraisers are those that entertain. The Ambassadors bring world-class athletes into small towns that rarely have such an opportunity. Young women can see a professional female basketball player live and up close. This is a great way to bring out the whole family.
By using these techniques to reach out to sports fans and their families, the Ambassadors have helped nonprofits raise thousands. The Colquitt County (Georgia) Habitat for Humanity hosted the Ambassadors at its high-school gymnasium and raised more than $14,000. The American Cancer Society filled a stadium with 2,000 community members and raised more than $21,000 — as well as awareness — for its program. So, don’t discount that hairy guy with the painted chest. He might just become your biggest fan.
Christine Weiser is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and publisher of the nonprofit literary-arts publication, Philadelphia Stories.