My goal here is to write up a complete, soup-to-nuts plan for social media fundraising for sports teams and clubs that can be utilized by athletic directors, coaches, booster clubs and other administrators that have a hand in managing a team. I realize that I have lots of resources that I’ve already written about on my blog or screencasts that I have recorded so I’ve brought them together with this post. This can certainly be scanned but if you want to get the most out of it, sit down and spend some time pouring over the details and links. Read it three times then take action. Then set a reminder to re-read this about 2 weeks prior to the start of your season to make sure that you are on track. Share this with your staff as well as colleagues coaching other teams.
Note: I refer to many of my previous blog posts and articles with links. If you would you prefer to have all of the content from the links pulled together so that this is one, complete pdf document, let me know in the blog comments. If there is interest, I’ll put it together for you.
First, it is important that we agree on a few points.
- You have more fans than you realize: Whether your communications are well established or fledgling, your fans are out there and ready to connect- and no matter how many are connected, there are many more that are out of the loop.
- You can raise money without selling stuff (cookie dough, entertainment books, discount cards, etc): I am an athletic alumni of the University of Virginia. They have never tried to sell any of those to me. They are among the top 10 athletic departments in the nation and they raise gobs of money. The same model can work for youth clubs, high school teams and small college programs.
- To get donations, you have to first educate, engage and involve your fans: When you make it easy for fans to connect with your team and then become educated about your team, they will more be more likely to become involved and eventually invest.
I am going to base the strategy and subsequent tactics off of the 4 C’s of Social Media Marketing and Fundraising (Feel free to click on links… they open in a new window so that you can always come back here. If you find otherwise, let me know.)
The four C’s are this: Create, Connect, Community, Collect
Create: Create channels of communication. Think about where your fans are. (Hint: They are everywhere!) Are they on Facebook? Do they have email addresses? Do they text and use mobile communication? It is a fact that your wealthiest donors tend to be your oldest alumni and supporters. While the older generation may not be texting as much as your 18 year old, they are increasingly connected through email and Facebook. In fact, the over 50 crowd is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook (not that 50 means “old money” but I’m just sayin’….). I highly suggest that you do more than just social media to cultivate your highest value prospects. Personal stuff like phone calls, handwritten letters and face-to-face interaction.
Summary: Create channels of communication such as Facebook, Twitter, an email newsletter, a website (including a blog) and text message alerts.
Connect: Build your email list, get more likes and followers. “Duh,” you say. “We’ve been on Facebook for 2 years now.” So, now let’s make sure that we are optimizing these channels. Anyone can set up a Facebook page or some crappy team website. Now you have to optimize it to connect with fans. Assuming that you are not a marketer, you likely could use some help here. So, create a website that is interesting and engaging to your fans. Instead of having a Facebook page with 100 fans, use a few simple strategies to get more likes on your Facebook page. Fire up a Twitter account connect with your fans on Twitter. Hit your fans in the pocket by using mobile marketing and text message alerts.
Summary: It is easy to create some of these channels. It takes some effort to make them work for you. Use some of the simple tactics included in the links above to make it simple.
Community: Make your fans feel part of something special. “Create” can be viewed as a one-time event. For example, you create the channel (build a Facebook page, launch a website). “Connect” is something that you do either one-time (install an email sign-up form on your website) or periodically (asking your athletes to “Share” your Facebook page). “Community”, on the other hand, is on-going. This is where you educate your fans to build a sense of community. If your team is not covered on the evening news or regularly in the papers, then it can be non-existent. That means that it is hard to be a fan, even if someone wants to. With the rise of social media, every team can have its own Sportcenter.
Regarding what to say, (what to say on Twitter, what to share in the off-season, video content and Youtube for sports teams) understand this. You have both features and benefits. Features are boring. Benefits are exciting!
Your features might be a new facility, the best coaches, year-round opportunity, lowest price. Benefits are doors opened, success attained, desires fulfilled, lives changed, wishes granted. I urge you to share not only dates, times and locations but also your mission, vision and values. It is the later that will engage your community and lead to the last of the four C’s.
Summary: Creating community is fun. Be open and share behind the scenes video and written content with fans. Also, share your mission, vision and values to help your fans build an emotional connection to your organization. Because the heart-strings are attached to the wallet!
Collect: Sports fundraising through social media. When you have created multiple channels of communication, optimized them to get your fans connected and shared quality content to build your community, now you can collect. I’m talking about fundraising. Now you can raise money like the pros. Where does the funding for professional teams come from? The same place as your funding. From fans. When you have a more educated and involved fan base you have:
- Increased attendance and therefore gate revenue from higher ticket sales.
- Increased merchandise sales (hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc) that you sell at events.
- Higher fundraising item sales: If you are selling cookie dough, entertainment books, discount cards, etc, you will likely sell more if you have more supporters. Riot users tell me they sell more stuff now than ever before because of the fanbase that we’ve helped them cultivate.
- Sponsorships for sports teams: When you have a strong fanbase, you have the opportunity to secure sponsorships from local businesses. (I won’t go into this here because I explain it well in the linked post).
Finally, you have the bonus revenue stream that professional teams do not have… you have the ability to secure donations, especially online donations via Paypal, Donor Town Square and other services. That’s right, you can benefit from donor-centric fundraising since you have cultivated an educated and engaged fan base. Add a donation button to your website and launch an annual fundraising campaign. A word of caution, don’t simply add a donation button to your website and expect fans to donate. They won’t. You must have a compelling reason (see “community” above) for me to take action and donate and a call-to-action (“Click here to help us raise $2,500 for our trip to the prestigious Timbuktu Invitational where we will get the best competition to prepare us for another post-season run!”). Tell your story to boost fundraising.
Working Smarter, Not Harder: How to make time for this. This certainly sounds like a lot of work. It is. But it is an easier way to reach success than any other alternative. But here’s the exciting part. You don’t have to do it all! Figure out what you want done (e.g. write weekly updates to be emailed to your list of fans), document exactly how you would do it (e.g. Step 1: Answer who, what, when, where, why this was interesting, what’s next. Step 2: Get a quote from the head coach, Step 3: Send it to the coach for approval Step 4: Blast it out via email…. using Riot is the easiest way!), then hold the person accountable for completing the task. More on Program Development: The Systems Approach.
I’d like to hear about your success, failure or questions about building a fan base and fundraising through social media for your team in the comments below.
P.S. After writing this post, I had a lot of feedback from my email subscribers asking me to put this into a single, cohesive document. Well, here it is…
Download the Quick Start Guide to Social Media Marketing and Fundraising.
Include5 videos as well as how-to guides and strategies.