[Guest Post] Between purchasing equipment, reserving practice facilities, paying dues, and acquiring game transportation, the costs to keep a sports team or club running can pile up quickly. However, the last thing you want to think about when you’re trying to score a winning goal or cheer your teammates onto victory is if you’ll have the funds necessary to keep playing. 

Therefore, sports teams and clubs must adopt effective fundraising strategies to raise funds for maintaining their programs. If your sports team is looking for a fundraising and communication strategy with a high return on investment (ROI), direct mail is one of our favorite options. With direct mail, you can speak directly to supporters to share compelling stories, solicit donations, and promote other fundraising opportunities.

Here at GivingMail, we’ve seen sports teams and all kinds of fundraising organizations achieve great results with our direct mail platform. We’ve compiled four tips for sports teams to increase their fundraising success using direct mail:

  1. Visualize success with real numbers and stories
  2. Promote additional fundraising opportunities
  3. Incorporate specific calls to action in every appeal
  4. Follow up with gratitude

Whether you’re raising money for a community league, a school team, or a youth program, these direct mail strategies will get your organization where it needs to be so you can keep competing without money troubles weighing you down. Let’s dive in!

Tips for direct mail fundraising

1. Visualize success with real numbers and stories

The pandemic has likely put a hold on many large-scale in-person fundraising events you might have held each year, such as an annual barbecue or auction night. Despite this, your team is probably currently competing with social-distancing guidelines and extra safety measures in place, or you’re looking forward to a comeback once the pandemic subsides. Either way, you still need to conduct fundraising efforts to raise money for upcoming tournament trips or other essential team events. 

To address this continuous need for fundraising, you’ll need to conduct mostly socially-distanced fundraisers. Without the power of in-person events or face-to-face fundraising appeals, you must create compelling written appeals that move supporters and inspire them to give. 

The best way to capture your audience’s attention is to show supporters what success will look like for your organization by leveraging specific numbers and stories. 

Use your direct mail appeals to share a specific, relevant example about how donor gifts will make a tangible difference for your organization. For example, you can say upfront that a gift of $50 will buy necessary equipment for one player to attend a youth sports camp. Or, after the donation is made, you might tell the story of Michael, a 10-year-old soccer player who was able to participate in the fall season because of generous donors.

True stories and data-driven examples make your fundraising efforts real to people because they can sympathize. Through your vivid storytelling efforts, they put themselves in the shoes of your teammates or the athletes you coach, giving them a better picture of how their gifts will affect local athletes. 

2. Promote additional fundraising opportunities

Sports teams can effectively use direct mail to solicit donations directly, but it can also be a fantastic marketing tool to promote other fundraising efforts. You’ve likely got a few upcoming events on the schedule, so use your direct mail platform to notify supporters about your:

Fundraising drives

For example, let’s say you’ve decided to host a shoe drive fundraiser. This is a popular fundraising idea for sports teams since athletes tend to go through shoes relatively quickly. It’s especially useful for youth teams with kids whose feet are still growing. 

In your fundraiser, you’ll be gathering gently worn, used and new shoes from the community to exchange for a check from your shoe drive fundraiser partner. The success of your fundraising effort will depend on your ability to inform the community about the upcoming drive and encourage them to donate their shoes to the cause. 

To effectively promote the opportunity, you can use your direct mail appeals to inform supporters about when the drive will take place, where they can drop off their shoes, and how their donated shoes translate to real money for your team activities. Equipping supporters with all of the information they need to get involved ensures a greater turnout for your fundraising drive. 

Be sure to also inform supporters about how the funds from the drive will be used by your organization, whether it’s to purchase new equipment, help athletes pay their dues, or fund your upcoming trip to an out-of-state tournament. Donors want to know their funds are being used wisely, and providing this assurance increases the likelihood that they’ll give to your organization again. 

Fundraising events

While you might cancel your annual pancake breakfast or mini-golf tournament fundraisers for this year, you can still host fun events virtually to entertain your team’s supporters and secure their donations. Use direct mail letters to invite recipients to your upcoming fundraising event.

For example, perhaps you’ve decided to host an engaging virtual event such as an online concert or virtual sports trivia night. Supporters will need information about how to register and log in or connect to the live virtual event. 

Additionally, make sure to highlight the unique aspects of your virtual events. Perhaps you have a connection with a local musician, and you can host an exclusive event for their new album release, or your trivia night has an enticing grand prize such as a weekend getaway trip. 

These incentives will attract more supporters to sign up for your fundraising event. People have busy schedules, but they’ll be more likely to carve out time for a fundraising event if the event activities offer something unique or valuable to them. 

Your sports club or team may have a digital presence already established, with social media pages or an email newsletter. Be sure to use digital and direct mail platforms when advertising your upcoming fundraising drives and virtual events. It will lead to the greatest success with getting supporters on board.

According to GivingMail’s nonprofit fundraising guide, your direct mail appeals work in tandem with your digital marketing strategy to enhance your overall success rate. The guide states that fundraising campaigns that incorporate direct mail and digital fundraising yield a 28% higher conversion rate than those that use direct mail alone. 

When you reinforce your fundraising purpose and goals across multiple channels, you increase the likelihood a supporter will see your message and be inspired to give. People are bombarded daily with messages on every platform, but using a multichannel marketing approach ensures your fundraising appeals stand out through repeated exposure. 

3. Incorporate specific calls to action in every appeal

Direct mail appeals that are meandering or wishy-washy won’t get you very far. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable asking supporters for donations— these are your hometown fans, after all, and they want to see their sports teams and programs succeed! Healthy sports programs are one of the hallmarks of a thriving community, and they’re something everyone can get on board with to support. 

Therefore, your fundraiser promotion isn’t complete without specific, urgent calls to action in every direct mail appeal you send. The recipients of your fundraising appeals need to know what action you want them to take so there’s no confusion or hesitation to give. 

For example, here are a few actions you can ask supporters to take:

  • Mail back a donation to your team. Ensure you include a reply envelope to reduce donation barriers.
  • Donate to your online giving page. Be sure to include the URL or a QR code for recipients to scan directly beneath or next to the request so that they can easily complete their donation online.
  • Contribute to your local shoe drive by dropping off a pair of used running shoes. Give supporters the address of where they can bring their shoe donations for your next shoe drive.
  • Register for your upcoming fundraising event. Provide the URL for your registration page and a calendar of your upcoming event opportunities. 

This guide on how to ask for donations offers writing tips to help kick your calls to action up a notch. According to it, you should position the donor as the hero in the story who will help your organization complete its mission to get everyone involved in sports. To do this, go beyond just asking them to “donate now” by showing local sports supporters and fans how their gifts directly help athletes in need.  

For instance, using an appeal such as “Please empower local youth to take control of their fitness” rather than “Please donate to help us get kids involved in sports” is much more powerful. It shows the direct and exact impact of the donor’s actions. 

Lastly, whenever you ask for direct donations, be sure to include suggested donation amounts. Requesting $10, $20, or $50 gives supporters an easy avenue to plug in their information into the prefilled request. If you don’t request specified amounts, you’re much more likely to get a wider array of donations that mostly fall in the lower range. 

Plus, you can leverage the power of social proof — a phenomenon where people take note of the behaviors of those around them and change their actions to match the group. By including suggested giving amounts, supporters won’t have to pause to consider how much they should give. The suggested amounts let them know how much others are donating, and they can choose the amount that aligns with their giving capacity. 

Be sure also to provide a space to write in a customized donation amount. You don’t want to discourage supporters who already had a donation amount in mind. 

4. Follow up with gratitude

You’ll likely need to conduct future fundraising efforts to keep raising ongoing funds for your sports team or club, so construct a plan to retain the support of donors. One of the most effective ways to maintain donor support is by sending thank you letters after they donate.

Fundraising Letters offers plenty of donor thank-you letter templates your team can use to follow up and recognize donors for their contributions. One of the most important tips to follow is to ensure your letters are addressed with recipients’ preferred names and reference the specific gift amounts contributed by each donor. It lets donors know you recognize and appreciate their decision to support your team, which encourages them to continue their involvement in your fundraising efforts. 

By focusing on donor retention, you can use your fundraising drives and events as a jumping-off point for better fundraising efforts in the future. Donor retention is the measure of how many donors continue to give to your organization over time. Donors are more likely to continue giving if they receive a timely thank you letter because they feel more personally connected to your organization.

Be sure to send an appreciation letter after individual gifts are made and after your fundraising drive or event. In these follow-up letters, you can share how each and every donation contributed to completing your goal. Perhaps donations allowed ten more kids to sign up for a summer sports program, or funded transportation for your team to travel to an out-of-town tournament — share these results with your supporters.

Overall, when approached strategically, direct mail can be an incredibly helpful fundraising tool. By incorporating compelling, specific fundraising requests and cultivating donor relationships, your sports team or club can gain access to the critical funding it needs to continue competing. 

Remember, if you feel overwhelmed when thinking about conducting a direct mail campaign on your own, consider enlisting the help of a direct mail partner like GivingMail. Direct mail experts can give your organization the extra push it needs to carry out fundraising campaigns effectively. Happy fundraising!

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