High School Sports Machine - Funding the Dream

I am going go ahead and clear the air on the topic: YOU WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO DO WHAT YOU WANT.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to business. School budgets are what they are. Some school budgets are huge, some are small but they all are the same in most opinions: not enough for what we want so we have to take matters into our own hands.

What we do is magic to most people. They don’t understand the time, patience, and skill required to create a decent video much less teach a class of students how to do it. To them its nothing tofunding1 ask us to produce a “cool” video for their class, club, daughter, or anything else they fancy important enough for you to spend your time working on because they don’t understand what it takes to do what we do.

The first place to generate revenue is from within your school. It’s not a big deal for the agriculture teacher to ask you to buy flowers they have produced or the culinary department to ask you to buy food they have cooked so why is it an atrocity for video classes to ask to be paid for a video they create. Of course, I am not suggesting that we charge them market rate but a 30 second commercial for $50 is not too much to ask right? The biggest offenders in my experience have been the clubs/organizations that are the most successful. The clubs that actually have a budget that they could carve $50 out of for you to be able to buy a roll of gaffer tape or an SD card. Again, I suggest you start with your admin to get their buy in and explain the reasoning. Don’t just go John Wayne and draw a line in the sand. Be professional. Explain that you want the students to experience the client interactions and know that what they are doing matters.

Athletics teams are another great way to increase your revenue. Before you say, “they will never let me do that,” hear me out. Sports teams have money and they are always looking to get more money. In the past, we worked with the booster clubs and shot the team’s coaching footage. We literally took care of all of it. From scheduling through upload, we took care of all of it. I would hire and train the students, meet them at the venue/bus to give them the equipment, pick up the equipment, and upload to the coaching tool of their choice (Hudl, Krossover, YouTube, etc). We would use the cameras to produce a live broadcast as well. As a part of our deal with the booster clubs, we told them they could have up to Five commercials to air in the broadcasts and that we would take care of the production for them. Literally, they would send us the contact name and we would take care of all of the production. *This was buy far the best arrangement possible. We got access to all of the games - home and away, had all of the footage for highlights and news reports, had content for our commercial breaks, and had a steady income from the teams. We did this for football, basketball, baseball, and soccer primarily.

funding2Another way to increase your income is to send students into the community to sell sponsorships for your program. It should not be hard to find places and ways to get people’s message out - especially if they are willing to pay you to do it. We have transitioned from the coaching footage model above to relying solely on sponsorship sales and I have to admit it has been tough and money so far this year is tight. As we grow and can show results, we will get more response from potential sponsors. One of the things that I have failed to do is get student buy in on sponsorship sales. I talked with Jon Souders at Cleveland High School a while ago and he said the best thing to do is send a student to get the process started. It’s harder to say no to a kid. My plan of attack at this point is to wait for the football schedule to be released, make a big deal on our game of the week schedule, and start making cold calls in March and April. I plan to offer packages that will get money into the building in the spring and the fall. We have several weekly newscasts that we produce and we can sponsor anything we want!

Things to avoid with fundraising are simple - Fundraising and “Get Rich Quick” schemes…. These are not sustainable. One off fundraisers are great for a spike but those don’t provide constant income stream. And let’s be honest, no one needs that much wrapping paper or candles.

Another topic we get harassed about is grants. I am not at all saying to avoid grants but I am suggesting that not the focus of your program’s fundraising efforts. If you hear of a grant that is easy to apply for and more importantly easy to maintain the required reporting paperwork, then go for it. Those grants are going to be smaller and easier. The larger grants require a lot of paperwork and often require hiring an auditor to make sure you are doing everything correctly. Again, grants are a spike in the income stream for your program and while the spike may be the size of a mountain, I’d rather live on a plateau.

I hope this article helps you start your new year with a new perspective on funding your program. Remember that building a program takes time. I struggle with this all of the time. I see some of the more established programs from around the country and I compare what we have to what they have and often get discouraged. Please be careful comparing what you have and what you are doing with programs that may have completely different circumstances. If you are the 4th teacher in 3 years, don’t compare your program (or yourself) to a teacher that has been in the same building for 20 years. I wish you nothing but the best as we start the new year and I hope that your biggest struggle in 12 months is finding things to spend all of your money on….

*This is an ideal situation for a teacher that wants to run a program/business and is committed to seeing it happen. This is not for the faint of heart. The stupid thing that we built in my early years teaching meant we covered the sports for 3 high schools in the county. This is how we did over 700 events one year. It is something to be proud of but also something that can’t be maintained. Make sure you find your balance because it is more important that you are a well balanced teacher than you have a well funded program. .