Four New (and Proven) Ways to Fundraise

Most ath­let­ic depart­ments need fundrais­ers to fill the gaps in the bud­get. Athletic direc­tor James Coffey shares some out-of-the-box ideas that have worked for him.

Four New (and Proven) Ways to Fundraise

Most ath­let­ic depart­ments need fundrais­ers to fill the gaps in the bud­get. Athletic direc­tor James Coffey shares some out-of-the-box ideas that have worked for him.

In my last blog, I dis­cussed how boost­er groups can be the answer to a program’s fundrais­ing prob­lem. But even once you have a boost­er club, you still need to come up with ideas for fundrais­ers and events. 

So in this blog, I’ll high­light some of the best fundrais­ers I’ve been a part of in the last fif­teen years. These are all large scale fundrais­ers that pro­duced strong returns. 

Sell a Locker

When you can tie the fundrais­er to what you need the funds for, it only makes sense. We once need­ed to upgrade our boys’ and girls’ var­si­ty lock­er rooms. The bench­es, floor­ing and lock­ers all need­ed replac­ing — we basi­cal­ly had to gut them. 

We got quotes for the project and divid­ed it by how many lock­ers we need­ed to install to get a lock­er price. Then we gave alum­ni the oppor­tu­ni­ty to buy” a lock­er for $250, which includ­ed a nice plaque on the back of their” locker. 

Many donors put their name, the sports they played, and the years they attend­ed the school. Some local busi­ness donat­ed to have their busi­ness name on the plaque. Families with kids who played sports would get togeth­er and put their fam­i­ly names on it. We even had plaques in mem­o­ry of for­mer stu­dents and athletes. 

It was a great way to ren­o­vate an exist­ing area for our kids and hon­or the tra­di­tion of the town’s ath­let­ic department.

Raffle a Car

For this fundrais­er, we were try­ing to raise $50,000 to pay for new sta­di­um lights. Having a spe­cif­ic, sim­ple goal is the key to a good fundraiser. 

We decid­ed to get there by hav­ing stu­dent-ath­letes and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers sell $50 dol­lar raf­fle tick­ets for a new car. In this case, the deal­er gave us the car under cost, but in return got great pub­lic­i­ty for his deal­er­ship. And we got to keep all of the funds raised over that ini­tial cost.

Now this was fair­ly easy for us to set up because the orga­niz­er had a friend who owned a car deal­er­ship. Remember to work your net­work for these sorts of fundrais­ers. You might be sur­prised by the big response you get! 


This one was my favorite fundrais­er while I attend­ed high school, and while I was employed by my home­town school. Our spe­cial edu­ca­tion depart­ment would would rent a wrestling ring and put on Wrestlemania” every two years. It was a big pro­duc­tion, which took quite a bit of work, but they have raised thou­sands of dol­lars over the years. 

Here’s how it worked: stu­dents could cre­ate tag teams of two, with per­sonas, uni­forms, the whole thing. There’d be 10 tag team wrestling match­es, with stu­dents as wrestlers, man­agers, round card hold­ers, etc. Teachers were the ref­er­ees and ring announcers. 

In the lead up to the event, the wrestlers” would go down to the mid­dle and ele­men­tary schools and sign auto­graphs in their cos­tumes. There’d be teams like The Pizza Boys” and The Dorks.” They’d have theme music and make a big pro­duc­tion of it, which the lit­tle kids loved!

The biggest expense was the ring — the rest was just vol­un­teer hours. Tickets were $10 to get in, and believe me, the gym would be packed.

At the end of the match­es, there would be a Royal Rumble,” which a stu­dent in spe­cial edu­ca­tion always won. This wasn’t just a fundrais­er, it was a com­mu­ni­ty-wide event that every­one looked for­ward to. 

The Great Reunion

This is exact­ly what it sounds like. All class­es in school his­to­ry got to be part of this reunion. Alumni could come alone, min­gle with friends from town, or even orga­nize with their class to rent sev­er­al tables and hold their own class reunion at the event. 

There’s a few logis­tics with this size of an event. A 50 x 50 tent would be rent­ed and set up on our sta­di­um field. The school board even approved a one-time allowance for liquor to be sold on school prop­er­ty, so beer and wine could be sold with din­ner. We made it 21+ and had a Hawaiian theme when I was there. There were silent auc­tions, raf­fles and a live band. 

We had hun­dreds of atten­dees, and even cre­at­ed spon­sor­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties for local busi­ness­es. This event reg­u­lar­ly brought in tens of thou­sands of dol­lars for co-cur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties at my alma mater. 

Make these ideas your own. Add your school or program’s touch­es to make these ideas work for you. And if you’re in need of a boost­er group to help sup­port your fundrais­ers, here’s my ear­li­er blog on how to set them up.

James Coffey attend­ed Endicott College in Beverly, MA where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sport Management. He has spend the last fif­teen years as an ath­let­ic direc­tor at three dif­fer­ent high schools. Coffey was named the Massachusetts Secondary School District A Athletic Director of the Year in 2012. He has also spoke about the pos­i­tive effects of social media on ath­let­ics at sev­er­al New England conferences.