Challenge of Fundraising in the 90’s


By Michael Cody, Mountain Lakes, NJ

Today’s challenge is partly due to the fact that most swimmers are from dual income or single parent households. Due to time restraints, it is very difficult for these swim team parents to help fund-raise in addition to their swim team volunteer responsibilities. How many people actually do all the fundraising anyway?

Our team began using assessments as a fair and equitable way to fund-raise. Assessments are used by many swim teams as a way to fund-raise additional money. It seems to be less taxing in time on individual families. What we found is that with each swimmer paying an assessment of $40, fundraising becomes fair to everyone and produces the same amount if not more revenue than an actual fundraiser with a lot less work and time. (E.g. 200 swimmers x $40 = $8,000)

Don’t you hate those phone calls during the day. The ones that you drop everything to answer, only to hear hello, Mr. or Mrs……It is at that moment that you know someone is trying to sell you something. How many credit cards can one use? Parents of swimmers resent these phone calls that usually come during dinner time or as they are on their way out the door. Since parents resent these calls, they resent asking neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives to sponsor their child’s fundraising efforts. I also disliked asking parents to sell things. A swim team parent and I came up with a proposal for a new fundraising policy to clear up our fundraising philosophy. Our philosophy before was basically fundraising with no clear purpose, basically to fund-raise just for the sake of fundraising. We included painless fundraisers to help strengthen the policy.

What we consider as Painless Fundraisers are projects where the purpose serves more than just a revenue producing function. Parents did not consider hosting meets as a terrible fundraiser. Our Painless Fundraisers for 1996 were as follows:

  • Long Course Meet – we host this meet in the summer time and since our own swimmers participate, it is a worthwhile event that provides two results. The first result is that each swimmer on our team is provided long course competition. The second result is that we raise money.
  • Sprint Meet – This is a meet that we provide for all our swimmers who do not qualify for the December Holiday meet. We invite several other teams and this way we are again servicing our own swimmers as well as bringing in an income.
  • Clothing – We provide outfitting for the entire team offering a package to each swimmer. The package includes 1 suit, 1 team T-shirt and 2 swim caps. In addition we provide bags, jackets; etc. Since we receive a team discount based on quantity, there is a mark up with the profits going into the team’s program enrichment budget.

In our team’s bylaws we limited the number of possible fundraisers to a maximum of three. This helped to make the fundraising more efficient. We consider these painless because monies are a secondary result.

The national team in our organization is a subgroup of our parents association. We provide this group their own opportunity to raise funds. This helped alleviate any confusion as to who was responsible financially for the national team’s travel expenses. On New Years Eve day the national team hosts an Odd Age Meet with the entire proceeds distributed to the national team. These proceeds included meet entries, gate, program sales and refreshments, all going to the national team. This is where the age-groupers support the national team;however, since they also receive a benefit, they are more inclined to show support. In the past they were told that they had to support the national team and reluctantly did so!

If a national team swimmer sells advertisements, they retain 80% for their personal account and the remaining 20% goes to the general national team account. The general fund is divided equally among the number of swimmers attending nationals. A dance is also held with each swimmer receiving 75% with 25% retained to cover expenses. Ads and dance tickets are incentives. If a family wishes they can sell enough tickets and ads to pay for all their expenses (anything above their entire expense goes into the general fund or they can do the bare minimum that can be nothing). Bottom-line: the opportunity is provided so everyone is happy. There are people who would rather write a check and those who want an opportunity to defray the cost of their swimmer’s trip. This process has eliminated the problem of a minority of the people doing the work. This way a person who does more work reaps more financial benefit. Those who complain about doing the work can write a check instead.

The cost of sending the swimmers and coaches to YMCA Nationals for our team is quite high, estimated at $1000 to $1200 per person. Y-National parents spend a great deal of time and effort in running an ongoing fundraising campaign to defray the costs that each swimmer’s family would otherwise have to bear. Depending on the success of our efforts and the number of national team swimmers, the fundraising could reduce the cost to each swimmer by about $400 to $500. The Parent’s Association gives a maximum of $2,000 from it’s program enrichment budget to the national team. Our policy for Junior or Senior National Team Members is they must pay for the entire trip themselves. However, they do get a reimbursement from the LSC.

When we first introduced moving towards the direction of assessments we met some resistance from a certain number of parents, particularly the National Team Parents. They believed the burden of financial responsibility fell upon the team. However, we introduced the idea of assessments in order to avoid the animosity that was building. Once it had been in effect for one year, everyone supported the new fundraising policy. The reason was that it was a win win situation for everyone. Anytime you introduce change you meet resistance. It is just a matter of selling your idea and educating everyone.

Team fees (September-April) are established prior to the start of the season. These fees pay for pool time, coaches salaries, bus transportation, end of the year banquet, awards, supplies, equipment purchases and administrative expenses. Swim team fees are established for each practice group and are based on the amount of practice time. The assessment fee helps to support the program enrichment budget of the Parents’ Association.

It is important to note that volunteerism in our program requires active participation. Volunteerism is defined by our organization as a requirement for the child’s participation on the swim team. Parents must work a minimum of two dual meets and take on one team responsibility as outlined in the volunteer form. Failure to submit this form results in the swimmer being suspended from the team. All information received from the volunteer request forms will be considered, and a Volunteer Schedule is distributed to parents in September. If they are unable to fulfill their assignment, it is their responsibility to find a replacement.

In conclusion, it is very difficult to ask people to sell things. Often fundraisers are not worth the effort put into them. In order for an event to be a success it must be worth the effort! It must also be customized to meet the needs of the program. Since we require all parents to volunteer, we burden them less with fundraising and as a result have a more efficient parents’ support group. The most important result is that the parents’ association supports the swimmers and coaches. The responsibility is placed on all of the parents. In the past I have experienced a high burnout of volunteers due to the small number of parents volunteering. This way, there is a continuity of parent leadership from one year to the next. With every family having responsibility no matter how small or great each family takes more pride in their efforts. With more pride and ownership we have a better organized and efficient organization!

Lakeland Hills YMCA Program Enrichment Budget: 1996-1997


Holiday Training $2,000
Coaches Expenses for Nationals $2,000
Social Events $300
Super Squad (8 &Unders) Social Event $200
Juniors (12/u) Social Events $200
Senior (13/o) Social Events $200
Super Squad T-shirts $200
Guest Coaches $1,600
Coaches Staff Shirts $200
Coaches Hotel $2,000
Contingency Fund $500
Equipment Repair $1,500
Touch Pads (2) $1,200
Super Squad Equipment (4 x 8 mirrors) $400
Printing $500
Computer Equipment $1,500
Surgical Tubing $100
Dryland Equipment $1,000
Total Expenses: $16,600


200 swimmers x $40 $8,000
Clothing $3,000
Long Course Meet $1,500
Sprint Meet $1,500
Carryover* $3,068
Total Income: $17,068
* Due to the carryover we were able to reduce the following year’s assessment!
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