Read this guide to be inspired by these sports-themed fundraising ideas.

4 Fundamental Tips for Hosting a Sports-Themed Fundraiser

Sports have a way of bringing people together that’s unlike anything else. People also tend to be passionate about sports, so when you combine that passion with a good cause, you have a winning option for a fundraising event. Whether you’re raising money for a school team, your nonprofit’s general fund, a new outreach initiative, or other funding need, these tips for a sports-themed fundraising event will engage your community and get folks competing for a good cause.

Tip 1: Be Strategic About the Sport You Choose

The possibilities for a sports-themed event are endless, you’ll want to be strategic when choosing the focus of your sports-related event. The key is understanding your audience and the sport that they’ll best respond to. You don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to a physical sport either—esports, fantasy teams, or bracket challenges are also possibilities. Some popular charity sports events include:

  • Charity golf tournament
  • Volleyball tournament
  • Soccer shootout
  • Softball or baseball tournament
  • 3-on-3 basketball tournament
  • Walkathon or bikeathon
  • Fun run or walk
  • Dodgeball tournament
  • Mini-March Madness bracket challenge
  • Swim-a-thon
  • Online e-sports tournament

When choosing the sport that will work best for your organization or audience, you might first conduct a quick survey to garner feedback from your donors and constituents to see what interests them. Next, take the following considerations into account as you start planning:

  • Time of year. If your sport is played outdoors, you’ll need to choose a time of year with favorable weather in your area. If you’re hoping to involve families, be sure the event doesn’t overlap with the school day.
  • Budget. Some sports-related events come with a fair amount of overhead, including facility rental, signage, trophies or awards, food and beverage, advertising, and equipment rental. Create a loose budget so you have an idea of how much you’ll need to spend to get the event off the ground.
  • Facility availability. Research host facilities in your area and check their availability. You might ask the facility about the days and times of year they recommend to maximize participation.
  • Donor preferences. Use the results of your surveys and informal conversations with your audience to see what option is the most appealing (and they’re most likely to support with their participation). 
  • Relevance to your cause. Consider how the type of event relates to or can be connected to your mission in some way. This helps participants better understand what they’re helping raise money for. 

Tip 2: Incorporate Revenue-Boost Elements

Think about how you’ll generate revenue from your event. Participant registration fees, spectator tickets, sponsorships, and donation appeals are common, base revenue sources, but you’ll want to think broader and find other ways to boost fundraising. These revenue boosters often add additional fun and excitement to the event, making registrants eager to participate. GolfStatus recommends the following ideas to raise more dollars from your event:

  • Sport-specific contests. Add one or more contests that are specific to the sport, such as a hole-in-one or putting contest for a charity golf tournament or a three-point shot contest for a basketball tournament. Participants love testing their skill (or luck!) for the chance to win a prize.
  • Live or silent auctions. Seek donations for the items you’ll include in your auction to raise even more money. Consider using a mobile bidding platform so folks can make bids during the sporting event itself.
  • Raffles. Much like auction items, you can boost fundraising by selling raffle tickets for donated prizes. Make it easy for folks to buy raffle tickets when they register, when they check in for the event, and throughout the event.
  • Food and drink tickets. Work with a sponsor to donate food and beverages and sell tickets to attendees. Be sure to check with the host facility on any restrictions or regulations about outside food and drink.
  • Mini-games. Have fun and get creative in creating mini-games or contests to add to your event! Look for ways to incorporate your nonprofit’s cause in the games to help participants make a tangible connection to your cause. For example, if your nonprofit helps build homes for underprivileged families, you could hold a putting contest using building tools like sledgehammers or levels. 

Tip 3: Sell Sponsorships & Create Partnerships

Sponsorships are an incredibly powerful component of fundraising events. They provide a sizable portion of the event’s income, offset hard costs, add credibility to the event and your organization, and help forge partnerships with businesses for additional support down the road. Sports-focused events are particularly appealing to prospective sponsors—sponsorships are a well-known part of sports culture and provide a ton of brand exposure and lift to the sponsoring business while raising dollars for your nonprofit.

  • Make a list of event costs. Look at all the hard costs associated with the event, from facility rental, signage, and meals to entertainment, games, and attendee gifts, and sell sponsorships to cover them. 
  • Create sponsorship levels and packages. Offering different sponsorship levels allows more businesses to get involved and support your event at a dollar amount that fits into their marketing or charitable budgets.
  • Reach out to past supporters. Start with local businesses who have supported you in some way in the past, whether it was for another fundraising event or general support for your organization.
  • Use your networks. Tap into your planning team, staff, or board of directors to see who might have contacts at area businesses to make a short list of potential sponsors to go after.
  • Create personalized pitches and sponsorships. Work with businesses to determine what their goals are for sponsoring your event and find ways to help them get the biggest ROI. That might mean creating a custom sponsorship and corresponding pitch for some sponsors, but both you and the business will end up meeting your goals.
  • Outline the benefits of corporate philanthropy. When you communicate with potential sponsors, be sure to highlight how corporate philanthropy benefits your sponsors just as much as it does your event.

Once the event is over, it’s crucial to follow up with sponsors to thank them for their support and continue to cultivate the relationship for broader organizational support.

Tip 4: Use Technology to Manage Your Event and its Data

The information you collect as part of your fundraising event is powerful and paints a picture of who is supporting you through sports-related events, your organization’s ROI fundraiser, and where you should focus your event fundraising in the future. Nonprofit event planners should make data collection and management a priority and find ways to streamline and simplify its collection and management. Some fundraising metrics to monitor include:

  • Event signups (teams and individual participants and spectators)
  • Attendee conversion rate 
  • Total dollars raised
  • Average donation amount
  • Cost per participant
  • Attendee retention rate
  • Volunteer signup and retention rate

Collecting this important information is easier than you might think with event management software tailored for nonprofit needs. Look for platforms that are designed specifically for the sport your event is leveraging. For instance, if you’re hosting a charity golf fundraiser, you might consider using software with golf tournament planning and execution in mind.

Final Thoughts

These tips will set you up for success if you’re considering a sports-related fundraising event. Start by determining which sport you’ll focus on, look for ways to boost revenue, create and sell sponsorships, and track metrics. With a little preparation and data-driven thinking, your fundraiser can be a hole-in-one and make everyone feel like winners!