Getting the funding that your team needs to support your program is important for growing your team’s competitiveness and making ultimate accessible for everyone. I’m sorry to say, it's also another job for you as a captain. But what’s that? You say your school won’t give your team enough money? Hmm... Well, then it’s time to enlist your network for help!
No, we’re not talking family and friends who you might have to re-explain ultimate to. We’re talking about asking your alumni for some cash!
Alumni are primed to give because they (hopefully) have an income, and more importantly, they remember the ultimate program 100% better than they remember their college academics. Not only do they remember it, but I can tell you as an all-too-recent alum, that we alums are preprogrammed to feel nostalgic about the good ol' days. Lucky for you, that’s a good way to get your alums to contribute.
How To Do It
Step 1: Collect Contact Info
Making an alumni directory is probably the most difficult part of raising money from your alumni, so if you're one of the lucky captains with easy access to this info, rejoice!
If you aren't one of the privileged few, don't lose hope yet! Here are three ways to collect the names, emails and addresses that you need in order to ask alums for help raising cash:
Use Social Media
If you have a Facebook page where your alums might follow you, it won’t be hard to reach out to them for their contact info. Simply create a GDoc, or a google form, and post it to Facebook or Twitter asking alums to add their info.
Pro tip: don't directly ask for money from alumni via Facebook/Twitter. This process is all about generating a personal connection with someone over your common love of ultimate. Getting hit up for cash on social media is about as personal as getting a text that you’ve been selected to win a free iPad.
Make an “Email Tree”
Remember those annoying “forward this email to 10 people or else you’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a clown in your bed” chain emails? Well, they lasted so long because people actually forwarded them!
To start an alumni directory, you can do a much less annoying version of this. Make a Google Doc for alums to put in their contact info and send it to the alums that you do know. Once they fill out the form, ask them to forward the email to alums they know that are not yet on the GDoc. Magic!
Ask your Alumni Office
One of the main jobs of the Alumni Office is to keep up-to-date contact information about alumni. See if they can help you get a list of ultimate graduates together.
STEP 2: Pick Your Format
There are many ways to go about asking for financial support from your alums, and cost is going to be a major consideration in making the right decision for your team.
Here are some options for a range of budgets:
If you're strapped for cash, email is the way to go. It's free, fast, and allows you to link to media about your team that your alums may be interested in. Got a highlight video from Regionals last year? Link it. Do you have a pic of Sheila skying like three dudes at Onionfest last year? Link it!
Pro tip: if you go with email, make sure you also develop a system to track who has not responded or donated. Real adults are often so inundated with email that they need to be reminded 2-3 times before they respond to emails. Don't worry about annoying them by emailing more than once.
A handwritten (legible) note will likely carry more weight for your alumni than any digital entreaty could produce.
Yes, it's more of a pain to launch this type of correspondence, but that's exactly why it's better: alums will pick up your letter or postcard, and realize that you put in the effort on this project. That's meaningful. More meaning leads to more personal connection, and the more personal connection you can invoke, the better your chances of getting a donation.
All of that being said, postage can get expensive so do some back-of-the-napkin math before you launch this project.
Some alumni prefer to get something in return for their donation. We blame NPR for creating that expectation in their donors #jokes. If you want to go this route, your best bet is to create something that is both relevant and unique to your team. Here are some examples that we’ve seen teams do:
- Stickers with your team logo
- Holiday ornaments
- Fun jerseys
- Team calendars
- Favorite pics and memories - ask your alums for their favorite team memory when they give, and send them a final list at the end of the fundraiser! They'll love reminiscing and reconnecting with old friends, and your players can get a sense of your team history!
The Claremont Braineaters went all out and shot an entire 2017 calendar for their alums to buy for $10 a piece!
A sneak preview of the Claremont Braineaters 2017 calendar.
STEP 3: Make It Easy To Give
If you want this to be more than a one-time fundraising effort, work it out with your school so that contributions can be written off as a tax deductible donation.
Try checking in with the Office of Advancement or Development Office at your school. Donations to your school are already tax deductible, so they might be able to set up an account for your team allowing alums to write off their donations to your ultimate team!
Another way to make alums comfortable with giving you cash is to let them know what their funds will go to (e.g. team travel, new uniforms, team flag, team party). Set a goal and update them with your progress on social media or email. This will also help remind them to donate if they haven’t already and show them that other people are donating to the cause.
Finally - get to know your alums! People are way more likely to give to your team if they have a personal connection to active players on your roster. This is networking like anything else, and building that relationship will only help you.
STEP 4: Always, Always, Always, write a thank you
Follow up with a thank you when they donate! Alums love to know that their contributions are appreciated and will be more likely to donate next time, and believe me, there will be a next time.
If you are feeling really ambitious, create an artsy thank you that's unique to each alum. We've seen teams write poems, sing songs, and design handwritten thank you cards. You won't really know until you're on the other side, but trust me - that personal touch means a lot to your alums.
Remember that alums might not be ready to help you out with funding just yet, but there are many ways that alumni can give back. They can provide experienced advice, film games they attend, host players when there's a tournament in their area, and return for alumni weekends! They shaped your program into what it is today, and they were once in your cleats whether it was 4 months ago or 40 years ago. Don't be afraid to ask for their help!
OVER TO YOU!
What's your team done to fundraise in the past? Was it successful? Drop us a line in the comments!