Lessons from a Soccer Fundraiser

I have two daughters who play soccer with the local youth soccer organization. It makes for some action-packed weeks in the fall and the spring! It also puts us in line for every fundraiser the soccer organization conducts -- team photos, individual photos, MLS and college team partnership promotions and ticket sales. Most of the time, I'm happy to participate and feel glad to be contributing to sports programs for kids in our community.

But the other day, I received an email from someone affiliated with the soccer organization demanding that each parent on my older daughter's team purchase two tickets to a local university soccer game, chiding those who had not yet contributed.

Now, as it happens, we'd already purchased tickets for our family through our younger daughter's team. I explained that to the representative who emailed me back saying, "Okay, you're fine then."

Whoa, whoa, whoa! I know this person is almost certainly a volunteer, but somebody with the soccer club needs to give their volunteers a lesson in donor relations!

So let's examine what went wrong with this Ask and figure out how it could have been done better.

The Offer

The first email we received about this particular fundraiser contained no details, just a vague mention of the need to purchase tickets to a soccer game at the university. I didn't know who was playing the game -- was it our kids? Or the university team? Or an exhibition game for our local MLS team? I didn't know when the game was scheduled. Would we even be able to attend if we did purchase the tickets? And how was the money raised going to be used by the club?

The Ask

I know that no fundraising professional out there would demand a gift. But do you train your volunteers and program staff how to ask for donations? It's all too easy for a volunteer to take a simple request that each family buy two tickets and turn it into extortion. Make sure they understand that donations are voluntary. And no one should ever be chided for declining to participate.

The Thank You

And of course, every donor should be thanked, genuinely and promptly. Tell them what their contribution means to the organization. Do my tickets to the university soccer game help pay for club equipment? Or scholarships for budding soccer phenoms in need? Make sure I know that up front and remind me when you say a heartfelt "Thank you."

Don't let anyone in your organization -- staff, volunteer or friend -- inadvertently create ill-will as they try to help raise money. Drill in the importance of treating donors with respect and gratitude, and you'll see donations rise.