Fundraising Tips for Your Dragon Boat Team

Montana Dragon Boat Festival Flathead Lake


Fundraising. One of the least exciting aspects of being on a dragon boat team, yet arguably one of the most important components of the club. Unless your team is sponsored by a large company or benefactor, you are constantly searching for ways to raise money in order to keep your boat afloat, so-to-speak.

Most clubs finance the majority of their organization with membership dues, but typically this does not fully cover the cost of all the team’s necessities such as boat maintenance or rental, dock rental, boat storage, insurance, race entry fees, travel, equipment, and many other items. It is a big challenge for teams to figure out how to raise enough money to keep the club running smoothly.

Photo: picturesofmoney.org

Before your team embarks on any fundraising projects, here are some essential questions:

What do you need money for?

Identify your specific need (boats, storage, a trailer, uniforms, entry fees, etc.) and prioritize them accordingly. If your boat is in a state of disrepair, it wouldn’t make sense to spend money on new race jerseys first.

How much money do you need to raise?

Once you have identified what you need the money for, do your research to determine the costs. This is not the time to be conservative. If a boat is going to cost you $9000, for example, don’t set that amount as your goal and neglect the other potential costs involved. Consider delivery, insurance, a trailer, and perhaps other items needed for the boat which might not be included such as a drum seat, drum, or steering oar.

How soon do you need the money?

The timing of your financial needs will determine your schedule for fundraising. Will you be buying a boat or dock by the start of the paddling season? Do you plan to order jerseys prior to an upcoming race? Establish a timeline to accomplish your goal. Build in enough time to end the fundraiser, collect the money, and set the wheels in motion for purchasing what you have decided on.

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Photo: Ed Nguyen

How often will you have this fundraiser?

Is this a one-hit wonder? Will it happen seasonally? Annually? For example, many teams hold a large event each year that coincides with a particular month or holiday such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mother’s Day or Halloween.

What fundraiser best fits your team?

Consider what message your fundraiser may send. For example, the Diabetes Association would not send a good message by selling candy bars. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers would likely avoid events with alcohol. Dragon boat teams are active and athletic, while utilizing precious bodies of water for training and races. A fundraiser with an energetic and environmental aspect would be fitting.

How do you maximize the participation of your members in the fundraising?

Set your goals. Bring the challenge to your team and develop a plan to make it happen. These objectives often focus on the club’s participation at a specific race. For example, is your team hoping to go to an out-of-town race or even the Club Crew World Championships? The costs of travel and hotels add up quickly and teams frequently find themselves struggling to fill a boat when the fundraising does not sufficiently supplement the expenses. Be specific in what the team will be getting out of the fundraising. If enough money is raised, will the cost of the hotel be covered? Will the money be split evenly and everyone get reimbursed a set amount to spend as they choose? It often helps to have these types of incentives. Though careful bookkeeping is required, it can help motivate paddlers to meet the goals of the fundraising.

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Photo: Ed Nguyen

Fundraising Ideas:

Deciding what type of fundraiser your team will hold is often a difficult decision. Here are some suggestions to give you ideas for your own club. They are broken down into several main categories: events, products, corporate-related products and services, and BCS-specific fundraisers.

Events as Fundraisers:

Depending on the event your team decides to host, events can be time consuming in the months leading up to the big day. Yet they are typically quite profitable, which makes the effort worthwhile. Some of the fundraising events I have taken part in or have heard about from paddling friends are the following:

Save Our Sisters (SOS), a BCS team in Miami, Florida, hosts a wonderful night called “Pink Rocks” that involves a light dinner, drinks and dancing, plus a silent auction of items donated by local businesses. Funds are raised from the auction as well as the ticket sales.

The Collingwood Dragon Boat and Canoe Club in Collingwood, Ontario commissions local artists to paint paddles with free reign on the design, then auctions off the paddles in a silent auction.

Philadelphia Flying Phoenix hosts a Trick or Trivia night close to Halloween where guests wearing carefully planned costumes enjoy dinner, a cash bar, a silent auction and raffle. The final event of the night is the Trick or Trivia game where table groups form teams to compete in the ultimate trivia game. Items donated for the auction include such things as a paddle board and paddle, get away vacation packages, home repair vouchers, jewelry, landscaping consultation, Phillies’ and Eagles’ tickets, home-baked cakes, paddles, Garmin watches, an Apple watch, personal training vouchers, Starbucks gift cards, clothing, artwork, Fitbit, dry bags, paddling books and many more. Proceeds from the event pay for expenses not covered by dues and provide a cushion for unexpected expenditures. It’s always a well-attended event, with headcounts well over 200.

PFP’s Trick or Trivia night. Photo: Maribel Luna Riccobene

The Outer Harbour Senior Women‘s team in Toronto, Ontario hosts a wonderful dragon boat race for women’s teams in late spring at Heart Lake which also involves a silent auction and bake sale. Auction items are collected by paddlers from local businesses and include such things as spa days, wine tours, massages, personal training sessions, and clothing.

Puff Dragon Boat Racing Team in Miami, Florida often holds raffles for popular tech items such as an iPad and periodically has a poker night where the winner splits the pot with the team.

A few other suggestions for your fundraising events:

Offer corporate team-building experiences, host friendship sport races, hold a 50-50 raffle, offer a “pick-your-prize” raffle, start a coin drive, have a row-a-thon, zumba-thon or spin-a-thon, host a craft brew night, play beer pong, have a wine and cheese night, offer a Calcutta auction, host a golf or tennis tournament, have a yard sale or an online yard sale, hold bake sales at local events, have a crock pot cook off or dragon chili cook off, play bling bingo, host a lip sync contest, play prom dress rugby.

Products as Fundraisers:

The USA Senior A Women’s National Team sold jerseys and stickers.

Dragonheart Vermont sells super cute socks and hats as well as coffee by the pound from a local grower.

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Other products:

Custom dragon boat swag (shirts, hats, eyeglass straps, buffs, bags, jewelry, bumper stickers, tattoos, magnets, sport towels), team calendars, notecards, holiday-related items (wreaths, ornaments, flowers, baked goods), Yankee candles, gardener’s supplies (such as bulbs), windshield wiper tags, gift wrap. Selling things that are consumable is a good idea so that there is a repeated need for the item.

Photo: Aixa Ramos

Photo: Aixa Ramos

Corportate-Related Products or Services

If your team is registered as a non-profit, you can sign up for the Amazon Smile Program, a simple and automatic way for teammates and friends to support your team every time they shop, at no cost to them. Shopping at smile.amazon.com is the same as shopping at Amazon.com, but Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your team.

Discount gift cards for various merchants are always a hit.

Restaurant nights can be quite popular. Various restaurant chains will offer a percent of their sales for a specific weeknight to a non-profit team. Examples include Boston Market, California Pizza Kitchen, Chili’s, Chipotle, Friendly’s, Fuddruckers, Panda Express, Panera, Pizzeria Uno, Texas Roadhouse, and TGI Friday’s.

BCS-Specific Fundraisers

Pink quilt raffle

Pink tractor raffle

Pink kayak raffle

Holiday ornaments with messages of HOPE, STRENGTH, COURAGE

SOS in Miami started Flamingo Flocking where a large flock of plastic pink yard flamingos is placed in a person’s front yard along with a letter saying “Congratulations, you’ve been flocked!” and asking for a donation to the team. The person being “flocked” then gets to choose the next recipient of the “flocking.”

"Flamingo Flocking" by SOS, Miami. Photo: Victoria Jackson

“Flamingo Flocking” by SOS, Miami. Photo: Victoria Jackson

You’ve decided on a fundraiser, now what?

Depending on the size of your fundraiser, and especially if it is a large once-a-year event, you will need to make plans months in advance. Some things to consider:

Determine your budget.

It often takes money to make money, so be prepared with a budget for your event. You may need to rent a location for the event, hire caterers, rent tables and chairs, or hire a band or DJ. Ideally most things will be donated, so start contacting local companies early to determine which things you can convince businesses to help out with.

Form committees with explicit leadership.

Encourage teammates to be a part of the action by serving on committees that are in charge of specific areas of need such as advertising, food, entertainment, set-up, clean-up, tickets, donations, auction items, raffle items, etc.

Plan multiple opportunities for people to give.

Ticket sales are great, but don’t let your fundraising stop there. Once people are at your event, provide them with more chances to contribute to your team. Live and silent auctions, raffles, and games are all excellent ways of inspiring attendees to donate and people are generally quite happy to part with their money when they feel they are getting something valuable in exchange.

Advertise.

Convince people that your event is worth their time and money. Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media to promote your fundraiser. Post flyers in local restaurants, gyms, and other appropriate locations.

Sell tickets.

First determine if you will have a flat sale for tickets. Or will you have different levels of contribution such as a VIP ticket? Encourage teammates to sell a determined amount of tickets before the event.

Send thank you notes.

After the event, be sure to thank everyone involved. Emails are nice, but a handwritten note gives a much more personal touch that people will remember. If you plan on having your event each year, you want to make a good impression on those who were generous enough to donate their time or money. Hopefully they will be inclined to help out next year as well.

paddlechica-thank-you

Photo: http://spu.edu/

Best of luck with your club’s fundraising efforts. It is never easy, but when everyone helps out, the work can be quite rewarding to the team. And always remember to acknowledge the efforts of those teammates who work hard to make the fundraising a success.

What does your team do to raise money?

Contributing author: Linda Dyer, United States senior C women’s coach, coach of Dragonheart Vermont.

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Linda Dyer, coaching at Bow Wave camp in Melbourne, Florida. Photo: Shala Rhea

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