Game On for Giving: 9 Creative Sports Fundraising Events (Guest Post)

Sports fans are everywhere! They’re not just at the stadium, arena, or golf course; on their couches glued to their TVs; or enjoying the big game at a sports bar—they’re in your donor database. 

Fortunately for nonprofits, a great way to garner support for your cause is to gamify your fundraising event in some way, and sports-themed events rally your donors around your cause and a fun game they love.

Activate the sports enthusiasts (and casual fans) in your donor base with a sports-themed fundraising event. 

1. Charity Sports Tournaments

A charity tournament centered around a popular sport is a great way to rally your supporters to connect with your organization around an activity they enjoy and foster community engagement. A tried and true fundraiser is a charity golf tournament. Golf is super popular and charity tournaments are held in the scramble format, which make the game more accessible to more players. What’s more, golfers tend to represent an affluent demographic, with a higher-than-average household income and net worth; in other words, folks you want in your donor database. 

Other tournament options might include pickleball, tennis, volleyball, basketball, or softball. Charge an entry fee for teams or individuals to participate and seek sponsorships to cover event costs and boost fundraising. You might also encourage spectators to attend and challenge them to make a donation that’s tied to the winning (or losing) team in some way. 

2. Tailgate for a Cause

Host a tailgate party for a big game in your community. A tailgate provides a relaxed, informal atmosphere where attendees can network or just connect with others. A tailgate is an especially great option for an alumni fundraising event, bringing together old friends to cheer on their alma mater.

Make sure you have a space large enough for the expected number of attendees and their guests, as well as enough food and drinks to keep everyone happy. To bring in dollars, charge folks to attend and secure a sponsor or two to underwrite the hospitality costs to boost your fundraising. You might also incorporate fun activities, like a contest to guess the final score of the game or a chili cookoff, to boost fundraising.

3. Sports Memorabilia Auction

Theme your next auction to captivate sports fans and raise money for your nonprofit! Whether you build the auction around a specific sport, team, or city’s teams, you’ll want to source donated items to ensure more dollars go to your organization instead of consignment. 

An online auction platform makes it easier to promote high-end items, accept silent auction bids, and collect payments. Plus, it makes the auction more engaging for the bidders! Start with your networks to solicit donations. Start with your board of directors and event planning team and utilize their connections and donation to get you off and running. You might also reach out to the marketing or PR departments at local universities or sports organizations to request a donation. 

Consider offering items such as:

  • Signed memorabilia, like original trading cards, balls, shoes, or jerseys
  • Team merchandise, such as t-shirts, hoodies, caps, and home goods or a sports-themed gift basket
  • Big-ticket experiences, like tickets to an upcoming game or a tour of the home arena

4. Run/Walk/Ride for a Cause

These types of events are accessible to diverse audiences and are a fun way to build community while encouraging healthy living. There are a couple options to bring in revenue: have participants pay a flat entry fee or incorporate a peer-to-peer element where family and friends pledge money for various milestones, like laps or miles walked or ridden. Events like bike-a-thons, walk-a-thons, or run-a-thons activate donors’ broader networks and can be a great choice for everyone from avid bike enthusiasts to those just getting started with running. You’ll need to determine the course for the run/walk/ride, so look to local parks or green spaces, school tracks, or explore blocking off streets in your community. 

5. Sports Trivia Night

Sports fans and trivia enthusiasts alike will enjoy a sports-themed trivia night fundraiser! First, select and secure a venue for the event, such as a local restaurant, sports bar, or even your nonprofit’s office if you have the space. Next, pick a date and determine who will be the emcee for the night. Decide if you’ll provide food or drinks (which might be required if the event is held at an establishment that serves food) and what prizes you’ll offer. These could be cash or in-kind donations from partners or sponsors. assemble your slate of trivia questions and set the format and rules—Will questions be read aloud or provided on paper? Will folks work in teams or as individuals? How will you break ties? Finally, spread the word about your sports trivia night and collect registrations.

6. Fantasy Sports Fundraiser

Sports fundraisers aren’t limited to reality—consider a fantasy fantasy sports fundraiser, where participants compete in fantasy leagues or tournaments that benefit your cause. Set up a fantasy sports league using a number of free online platforms for easy management. Participants pay a flat entrance fee and compete for prizes, which could be a split of the entry fees, branded merchandise from your nonprofit, or donated goods or services from sponsors. Another option is a bracket competition for tournaments or playoffs, which can also easily be managed online. Promote these leagues or competitions on your social media platforms, in email newsletters, at events, and your organization’s website and encourage your supporters to invite their friends, family, and colleagues to join in on the fun.

7. Sports Clinics

A sports clinic is an instructional event centered around a specific sport or skill within a sport, held for a few hours. This lets sports fans hone their talents, and depending on the instructors, meet some of their favorite athletes or coaches! If you have connections to local sports teams, reach out to request a player or players to make an appearance or volunteer as a leader or instructor. Charge folks to attend and recruit sponsors to offer swag bags to participants. If you’re targeting kids to attend, you might also have a sponsor underwrite the costs and provide scholarships as a goodwill gesture for underserved youth. 

Clinics can be held alongside a sports tournament, run/walk, bike ride, or other event. For example, if you’re planning a charity golf tournament, you might offer a sponsored putting clinic on the practice green for spouses or guests of golfers that want to be involved in the event but don’t want to play. This gives them the chance to learn about the sport and support a cause they care about. 

8. Sports-themed Gala

A sports-themed gala offers attendees and sponsors a unique and memorable experience for donors, and a great opportunity for your nonprofit to engage major donors for your cause. Look for fun ways to incorporate sports into the event, from the decor and the menu to a guest speaker or sports-related celebrity appearances and photo ops. You might also add a sports-themed silent auction into your gala that’s filled with sports-related items. 

Wrapping Up

Sports have a way of connecting with people in ways that nothing else does. Leverage this passion for sport to gamify your fundraisers, drive donations, and build strong relationships with the sports lovers in your donor base. When planning your sports fundraiser, ensure you’re using a top-notch fundraising events management software solution, preferably one that’s tailored to a sporting event to maximize functionality and usefulness.

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