Earlier this year, East Surrey Hawks held a fundraising draw through Play Fund Win to support the running and development of their inclusive, disability football club.
We spoke to Hawks’ coach and Surrey FA’s 2020 Coach of the Year Martin King to find out the true costs of operating a small grassroots clubs, fundraising activities carried out previously and their positive experience of using our digital fundraising platform for sports clubs.
What challenges did the club face during the covid 19 crisis? And how did that affect the usual running of the club?
It was a mixture of operational kind challenges, and there was a financial element too. Operationally, the obvious thing was that we weren’t able to maintain our training schedule. That was particularly difficult for us as a club that supports children with disabilities and health conditions, because we’re a club that tends to run pretty much throughout the year, not just in the season time. [We do that] because we recognise that the continuity, and the routine is really important for our players. Having to manage the expectations of those players and their parents was a particular challenge for us and we had to be really clear in our communications about what we could and couldn’t do.
Financially, there was a there was also an impact related to COVID-19, and I guess it was twofold. One of those impacts was the fact that we were very aware that we hadn’t given the players and their parents the service that they had paid for at the start of the season in good faith. We charge our subscription fees, and they would expect weekly training and tournaments in exchange for that. In many cases, of course, that just simply wasn’t possible. So what that meant was that we were looking at ways where we could subsidise the next year’s subscription fees and give them the money back for the service that they hadn’t received previously. These were all things that that we were that we were trying to manage. There were also additional requirements on the club, and those carried expenditure as well. [Such as] making sure that we always had antibacterial wipes available, hand sanitizer so that people could keep safe and that all carried additional cost and had a planning requirement too.
It was a really difficult time for everyone.
What are the true costs of keeping a club like yours afloat and how much do you need to be bringing in to meet your costs each season?
It’s quite hard to quantify this, because to some extent, it depends on how much you want to do as a club and how advanced you want to be in your offering. I think it’s not unreasonable to say that running a relatively small club [like ours], you’re still talking tens of thousands of pounds.
Pitch fees – they’re expensive. They are a commodity that’s in really high demand and negotiation on pitch fees is a very difficult thing. There’s also kits and equipment- they are all really, really expensive things as well. [As is] doing things properly – affiliating to your local Football Association, making sure you’ve got the right insurance etc. So I think for us it does run into the tens of thousands. We are very lucky, in that we have people who do support the club, and we’ve had donations and good parental input as well. We are in a position where we’ve got nice equipment and nice kit. But doing it well is a significant financial undertaking.
What kind of fundraising have you done previously as a club?
We’ve done all sorts of things, really. The main funding stream is just the annual subscription fees that that our parents pay for the players to join. We’ve done open day events as well, as a way to engage people. Within those we might do things like run a barbecue where we can sell food and make a little bit of profit from that. We have like the spot the ball competitions or raffles where members or committee members of the club have donated prizes for people to win. It’s just little things like that, really, that we kind of do over time. The other thing that we’ve done is work with local businesses and supporters who want to help the club because of what we’re trying to achieve. We’ve been really lucky and had some good donations from people who want to make sure that we’ve got the best equipment.
Would you look to hold future prize draws through Play Fund Win?
Yes, I think a draw that focuses lots of prize money back to the club is absolutely something I think [parents would] support – and there’s a fun element to it as well, right? Having a few little prizes helps to generate that and I don’t think [our supporters] see it as a way to make money or anything like that. That’s probably something we would explore for next draw.
It’s creating a win-win scenario, which is brilliant. There’s absolutely no harm in us making money through a scenario where somebody else benefits as well. It is brilliant and as valid a route to funding as anything else.
How did you find promoting the draw – and how did you go about this?
Promoting the draw was super easy for us. We used all of our social media platforms – Facebook being the main one, which was great [for us] because all of the parents of the children, obviously [are using it]. We also used our WhatsApp groups; we have three WhatsApp groups that we were using to promoting the draw. One was for our younger team – our U12s, and then we’ve got an U16s group as well. We’ve also got an adult group who train – and so we were promoting it for all of them.
[Play Fund Win] provided us with some excellent media, which we basically just [needed to] copy. We used the graphics that [were] provided and where we found that particularly helpful was towards the end of the draw. [Play Fund Win] set us up really nicely to advertise the fact that the draw was closing and that it was people’s last chance to take part. We found we got a really good response on that on the last day of the draw, just before it was due to close, by putting that onto our social media and getting people to engage in it. It’s human nature [to leave things until the last minute] and so it just drives a response from people. I think, by far, our most productive day was the last day of the draw in terms of sales.
One of the things I think I am personally really conscious of on behalf of the club is the fact that I think some of our parents will be experiencing financial challenges at the moment. This is a difficult financial time for lots of people for lots of different reasons. In the first instance, it was all about a pandemic, and now it’s about a pandemic and some other stuff. So there was definitely something really important for us about balancing the kind of the fundraising activity of the club with what is reasonable to ask for from our [supporters].
How will you be using the money that you’ve raised in this draw?
For us, the money will be really important because we are really mindful of the fact that football should be a game that everybody can play and enjoy. We’ve never as a club wanted to be anything other than totally inclusive. And we’ve never wanted to think that money or financial [issues] would be a barrier to football. For us, the purpose of fundraising was just to put us in a financial position [as a club] that would allow us to offer football at an affordable rate. It meant that we didn’t have to raise our fees in a world where lots of other costs are increasing.
How do you think that digital fundraising could benefit other clubs?
For me, it just feels like a win-win situation for both the clubs and the people doing [entering] it. It’s a really easy way to engage. You don’t have to go around holding money tins like you did in the past, you don’t have to demand a response from people in the immediacy. It’s something that can be put in front of people, and they can interact with on their own terms. I think that’s actually a really powerful tool for people because, personally, I feel like I would be more inclined to engage with something that I could look at, understand, and then make a decision about. I think digital works really well because it gives people time and space to make decisions.
For me, I always think that giving to good causes (and I of course think the East Surrey Hawks is one of the best causes that you can give to!) is a really personal choice that you make. We’d all love to give to all of the charities that we get asked to give to on a daily basis. But the reality is, of course, we can’t actually make a donation to everything that we’re asked to support. People have to be given a little bit of space to go away and choose which are the ones that are most important to them.
Clubs can find out more about staging their own raffles to raise funds and offer great prizes to supporters, by clicking here.