Sports Club Management Expo, Melbourne 2013
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Crowdfunding: The future of sport fundraising
The Sports Club Management Expo is Australia's largest second annual grassroots sports conference run by Sports Club Management Expo Australia, aimed at uniting local sports clubs with businesses in order to help clubs boost participation rates and streamline management.

This year, SCME has invited a selection of crowdfunding startup companies, whose primary interest is sports, to exhibit at the event. These businesses - Team Bus, Fanfuel and InYourCorner - work to provide clubs with innovative community-based fundraising solutions.

"We're really happy to have these startups attend our event because of the unique opportunities they provide local clubs," says Alex Mednis, founder of Sports Club Management Expo Australia. "We're sure that clubs will get a lot out of it on the day."

What is crowdfunding?

crowdfunding and sports "Crowdfunding sites use the power of the internet to help share fundraising projects among communities," says Martin of Team Bus. "People and organisations call on a collective of donors to help fund projects."

"Essentially lots of people contribute small amounts of money - which quickly adds up to a large amount of money - to fund campaigns for which contributors receive a non-monetary reward," explains Nicole from InYourCorner.

Each of the startups exhibiting at the conference has their own take on crowdfunding. Team Bus "allows any sports club or athlete to create a fundraising page to raise money for a project," explains Martin. "We are proud to be engaging to all sports at all different levels and have run campaigns for AFL Clubs, disabled athletes, local sporting clubs and junior athletes. And we are different to many crowdfunding sites in that fundraisers keep all funds raised, irrespective of whether they reach their fundraising target." Meanwhile, Fanfuel is more than just a crowdfunding platform; their mission "is to transform the sponsorship industry into a fan-led community where people decide what they want to watch, what athletes deserve to get the backing they need and what events they would like to go to," says Dan. And InYourCorner utilises the power of social media to deliver their goals - "we aim to leverage the key elements of sport such as passion and emotional connections, and channel them to completely revolutionise the way sports people and supporters connect," shares Nicole.

The unique nature of crowdfunding means that it is fast proving to be an incredibly effective and engaging form of fundraising for community sporting groups. "What's exciting about participating and helping a crowdfunding campaign is that you are actively participating in the success story of something you believe in," says Dan of Fanfuel. "The mix of technology and social culture makes it attractive to today’s consumers who spend time connecting digitally," reasons Nicole.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new initiative. "Having worked in the sports industry for over 15 years I have had first-hand experience of the pressures of raising funds for both grass roots and elite sports," reflects Nicole. "It became obviously to me that relying predominantly on government funding and sponsorship was not going to provide the financial resources required to support the sports industry moving forward." Martin speaks from 10 years in the AFL injury: "We saw what crowdfunding was doing to raise money for so many different causes and saw that no-one was really using crowdfunding for sport." And Dan believes that the athlete sponsorship industry has ground to a halt: "The world, on the other hand, has become a hyperconnected network of people that are dictating the future of businesses and entire categories. So why not apply that into the sports sponsorship industry?"

The challenges

crowdfunding and sports "There is a lot of work involved from creating your goal to actually getting funded," explains Dan. "The campaign creators have to shape their goals in a way that anyone who sees their campaign feels motivated to contribute." The campaigners also need to consistently keep on top of their efforts, says Nicole: "They need to provide regular updates, attempt to generate media opportunities and to be active in the social media space over a period of time to continually share their journey." Martin agrees: "Some potential customers have gone cold on the idea of running a campaign when they realise that they have to put some work into it." The newness of the crowdfunding concept is also considered a stumbling block for some: "Some clubs can be hesitant about trying it, particularly when the final decision about running a campaign comes before a committee," says Martin.

And the combination of being a startup and providing donations for sports presents some unique difficulties. "There are lots of legal issues around starting up a website that collects donations, particularly when those donations are being delivered to third parties," shares Martin. Resources are often scarce when first starting up a business, as Nicole explains: "There is always a fine line in terms of how much time and money can be invested in an entrepreneurial concept." And Dan echoes the collective goal of crowdfunding startups: "Our biggest challenge is to differ ourselves from big crowdfunding platforms out there."

Still, the response has been extremely positive for the startups offering this service. "We are continuously getting encouraging emails from people that are using the platform," shares Dan. "There has been a clear level of excitement at the anticipation of unearthing new revenue sources," agrees Nicole. Martin says Team Bus's results speak for themselves: "We have run 15 projects so far and had over 1,000 people donate to projects." And Nicole describes the many exciting projects that InYourCorner has in the pipeline, including initiatives for "ex-Olympians, mumpreneurs, not for profit organisations and local sporting clubs".

Success stories

crowdfunding and sports Team Bus were key in helping Paralympians Shelley Chaplin and Leanne Del Toso raise nearly $13,000 to cycle around Fiji, and Fanfuel helped propel Jhonathan Florez, a skilled wingsuit pilot, towards funding his dream project.

So it's no surprise that clubs stand to get a lot out of getting on board with crowdfunding. "In addition to raising funds, crowdfunding is also a great way to engage a community, build profile for sports and encourage others to participate in sport," explains Martin. Dan elaborates on the importance of making a campaign easily accessible: "We made sure the campaign page is easy to share around using social media in order to increase the chances of success." And Nicole believes that positive outcomes will be contagious: "The success of those who are willing to try something new will encourage others to give it a go."

Finally, our startups have some advice for clubs looking to engage with crowdfunding. All three agree that the best way to drum up support is to engage your audience. Dan suggests "having a strong online marketing strategy for your campaign, and connecting on a personal level with your audience". Nicole reflects on the emotional connections that sport is able to create: "Harnessing these connections through stronger engagement with supporters is the secret to future success."

SCME hopes that clubs will take advantage of the great opportunities presented to them by these startups at SCME this year: "Clubs should take the time to check out the crowdfunding solutions that are out there, and see how they can help them," says Mednis. "Fundraising is an essential part of running a successful club, and crowdfunding is definitely a great way of tapping into community support for clubs, and helping the club realise their potential."

The Sports Club Management Expo is being held in Melbourne on Sunday, November 17, at the State Library of Victoria. For more information, visit http://melb.scme.org.au.
Teresa Published by Teresa Simonetti, Sports Club Management Expo Australia.
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