Garth Brooks once said this about high school sports: “That smell of freshly cut grass makes me think of Friday night football in high school. The smell of popcorn…reminds me of the stadium. The cutting of the grass reminds me of the August practice.”

But even before that smell of fresh-cut grass and the sight of high-school athletes beginning their grueling double days in the summer, there are coaches, school officials, and parents who have something else on their minds: fundraising.

And for good reason. Fundraising for high-school organizations, whether football, cheer-leading, or the marching band, presents its own unique challenges:

Sports are expensive organizations to maintain.

Some of the most popular sports, like football, require thousands of dollars to stay afloat each year, even for public schools that are trying to be thrifty. Uniforms, equipment, and grounds maintenance top the list of necessary upkeep for most high-school sports. In fact, some Chicago-area programs in recent years have paid over $100,000 a year to keep their football programs alive.

Schools are cutting their budgets.

Electro-Image-4-keytag-plastic-fundraiser-cardEven with much of the new and expensive educational technologies becoming the norm, schools now, more than ever, must be conscious of the money they’re spending and where their funds are allocated. In fact, in July 2015, the New Orleans public school system was experiencing so much strain in their budget that they laid off their athletic director.

The usual strategies don’t work for smaller groups.

If your sport or organization is a smaller group, sales-based fundraising can be difficult when you don’t have a large built-in network of families and friends connected to your athletes. Some schools simply have smaller communities, in which the traditional fundraising methods just aren’t as effective.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome all three of these major challenges. It begins with having the right kind of core philosophy behind your methods.

If you research the current trends in marketing today, one theme keeps coming up: customer-centric marketing. In other words, you not only present pitches to potential donors, you bring benefits to them that will make their lives better. You add value to their day-to-day existence by simply connecting them to your message.

This what’s-in-it-for-the-donor philosophy has filtered down into fundraising and produced one especially powerful tool: plastic fundraising discount cards.

Why Discount Cards Are All The Rage: A Quick Rundown

Electro-Image-plastic-card-3-keytagsLuckily, the concept isn’t as difficult as rocket science. Supporters in your community buy a fundraiser discount card from you, which has been designed with quality plastic (like a credit card) and has customized visual appeal. Then, your supporters can use the card in various places to get various benefits: discounts, deals, and special access.

The real strength of this idea is its versatility. Here at Electro Image, we’re proud of the quality and utility of our discount cards. Many schools take advantage of these for their sports fundraisers, but because these discount cards are so effective in marketing, we make them for a wide variety of other industries, too, including gym memberships, and loyalty cards for hair salons and grocery stores.

For your school fundraiser to be successful, using a plastic discount card is a great start. Next, you need to fit that card into an overall strategy that overcomes the three fundraising challenges we talked about earlier.

Tips For Smarter Fundraising: Use Your Discount Cards Effectively

To get started, it helps to think about the three different types of fundraising: event fundraising, product fundraising, and direct-appeal fundraising.

  • Event fundraising is good for organizations that need to raise money within a strict time-frame (since the money will come during the event), and who have the large organizational or volunteer resources to put on an event.
  • Product fundraisers, though their time-frame is less defined than events, can swell into large waves of revenue if you’re able to organize a large network of people who can sell the product.
  • Direct-appeal fundraisers rely on the support of your community. It is a simple, straightforward, and powerful method of fundraising when it is carefully planned, and uses the right resources. Part of this means that you’ll want to tell the story of your organization and team in a way that makes its value to the community obvious.

No matter which approach you take, there are ways to ensure success through your discount cards:

  • Recruit people in the community to promote cards. You can even give discount cards to your recruited promoters as an incentive for them to recruit a wider network of support.
  • Ask a local business with high foot traffic to partner with you to promote the campaign and even help sell discount cards that will benefit both their business and your campaign.

If you’re facing expensive sports-maintenance costs or budget cuts, the low cost-per-unit of discount cards when compared to their fundraising power, make it obvious why so many schools are utilizing plastic discount cards today.