Communication key if clubs are to stay in the black

It’s a scenario that’s become depressingly familiar to members of sports clubs all over the country.

The club treasurer, or registrar, or someone in authority at least, discovers there’s a shortfall in the organisation’s finances, calls a meeting to discuss it, and the next morning the members gird their loins for a fundraising drive: a raffle, a benefit night, a new surge in selling the club lottery tickets. That’ll get the club back on its feet, right? Wrong. That’s their first mistake. What they should really do initially is nothing. A chat with Warren Healy of myclubfinances.com helped show the logic to that inertia.

“Every club is struggling to raise money,” he said. “Typically there’s a meeting on a Thursday night when the club officers realise they need to raise money, and they’ll ring us on Friday to activate our system to do that.

“Typically we will do everything we can to stop the club doing that there and then.”

Almost 700 clubs use the myclubfinances system, which does exactly what it says on the tin — it helps clubs in all sports to raise funds.

But the system also facilitates communication between clubs and members, or organisations and those contributing to it, such as GAA county boards or national governing bodies like Irish Squash. It originated in Healy’s home club in Carna, Galway and became so successful the neighbouring club decided to ask how it was done, and it grew from there until it became a nationwide phenomenon.

Healy stresses though, that communication is an integral part of the process and always has been. Keeping people informed about what’s going on in the club and what’s being done with their money is critical. If that isn’t done it’s hard to keep them contributing to the cause.

“We found that what helped clubs to do well had nothing to do with population, membership numbers or location,” says Healy. “I’m from Carna in Connemara, a very small club, but we were doing better than some of the big clubs in Cork city, for instance.

“We surveyed the people on our system, people who’d already contributed once to their sports club, and we found that one-third of them weren’t doing so currently. When we asked why, the top reasons were that they didn’t know what was going on in the club, they didn’t know what the club was doing with the money, and they were only contacted by the club when it was looking for money.”

Hence the suggested delays with raising money. Healy says they point out to clubs that they’re better off communicating what’s happening before asking people to contribute.

“We suggest the clubs tell people what they’re doing with the money they’ve received, the good that’s being done in the local community.

“A month or two down the line you can ask them for money, because they know what it’s being used for, and the clubs which listen to us are always more successful down the line.

“It’s a funny thing for a fundraising club to say, ‘hold your horses and think long term’.”

When his organisation holds seminars, Healy asks those in attendance whether they’re contributors to their clubs and whether they know what’s going on within their organisations.

By definition the answer is yes to both questions, because that’s the kind of person who’ll go out of an evening to find some way for his or her club to generate more funds.

But when Healy asks about other people who are more loosely associated with the clubs in question, invariably there’s a large constituency of people with some kind of affiliation to the club but who aren’t fully aware of everything the club is trying to do, on and off the field of play.

When the club gets to the nitty-gritty of fundraising, Healy says they’re better equipped with myclubfinances to avail of any slice of luck that falls their way. He instances Killybegs GAA club in Donegal, who built up their membership database, reaching out to ex-pats all over the world, and reaped the benefits financially when they raffled off two All-Ireland senior football final tickets this year. Then there’s the Limerick GAA club which hit on the idea of offering a cup of tea and a biscuit to the parents dropping off their kids for underage training on Tuesdays and Thursdays to try to integrate them, as well as their children, into the club. Healy and colleagues will be making a presentation on their work in the Rochestown Park Hotel tomorrow night at seven o’clock. Admission is free, but if you can’t make it, try myclubfinances.com or ring them on 091 506 048.

You could just try raising money the way you’ve always done, but why not try something new?

* michael.moynihan@examiner.ie Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

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