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Team Bus founder Martin Cox explains the rationale behind a crowdfunding site for sports clubs and athletes, which aims to revolutionise sports fundraising in Australia.


Crowdfunding has become somewhat of an online revolution over the past two years. The world has watched with admiration as sites like Kickstarter have created a new platform for creative industries to generate revenue for projects and ideas that may not otherwise have received the funding they deserved.
 
Theoretically, crowdfunding is not a new concept. For as long as there have been ideas there have been people willing to help fund them. But the internet, combined with a changing economy, have reverted people to seek small contributions from many (‘the crowd’), rather than relying solely on banks or investors to fund projects.

"Fundraising incentives used to raise money for high profile sporting organisations can be mirrored across sporting clubs at any level."

The dollars being generated by crowdfunding are 21st-century numbers too. At the time of writing, Kickstarter has raised over $326 million and has been home to 13 individual campaigns that have raised over $1 million each.
 
To date, most of the major crowdfunding platforms have facilitated creative and technology projects. This isn’t surprising. Digital ventures are naturally aligned to new ways of communicating and raising money, while those involved in mediums like film, music and performing arts operate in an economically volatile environment where they are often forced to find new ways to fund their projects. What works in their favour is that because they are professional creatives, they also have the ability to share their narrative in a way that appeals to potential donors.
 
Just as Facebook and Twitter paved the way for niche social networking sites, we are sure to see a number of niche crowdfunding sites emerge in the near future. One of the more interesting ones already to emerge is OffBeatr, a crowdfunding site dedicated to ‘adult projects’ (I advise that you don’t Google that one if you are currently on a work computer!).
 
 
Now that crowdfunding has become the fundraiser of choice for inventors, filmmakers and fashion designers I came to ask: ‘why should it be any different for the footy club that needs new facilities or an athlete who needs to cover travel expenses?’
 
In Australia, there are few things that people are more passionate about than sport, which led me to realise that crowdfunding and sport is a perfect union.
 
In ten years of working in the AFL industry, I was involved in running fundraising campaigns ranging from ‘meat tray’-style raffles (which may have been primitive in concept, but were capable of raising thousands of dollars) to lavish dinners and fundraising campaigns that raised millions of dollars.
 
However, every fundraising activity shared three common triggers that encourage supporters to donate: recognition, exclusivity and experiences.
 
I have a saying that “if money can’t buy it, sports clubs can sell it”. The platforms for ‘selling’ inner sanctum experiences have generally been raffles, auctions, events and sponsorship. All of these means are proven to work well but crowdfunding provides a low cost opportunity of reaching a large audience.
 
Recognition, exclusivity and ‘inner sanctum’ experiences are relatively easy to activate in a club that boasts high profile athletes, world class sporting facilities and mass media exposure, so the question must be asked, ‘how can this apply to grassroots sport clubs and athletes who need to raise money?’
 
The answer is that the model need not be different. Fundraising incentives that are used to raise money for high profile sporting organisations can be mirrored across sporting clubs at any level. 

Case 1 - Football Club
An AFL club may offer a supporter who has donated a five-figure sum the chance to sit in their coaches’ box for a game to provide a unique insight into the club. At a local footy club, the only thing unique about sitting in the coaches’ box is the colourful language and leaky roof. Instead they can provide an experience such as allowing a top donor to present a trophy at the club’s best and fairest count.

Case 2 - Surf Club
A car dealer provides a local pro surfer with a car to travel to surfing events around the country. In exchange, the surfer takes the local car dealer for a surf every time he returns home (even though it is not in their sponsorship agreement). A local surfer or surf lifesaving club, on the other hand, may be better suited to running a crowdfunding campaign to help purchase a new vehicle. A suitable reward for such a campaign could be a beginner’s surfing class for donors (or even better, for their children).
 
In both of these cases the second reward would be hard to attach to a tangible value to. But the amateur clubs have created an equal - if not greater - emotional bond with their supporters.
 
Crowdfunding, through a site like Team Bus (which will launch late this year), provides a unique fundraising platform that can work for sports clubs and athletes without bias to size or ambition.
 
While many crowdfunding campaigns rely on rewarding donors with physical products or experiences, Team Bus works with clubs and athletes to reward donors with emotional incentives.