Tennis Industry magazine

 

Community Tennis: Use ‘Crowd Funding’ to Help With Your Next Tennis Project

By George Lowe

Let’s say you want to resurface the tennis courts in your town. The contractors are saying that it’s going to cost $70,000. You may be able to secure up to $10,000 through the USTA’s facility assistance program. But how do you raise the other $60,000? In the past, it might have looked like this:

  1. Gather all the tennis advocates in your area.
  2. Plan a fundraiser
  3. Invite all those in the area with the resources to make your project happen.
  4. Lobby city officials and parks committee members.
  5. Hope that it works out or know someone with the means to make it happen that also happens to owe you a favor.

Many communities are faced with these tasks when working on funding a tennis project, but the process could take months, or even years. And until lately, there were few alternatives.

But at least one community has turned toward crowd funding, and to be more specific, “crowd-granting,” as the answer. That community is Charlotte, Mich., a small town in mid-Michigan with about 9,000 residents. The town has four tennis courts at Bennett Park, and that’s where everything happens, from high school tennis matches to summer community tennis programs.

But the Bennett Park courts have been slowly deteriorating. Because of that, the high school teams have been spending more time playing away matches instead of at home. Something needed to change, and that’s when the tennis community took action.

As the Tennis Service Rep for the area, I received a call from Michael Clark, a local tennis advocate and parent helping to bring the issue of tennis-court repairs to the city. His initiative led him to Emily Williamson and city councilwoman Yvonne Ridge. Clark and I met to complete the USTA’s facility assistance form, then discussed funding resources. He told me about the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and their ability to match funds for qualified civic projects. In the case of Charlotte, it was a 50 percent match, so if Charlotte could find $35,000, the MEDC would match it for the grand total of $70,000.

And this is where crowd-funding came in.

Crowd funding is a way to solicit low-dollar donations from a high number of donors, using an online social media campaign and one of crowd-funding’s many platforms. According to www.crowdfunding.com, the No. 1 crowd-funding site is GoFundMe, which raised $470 million in 2014. Next is Kickstarter, at $444 million, then, in order, Indiegogo, TeeSpring and Patreon.

Each platform has a unique aspect to it, so if you’re considering crowd-funding your tennis project, make sure you shop around to decide which may be your best option. Some may require a partnership with your local economic development corporation or other resource.

So how does crowd-funding work? First, go to the site and create an account for your project. Next, complete a project application online to get approved. Your application should include a description of the project, your fundraising goal and timeline (for instance, the average campaign on Patronicity, another crowd-funding site, lasts nine weeks).

Then through the use of social media, a video, pictures and back-story, which you develop for your project, spread the word and ask people to donate money. In some cases, your crowd-funding platform will do some extra legwork for you and qualify your project for a grant match, like Patronicity did for Charlotte Tennis.

Most crowd-funding sites charge a service fee of 5 percent to 15 percent. But some offer your donors the ability to cover this service fee as part of their donation. If you do not raise the funds in your allotted time frame, the money will be refunded to the donors. In Charlotte, the successful crowd-funding campaign means resurfacing will begin this spring.

Crowd funding is a viable resource for fundraising for all tennis projects that is free in most cases and simple to execute. Through the power of the Internet and social media, people can now become a donor to your project at a level that makes sense to them. And, if you want, you can take a break from planning expensive fundraisers.

George Lowe is the Tennis Service Representative for Michigan in the USTA Midwest Section.

 

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