A set of three bases can easily run $200, not to mention another $50 for home plate. A pitching machine—often necessary for machine pitch leagues for younger players who have graduated from T-ball—can range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. The average cost of a helmet is about $25; considering you need at least six per team, and if there are 40 teams across the age divisions in your organization, you are looking at $6,000 to protect the players’ noggins. A dozen game balls can approach $50.
This is just a smattering of the expenses a youth baseball league faces—and we haven’t even approached umpire fees, field rental, or financial assistance for players (because no child should miss out just because his or her family can’t afford it). Registration fees often do not cover everything a league, in any sport, requires to operate successfully, efficiently, and safely. Fundraising is essential to help fill the gaps. Many organizations turn to candy sales, raffle tickets, and their concession stands to raise money, but there are plenty of other options available as well. Here are some additional fundraising ideas to consider for your youth league:
Work the Community
Many youth league directors already are brilliant at this, but it’s worth repeating: The local community is one of your greatest assets for fundraising. And nearby businesses often are more than willing to help; after all, your organization’s families buy sports equipment from them, eat at their restaurants after games, or patronize their stores after remembering their banners hanging from the outfield fences. Sponsorships are great, and often, these businesses will donate even more to the outstanding cause that is your league.
Stage an ‘-athon’
The concept is simple: Athletes collect pledges for how many laps their track team runs, or how many innings played in an all-day, all-league game, or how many free throws they can make in a “Shoot-athon,” and so on. Obviously, no single team is going to play all day, but with multiple teams and multiple athletes, everyone contributes in an event that is great socially and financially. Some websites are available that will facilitate the pledge raising, though they often take a small percentage of the proceeds to do so. Whether you choose this route or not, emphasize to the kids that it’s their sweat that is helping raise money.
Hosting league-wide clinics for a nominal fee (for example, $10) gives your athletes a chance to learn new skills and have fun while also raising money from those fees. Enlist the help of local pro athletes, as well as coaches from the high school, college, and even pro ranks of nearby teams. Tabbing an NBA All-Star might be a tall order, but minor league players are often more than happy to donate their time. Promote the clinics on your league’s homepage, and send emails and texts reminding parents of the events. Besides raising money, you are showing the families in your organization that the league is committed to the kids’ improvement and success.
Barbecues and Fun Days
Your youth league might hold an Opening Day party or an end-of-season event to celebrate the beginning and close of the season, respectively. Turn these events into fundraisers. Offer raffles for the kids (and paid for the by parents!), with prizes donated by local businesses. Sell food your concession stand normally wouldn’t make during the season, such as barbecue ribs or tacos. Offer baserunning contests and home run derbies—for a $1 entry free, with a guaranteed small prize (a pin or a piece of candy, for example), a hundred participating kids equal almost $100 raised. Run a dunk tank (the use of, hopefully, is donated by a local organization or business) or a pie throw with coaches as the volunteer victims—your players will definitely pay for that opportunity! These events are great celebrations for the community and raise money for the league. And they don’t have to be at the beginning or end of the year: You can stage one anytime during the season. Be sure to post pictures on your organization’s website so your families know how much fun their kids had while strengthening the league.
What unique fundraising method is successful for your league?