What are some ways to Fundraise for FRC?

Hello, my name is Lewis. I’m currently the admin lead and co-captain of team 3024, and we are having an extremely difficult time figuring out how to fundraise.

Our team nearly fell apart for the last 2 years, and through that we have lost all of our experienced mentors and team members. Additionally, we had no admin and fundraising team for the past 2 years, so I have been rebuilding this section of our team from scratch (this section of our team used to be run by a minimum of 4 people per year). On top of fundraising, I am also a co-captain, so I don’t have nearly as much time as I would like to dedicate to anything other than making sure the team as a whole runs smoothly and communicates, and we are the only FRC team in the area (the closest team to us is 2+ hours away) so we have no local teams to reach out to for support.

We have done some fundraising through donations (which is difficult in our area since our area and school is very arts focused and often doesn’t care much for STEM), which has gotten us enough to get by, but barely, and every part of our team is really feeling the strain of the lack of money.

Does anyone have any advice on how to fundraise? It’s largely too late to fundraise for this season, but I want to set up the next year in a better place than where we started this year, and we will need to get more money if we want to even try to go to districts.

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Applying for grants is one of the best ways to cover the cost of registration each year. I would look into the grants NASA and Boeing offer. They are the only reason my team is able to attend two regionals this year.

Another great way to get donations is to offer presentations for businesses interested in the program. They can be anything from engineering firms to small automotive shops. I know Ashwood is a pretty small town, but that just means you need to open up your outreach to larger towns nearby like Madras. I am sure there is someone there who wants to support the program. A large part of my team’s donations come from out of town, some even out of state. The businesses don’t even need to be industry related either, banks are a great example.

And finally, it’s never too late to fundraise! About half of our fundraising is done during the season. If you have business specific people, it’s actually one of the best times to fundraise since you can bring the donors in and show them exactly what the team does and what it needs etc. We do our best to put on a robot reveal event for the community that gives a tour of the shop, what we do, and most importantly, the shiny new robot. Anything that moves and makes noise generates major interest within the community. I see on your website that you participate in the festival of lights parade. That is a perfect way to spread awareness of team. Demos at other open events like car shows, fairs, etc. Do similar things for the team.

It seems like your team is already on track to do well. Good luck this season!

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Hey, I’m Jasmine and I’m a part of a community team. Something we did to fundraise this year was a BBQ ticket event. If there are any BBQ restaurants in your area, try to talk to your coach about talking with the owner! Another thing you can do is make a design for fan shirts and try to sell them to family/friends/supporters, you can also ask for sponsorships from businesses in your area.

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There are lots of places to find resources:
Rush Toolkit for success: https://www.teamrush27.net/resources/toolkit-for-success
Compass Alliance: https://www.thecompassalliance.org/Pathways/Fundraising

I would suggest getting some documents together that you can talk to area businesses. Great dollars per hour effort especially if you can get with relevant businesses. If the goal is Fundraising be sure to keep that Dollars per hour at top of mind and starting with high value activities as your bandwidth allows. If you need or want to additionally do outreach or recuitment efforts that may also fundraise that is another thing to weigh.

Also I would suggest the Gene Haas Foundation as
“low hanging fruit”: ghf_first_sae_competitions

The easiest fundraiser we’ve done is the Kroger Community Rewards program. In Oregon, I believe the stores may be called Fred Meyer or Albertson’s.
An adult mentor sets up a digital account at the wobsite linked above - I think they’ll need a W-9 for that (your school treasurer can provide that) - and that’s pretty much it. Parents and other team supporters can go on the same wobsite to link their shopper’s rewards card to your organization, and a percentage of all money spent goes to the team. No extra money, no extra paperwork, just get a check about once a quarter.

Hi Lewis! I am also co-captain and fundraising lead of my team (8230). We have had a TON of luck with our yard work fundraiser.
Essentially, we reach out to those in our community about doing yard work. Generally, we do mulching, weeding, racking, planting, and the occasional fence painting. We do not charge a set amount of money for each job, but rather let those we help choose how much to ‘donate’. We average about $300 per job. We send 4+ students and a mentor (for supervision) for ~4 hours of work. We have been able to get a consistent customer base over the past few years and have many returning clients each fall and spring. We do one round of work in the fall (October through the end of November) and one round in the spring after all our competitions (typically starting in April and going to June). All of our jobs are done on the weekend. On a good weekend, we have 8 jobs (2 Saturday morning, 2 Saturday afternoon, 2 Sunday morning, and 2 Sunday afternoon). The most we ever made in one weekend was $1.5k. Typically, we have 3-5 jobs a weekend and make $800-1k.

We have had a ton of success with this and it has also led us to create some really meaningful connections with those in our community. Most of our clients are either elderly folks who are too old to do the work themselves, or young families with not enough time.

I won’t lie, it is a lot of work to get this working efficiently. I spend ~10 hours per week during these fundraising periods just on coordinating jobs, emailing clients, assigning students to jobs, etc. However, it means we can raise enough money to ‘comfortably’ (you can never have enough money in FRC) build our bot and compete.

I would be happy to give you more information about how we run this and coordinate between clients, students, etc and help you get it going for your own team if you are interested.

On a somewhat related note, kids don’t particularly like yard work. However, we’ve found the best way to get them excited about it is to really ensure they understand that this money they are raising is gonna go to an awesome season of robotics. And if it is something you care about, this type of fundraising will also weed out students who are only barely interested in the team.

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In addition to what is mentioned above, talk to your team’s parents. If they work at a larger company there might be a grant system the company uses to donate to local charities and/or there might be a donation matching system. If they work at a smaller company they might be able to help you get into the door to ask for a sponsorship.

Also when looking for sponsorships don’t limit yourself to just tech or mechanical shops, many local restaurants support local sports teams and with the sales pitch (and poster) would support a robotics team.

Because of the small team that we have or other reasons( like our coaches who don’t speak english) we don’t always have the ressources to write something and get grants like every one said here. On the other hand, we decided a few years back to start collecting bottles and cans at first but then it extended to scrap metal and broken machines. We use those to teach kids how to use basic tools while they extract copper and other valuable materials from them. We manage to get 2k CAD with each per good year so 4k CAD total.

You have a couple of important assets in your community. (We stayed in Ashland twice last summer.) First, the community and the parents are relatively well off. Second, you have a state university. I suggest these four specific actions:

  1. Have a parent night with food in September. You bring them to your shop, give them a tour led by students in smaller groups, serve them dinner (which is a big attractant), and then walk through the upcoming season. Include a presentation on the team budget (yes, you’ll need to prepare one) showing the average cost per team member, and then ask them to pledge to make a voluntary donation. You will get an average of several hundred dollars per family, and it adds up. (Note that we cover our students’ travel costs so our parents are avoiding that cost.)

  2. Run Robocamps during the summer. Easiest to target 4th -8th grades. Parents are looking for camp opportunities. Find out what the average cost for a week long camp is in your town. Arrange with your school to have access to your shop or to a classroom for the summer. There are several robot platforms available and 1678 has a guidebook on how to run and manage camps in one way. Your camps will fill up quickly once they are publicized. (And it helps if you also run a youth robotics league in the fall.) This is now are single largest revenue source.

  3. Approach the engineering department at the university (pre-engineering in your case) and ask for both sponsorship and an introduction to either the university president or the chief advisor on STEM education. Make a pitch for funding as a pipeline to the university and as part of their community relations. (1678 has a Powerpoint we can share to give you ideas.)

  4. Hunt and apply for grants. We have a student dedicated to finding and submitting for grants. As you gather information for each you’ll find that it becomes easier. Many are now on essentially annual renewal.

These four items fund up to two-thirds of our annual budget. They are all big hits with minimal work–no yard or bake sales or door-to-door small business sponsors. Think about the effort your making for each dollar gained.

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Lots of great ideas above. The one thing I would add is:

Be seen in your community (ideally with your robot) and nearby communities.

Be in the 4th of July Parade and/or the homecoming parade. Go to elementary school science nights. Get invited to Cub Scout meetings. Be at the county and state fairs. Just about anything you can get yourself invited to – we even did an Asian Food Festival this year! (the food was awesome, I’m signing up to mentor that every year!)

If businesses remember seeing you or their kids came home and talked about you, that’s a huge plus. It will also help with recruiting.

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Maybe your school has established practices for sports team fundraising. That is useful because there may be legal or policy concerns to navigate. There may even be specific statements, banking, and filings.

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Could I see the presentation that you have for pitching to the engineering department at a university?

I would also be interested in seeing this

Looks like your area is QFC. Easiest fundraiser ever.

Though I haven’t been directly involved with fundraising/sponsorship myself, I will say one thing that’s helped our team a great deal is building personal relationships with people (particularly business owners) in the community and gaining sponsorships from those relationships.

Our team is from a fairly small town which would ordinarily make finding sponsors more difficult, but the one advantage to it is that everyone knows everyone and there’s a strong sense of community “pride?” (for lack of a better term). As a result members of our teams leadership have built personal relationships outside of robotics with a number of individuals throughout the community that have allowed us to connect with funding sources that might not otherwise be as accessible.

Another avenue is to involve students parents with this process. Often times we find parents who either are business owners themselves, or have connections to businesses that they work at or otherwise that can act as a great foot in the door to fundraising opportunities. Likewise, be open to accepting even small in-kind donations from new sponsors as this can act as a foundation for a future relationship with them. We’ve had parents who’ve wanted to get their workplaces involved donate even just a few boxes of safety glasses from their work (which, while always handy, we didn’t necessarily need at the time) which is enough to build a relationship and potentially engage them in the future for further support.

Lastly, when you do get sponsors involved with the team, make sure to keep them informed and involve them in the teams progress. We invite our sponsors out to our build site throughout the year (including during build season) to check on our progress and see what we’re working on, both individually by appointment, or as part of various sponsor events we put on throughout the year.

Fundraising for a robotics team can be practically a full time job (and I’m not sure I’d wish it on anyone), but it’s definitely necessary for a successful program, so good luck!

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