Match Racing Manual Part 4: Marketing and Funding

This is the fourth of an eight-part series compiled by the US Match Racing Committee (with help from Chicago Match Race Center, one of our sponsors.) You can start from the beginning with Part 1. If you want all of it at once, you can download the entire series as a PDF.

How to Market and Fund Your Campaign

By Alice Manard Leonard

There’s no question about it: match racing can get expensive! The cost of entry fees, team travel expenses, team gear and the occasional lost damage deposit add up quickly. Even for a team competing regionally at the Grade 4/5 level, this expense can be daunting. Outside of the professional ranks, most match racers expect to use their personal funds to cover at least a portion of the expense. However, there are many sources of fnan- cial support that can be tapped into to help offset some of the expense. These include individual donors, yacht clubs or foundations that support sailors.

The frst step in marketing your campaign is identifying the targets for your marketing efforts. The most effective channels are those with which you have a personal connection. This can include individuals you know personally, your yacht club(s) or foundations in your area. These should be your frst line of marketing targets. Secondarily, you should consider targets where you might not have as strong of a connection, but there is some reason to believe they may be interested in supporting your campaign. And fnally, mass marketing will help build your team ‘brand’ and could generate future leads as your team progresses.

How to fundRegardless of who you are targeting, you’ll need to get organized in order to effectively market your campaign. This starts with the basics: team goals and objectives, schedule, budget, and team member bios. Your goals, objectives and team member bios can be publicized on a team website or Facebook page for a wider audience to see. Your schedule and budget don’t necessarily need to be publically available, but should be ready to provide to prospective donors at any time.

When it comes to developing marketing materials, there is no substitute for great photos of your team in action on the race course. And the best sailing shots are of teams that look sharp in their team gear. Even if you aren’t a pro, it pays to look like one! In addition to making for better pictures, team gear is also more likely to attract the eye of the on-the-water photographers at events, which increases your chances of getting those great action shots you need. Try to get a yacht club, foundation or local retailer to provide at least team shirts or pinnies. Otherwise, the cost of a few shirts/pinnies to make your team look sharp is well worth it.

Once you have your team’s marketing materials developed, it’s time to make the “ask”. When deciding who to ask, how much to ask for, and how to ask, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Warm up to it: Get to know the donor/foundation/yacht club rep and familiarize them with your match racing efforts before making the ask. Once they are familiar with and enthusiastic about your campaign, then approach them with your funding request.
  • Face to face: Whenever possible, make your request in person. It’s easy for someone to say no to you over email or to discard something mailed to them. It’s much harder to say no to your smiling, enthusiastic face!
  • Ask for a specifc amount: It’s helpful to donors if you give them guidance on how much you would like them to con- tribute. If they are going to donate to your campaign, they will take your guidance into consideration and then decide how much to donate. It may be less than you asked for, but at least you set the bar at your target fgure. If you don’t provide them with guidance, you could end up leaving money on the table if the donor underestimates your objec- tives. And, if they aren’t going to donate anyway, then there is no harm done by asking for an amount.
  • Don’t take “no” personally: Fundraising is tough and can be awkward for a lot of people. And you will get many more “no’s” than “yes’s”. Keep in mind that the “no’s” aren’t personal. Donors may have already made all of their commitments for the year. Or they may not be in a position to fnancially support you at this time. But by maintaining those connections even after a “no”, you can build a strong, enthusiastic fan base. And who knows what might happen down the road.
  • Remember “thank you”: Hand-written thank you notes to every donor, regardless of the amount they contribute, are a great way to show your appreciation for their support. Take the time to write a short, personal note to every donor, let- ting them know how their contribution helped your team (regatta results/anecdotes, etc.). Fundraising is about building relationships; and a timely, sincere thank-you note is one of the key building blocks.

When your campaign is up and running, social media is a great way to keep your supporters up to date on your progress. Email updates can be useful as well, but after a long day on the water it’s often hard to summon the energy to write a recap of your day. Social media allows you to quickly and effectively provide a large audience with quick updates, links to results, etc.