Cracked helmets. Torn jerseys. Deflated basketballs. Athletic departments and sports organizations across the country are in desperate need of fundraising.
This is where Scott McMaster, a fundraising coach at Adrenaline Fundraising, and his team come in. He has built a successful career in sports sales while teaching athletic organizations how to run effective fundraising campaigns.
We spoke with him to learn more about what it takes to work in sports sales, how the athletic fundraising world is evolving, and what you need to do to build your successful sports career. Here is what he had to say to sports job seekers:
A Dollar Short
McMaster played a lot of sports growing up, so athletic fundraising hits close to home for him. In his junior year of high school, his coach tried to get the team new uniforms:
Our team wasn’t very good, but with new jerseys, we could feel like a real team. Our coach tried to order new uniforms, but we didn’t have enough in the budget.
Instead, we had to wear our practice jerseys, which were white cotton shirts with red letters, to every game. We even had to ask every opposing team to wear their dark colored jerseys during all of our games.
Getting Into Sports
As an avid sports fan and former athlete, McMaster jumped at the opportunity to join Adrenaline Fundraising. He wanted to make a difference for those teams that struggle like his team did:
I found rewarding work in sports when my friend told me about this fundraising job at Varsity Gold. This was shortly after the recession, which caused Varsity Gold, a nation-wide fundraising company, to file for bankruptcy. The company even stopped paying their representatives.
Adrenaline Fundraising rose from the ashes, with about a dozen of the best reps in the country. Over the course of 10 years, we grew to over 100 reps.
This career move was perfect for me. First of all, I’ve always loved sports. Plus, I really enjoy meeting new people and talking, which is why I have always thrived in sales as a top seller.
The Day-to-Day Obstacles
Fundraising for a sports organization is an incredibly rewarding experience, but, as McMaster pointed out, there are several challenges you’re sure to face:
Our biggest issue is showing coaches who have had bad experiences with fundraising companies in the past to trust the process. Unfortunately, there are lots of fly-by-night companies in the fundraising industry. They only push for sales, without focusing on helping their clients succeed.
On the other hand, here at Adrenaline Fundraising, we are very hands-on. We take on fewer clients so we can give each team the time and attention they need to hit their fundraising goals.
Once we show coaches how we are different, we need to get them to fully buy into the process. Understandably, coaches are often spread thin, between day jobs, their family life, and coaching. However, they need to be fully engaged.
Cutting corners on fundraising is like not adding sugar when you’re baking cookies — the results suffer. The cookie just doesn’t taste like a cookie.
That being said, most coaches are coachable. They understand how to take feedback and direction and are often very committed to moving forward.
Where Fundraising Is Heading
McMaster highlighted that while funding continues to dry up, schools and organizations are left needing more equipment:
Since I started, over the last 10 years, high school budgets continued to shrink, which is especially hard because their needs are increasing. Nowadays, there are concussion protocols in football, and just generally speaking, safety precautions are causing teams to need more safety equipment, like pads and helmets.
On top of that, companies like Nike and Under Armour are using excellent marketing strategies to make coaches and sports organization professionals want newer jerseys. After all, nicer jerseys help improve the attitude of the players and can make recruiting players easier. The needs and wants of sports organizations are on the rise, which means we can provide more value to them.
How to Find Work In Sports Sales and Fundraising
Through years of experience, McMaster knows what it takes to land work in sports and build a successful career in athletic fundraising and sales:
The thing I love the most about working in sales — whatever you put into it, you get out of it, which includes your earning potential. In other words, you can grow at you own pace.
With that being said, the one consistent characteristic I see in every successful professional I know is the ability to grind. You need to be willing to go out and do the work. The more people you meet and see, the more successful you’ll be.
Here at Adrenaline Fundraising, we have a servant attitude with our clients. We want to serve our coaches and teams and raise them more money in less time. This value aligns with my personal values, too.
As a job seeker, you need to do your homework. When applicants come in without any knowledge of the company, it doesn’t look good. That’s why you need to research and get creative.
Step outside the job search process and connect with the employer. When we have candidates call our corporate offices to ask questions, that means something. We notice that effort.
Cover letters that are specific to the company and show how the applicant fits corporate values stand out. Especially when those candidates follow up.
People who work in sports sales and fundraising share a tenacity and strong sense of passion for delivering value and supporting their clients. If you have these qualities and share their love for sports, you’re destined to thrive in your career.