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Do Amateur Athletes Need To Crowd Fund To Keep Their Dreams Afloat?

Do Amateur Athletes Need To Crowd Fund To Keep Their Dreams Afloat?

Posted by Dalton Higgins on February 17, 2014

When the world found out that the Jamaican Bobsled team would be making their return to the Winter Olympics stage in Sochi after a 12 year hiatus, and that they hadn’t secured the necessary financing to compete, the story became less about their skills on the track, or the novelty of seeing athletes from warmer climates compete in winter sports (with theme songs to go along with it – The Bobsled Song?) and more about the economics involved in many athletes around the globe trying to generate enough revenues to provide the basic necessities for themselves while they train. While Sochi Olympic organizers were able to cover the Jamaican bobsled teams travel costs, the other related costs including equipment had to raised through a series of other forward thinking crowd funding revenue generation schemes. In the end, through combined fundraising drives on Reddit, Dogecoin (comparable to Bitcoin) and the fan-based Crowdtilt, the Jamaican Bobsled team were able to raise just under 130k, far surpassing their original target of $80,000.

This idea of raising revenues independently of any private corporate donations or public monies and grants has been widely popularized in the music business over the last five years. In simple terms, the old model of musicians waiting around for a large or mid-sized multi-national conglomerate record label to swoop in and discover their band, and then sign them to a lucrative recording contract is so 90s. In turn, many bands started turning to popular crowd funding sites like Kickstarter to help them generate revenues from their fans and the general public to help pay for their recordings and touring.

Clearly, the crowd funding concept has really take off in all areas of life, as there are now projects in Canada like Project Greenlight that are looking to assist potential college and university students – who find post secondary education cost prohibitive – to launch campaigns to pre-fund their post-secondary education.

As a boxing fan, I had been following the fundraising campaign to support Dartmouth, Nova Scotia based welterweight boxer Custio Clayton in his journey to represent Canada at the forthcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He teamed up with Pursue It, a crowd funding site started up by two former athletes to help amateur athletes in Canada pay their bills. Clayton had set a fundraising goal of $11,000, and was able match and surpass his target by $535 (total amount raised was $11,535). For as little a donation as $25 Clayton offered to give donors a social media “shout out” on Twitter and Facebook, and to “e-mail you an update about my training...and send you a workout mix that’s popular in boxing gym”. For those with deeper pockets and hearts, for a donation in the higher echelon of $1000+, Clayton would deliver a private one-on-one training session at the City of Lakes Gym that he trains at, among other things.

In the amateur sports realm, these newer and innovative fund raising ploys raise a whole bunch of interesting ethical questions. For example, there have been those sporting advocates who have been consistently lobbying Canadian government sporting bodies to contribute a lot more to the actual costs of training an athlete so they can succeed at the international level. As athletes dive into these crowd funding schemes, many with little success (that largely goes unreported), do government funding bodies get off the hook now?

While these digital panhandling schemes help athletes retain much of their dignity rather than being forced to take on part-time jobs as event security (bouncers), electricians and/or retail sales staff to help pay the bills. It still takes a fair amount of work for their campaigns to become successful. Those athletes doing the ask through different crowd funding portals still have to keep track of what their donors are doing, and then buy, plan, create and/or schedule all of the incentives which they’ve offered up on the websites in exchange for a monetary contribution. If an athlete is offering to invite say 10 donors to their training camp, and then to sign and give away jerseys, tees or buttons, that all has to be arranged and planned for, and the crowd funding sites don’t offer up part-time staffers to help plan those logistics for you.

Some of the other down sides to some crowd funding site stipulations is that the person initiating the financial ask could wind up receiving no money if they fail to raise 100 percent of their target sum by their set target date. That being said, there are far too many upsides to not consider launching a crowd funding campaign to support your efforts as a broke amateur athlete. For example, if you launch a successful campaign that doubles or triples your actual costs, the rest of the money raised can go to miscellaneous things like paying for daycare (if you have a child), or investing in more upscale training equipment.

The crowd funding site that Clayton partnered up with ( with much success only takes a 15% cut from the overall funds raised, which is more than fair because he didn`t have to pay them upfront with his own monies to launch the campaign, and the percentage taken off the top goes toward the sites maintenance and to cover credit card processing fees. Perhaps the best feature of all, is that if you launch a crowd funding campaign you do not have to pay taxes on the amount, if the ask is under $30,000. While some philanthropists choose to give away money because it looks good on their taxation ledger, they would not get tax receipts in a lot of cases here, so crowd funding puts a whole new twist on altruism. 

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