Is Crowdfunding A Viable Option For Your Athletic Department?

March 9th, 2017 | by Javier Morales
Is Crowdfunding A Viable Option For Your Athletic Department?
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Crowdfunding

The NCAA allowed institutions in 2015 the ability to use crowdfunding to assist their fundraising efforts, and it’s a concept that should be implemented by everybody. Any legal financial support is logical.

Oregon State, for example, is one institution doing that to fund a room that will feature its baseball hall of fame at Goss Stadium. The school published a Web page hosted by the OSU Foundation on Jan. 23 soliciting donations. The athletic department outlined a $50,000 target to be raised by Feb. 28. As of Jan. 29, the school raised $37,350 – or 74 percent of the goal – with almost a month still remaining. Despite the $50,000 goal, the total cost of the project has not yet been determined, according to the school. If the necessary funds are raised, the plan is to complete the project during the upcoming 2017 season.

Crowdfunding has become a popular way to raise funds on the internet since the launch of Kickstarter in 2009.  It allows for entrepreneurs and innovators to raise funds from people worldwide with instant ability to draw the money from a credit or debit card.

Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe are familiar names in the crowdfunding industry. Oregon State’s crowdfunding effort is not through these entities, but through its own crowdfunding source: Create Oregon State Crowdfunding. Each institution must implement its own crowdfunding platform or use a non-profit source.

The NCAA’s verbiage on institutional crowdfunding: “A college or university may use crowdfunding in conjunction with its institutional fundraising efforts if the rules of the institutional, charitable, education or nonprofit promotions regulations are satisfied. However, an institution’s crowdfunding campaign may not include a co-sponsorship with a for-profit organization and use a current student athlete’s name, image or likeness.”

Other crowdfunding examples include American University’s UFUND, Maryland’s Launch, Lehigh’s Ignite LU. More than 40 universities also use the non-profit crowdfunding vehicle USEED, which partners with universities to raise funds and also trains students to launch their own campaigns.

“We wanted to make sure that every project on a college campus is funded,” Matt Racz, co-founder of USEED, told USA Today. “This trend is not going away. Crowdfunding is not going away. I do believe that every institution of higher learning will have a crowdfunding system.”


NCAA rules also allow for athletes to use crowdfunding to raise money under these guidelines:

– As long as the funds are used for “actual and necessary” expenses related to competition and practice (for team athletes) or an event and practice immediately preceding the event (for individual athletes).

– Athletes may not receive funds through crowdfunding from an agent or representative of an institution’s athletics interest (a booster, for example) or an institutional staff member. An institution or booster club may not accept crowdfunding donations on behalf of an athlete.

– Athletes may also participate in non-sports related crowdfunding provided that there is “no relationship to nor mention of athletics”.  For example, a football player could conduct a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to complete a class project as he did not mention his status as an athlete. An athlete is also not allowed to use his or her name or picture to advertise or promote a for-profit crowdfunding service.

– Lastly, a crowdfunding source can’t independently solicit funds and promise them to the student-athlete upon graduation or exhaustion of athletics eligibility. The student-athlete becomes ineligible if this takes place.

As can be imagined, money going to athletes from third-party sources creates concern of the NCAA guidelines regarding crowdfunding.

A crowdfunding platform called FanAngels at first allowed fans to pay athletes after they exhaust their eligibility without prior consent or knowledge from the athletes. The site has now evolved into more of a charity fundraising site for youth team expenses and for athletes who are working on a cause.

Clemson immediately distanced itself from UBooster, which wanted to use its crowdfunding platform to raise money for high school football recruits after their college eligibility expired. Clemson’s general counsel was fearful of the fundraising creating “NCAA compliance concerns.”

The overall idea, however, of institutions raising money through crowdfunding is a novel concept that enhances the ability to improve facilities that can impact recruiting and the athletes’ way of life on campus.

A fan does not have to be a wealthy booster to contribute. That alone is worth the attempt, bringing more fans to a cause other than only attending the games.

About Javier Morales
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site AllSportsTucson.com.

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