More and more athletes are turning to crowdfunding to help finance their careers – follow these top tips to ensure you reach your funding goal!

Most athletes are familiar with the challenges of funding their sporting careers. Travelling to events and training camps, hiring coaches and physios, or even just paying the rent and buying food can all be costly; and often the rewards for sporting success don’t match the expenses.

Some may be lucky enough to receive funding, maybe through their national federation or National Olympic Committee; but those who don’t often have to look to alternative sources, be it sponsorship or a part-time job. More and more athletes, however, are now turning to online crowdfunding platforms to seek donations from members of the public to help finance their careers.

That was the route that British bobsledder Mica McNeill took when she lost her funding in the build-up to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

“It was a last resort,” she explained to The Guardian earlier this year. “There’s no way I would have asked for help if I didn’t think me and the team, us women, deserved to go to the Olympics. I made the crowdfunding page and I knew it might not work out. It might raise only £10.”

But rather than raise just £10, McNeill’s page received over £40,000 in donations from the public – far exceeding her target of £30,000 and helping her team realise their goal of competing in PyeongChang, where they finished eighth.

“We were so, so grateful to be powered by the people,” she said. “Hopefully it tells people that if you want something you need to go out there and get it.”

Swiss slalom canoeist Mike Kurt is another who knows what it’s like to struggle to find sufficient funding for a sporting career. That’s why he joined forces with Swiss fencer Fabian Kauter to establish ‘I Believe in You’ – an online platform created especially for athletes to crowdfund for their careers.

Here, Kurt offers his advice to other athletes who are looking to raise money through crowdfunding…

Tell a story and let the donors be part of your journey 
“People love stories, and athletes are often not aware of the fact that they have so many exciting things to talk about,” explains Kurt. “People want to be part of your journey and be part of an ‘athlete’s dream’. So don’t just ask people for money to finance your season – create a real project and specifically describe what you are really going to use the money for. Imagine the positive feeling a donor gets when they realise that the 20 euros they gave you have actually made a difference. Therefore, tell people why they should be part of your campaign and why their contribution is going to make a difference in your career.”

Activate your crowd
“You actually need a crowd who believes in you and your project, so it’s all about selling your story. You need to know who could be interested in your project, so start to talk about your campaign whenever you get the opportunity to do so. However, first of all you need to convince your inner circle – the so-called 3F (family, friends and fools); people who believe in you no matter what. If you can’t convince them to give you money, you’d better double-check your project.”

Run a campaign 
“In order to be successful in crowdfunding, you need to run a real marketing campaign. In order to get the money, you need to reach your goal within the chosen timeframe. Once you have activated your closest friends, you need to try to reach out to your sports community: members from your club, your federation or former athletes. People who might not even know you, but who are interested in you and your sport. Therefore use social media, newsletters or your own website. Ask the local media to talk about your project. If you offer them a good story, they will be happy to help you and attract more potential donors. Use all common marketing tools (e.g. letters to companies, events) and try to reach out to as many people as possible.”

Think “Marketing”
“Don’t forget, it’s not only about the money you are trying to raise – a crowdfunding campaign is a great opportunity to communicate with your fans and to find new long-term sponsors. It’s also a chance to promote you and your story to a broader audience. If are doing a great job, your video might go viral or the national media might start talking about you. Therefore a professional video is mandatory. Again, this video doesn’t only help you to raise more money (although projects with a video are 40 per cent more likely to get successfully financed), but it’s also an investment in your image. If you aren’t a video expert yourself, try to find a passionate person in your network who is willing to help you to produce a video, and who sees this as their contribution to your success.”

Fulfil your promise
“Once you have successfully finished your campaign, you need to fulfil your promises and send the ‘kickbacks’ to your donors. Keep in mind, somebody who is willing to donate money to you and gets back a good feeling is very likely to give you money again. So it’s in your own personal interest to make sure that all your donors are happy. Surprise them with a small extra gift or an invitation to one of your next competitions. Keep in touch with all the donors and update them regularly about your results, stories and your journey. They might be very helpful for you in the future as recurring donors, sponsors or potential employers.”