How I Learned to Give a Puck About Sports Team Fundraisers

We all know that professional sports teams are businesses. But we really don’t treat them like one, do we? We think of them more as celebrities that come to our events, and sign things for auctions.

But sports teams can offer a lot more than star appeal, or a signed baseball. I learned this firsthand in a partnership with the Boston Bruins a few years back. I’ve been thinking about it lately as I’ve been watching the Bruins win their way through the NHL playoffs (2-0 in their series against the New York Rangers).

Here’s my story. I think you’ll learn something.

I was really looking forward to my meeting with the Boston Bruins. Waiting for the director of community relations in the TD Bank Garden where the team plays, I wasn’t admiring the Bruins’ (and Celtics who also play at the Gahden) championship banners hanging from the rafters. I was looking at all the sponsors surrounding the rink.

“Forget about solid ice. More like solid gold,” I confidently thought. “If I can get the Bruins to introduce me to just a few of these sponsors, it will be like I won a championship!”

I must have been glowing when I sat down with the community relations director because he immediately dimmed my prospects.

“We want to help your organization, but our current sponsors and corporate partners are off the table,” he said.

My heart sank.

“Well, how do you think you can help us?” I asked. I was starting to think of what I would do with that signed hockey stick he would probably give me.

But he had bigger plans than that. He explained that while he couldn’t share his sponsors with me, he could share other things.

  • — The Bruins had a rabid fan following, and maybe finding that Bruins fan in the corporate world would be the key to winning a new business partner–if he gave us the right things with which to woo them.
  • — The Bruins often played to a full house at the TD Bank Garden, and the jumbotron and check presentations on the ice would put my organization in front of thousands of people. The Bruins were also willing to host a group of supporters in one of their luxury boxes.
  • — The Bruins were willing to commit to a limited number of player appearances at businesses that hit ambitious fundraising goals for our organization.

The Bruins didn’t give me money or connections, but they did give me assets–things I could use with business prospects to raise money.

Shortly after meeting with the Bruins I recruited two new company partners to work with my organization. They were excited about working with the hometown team. In a town known for its baseball fans, I had found two hockey fans!

Together, we raised $42,000 the first year, and matched that number the second year.

The Bruins won. My business partners won. And my nonprofit won.

Let’s hope the Bruins continue their winning ways!

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