Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to make the most money out of your charity game

So, you’ve lined up anywhere from two dozen players up to two full teams to come play for your charity game. The building is sold out, and you know auctioning off a few jerseys will pad the night’s total even higher.

But is it the most you can do to create the biggest fundraising?

Let’s talk about hockey fans and their mentality as consumers for a moment here.  As a demographic, hockey fans make the highest average salary among sports fans, and this is easily reflected both in the prices they pay for tickets, and for how much fans will pony up for hockey-related gear. For example, NHL jerseys start around $125 just for replicas and $300 for authentic.

Fans drop plenty of money on game night, even if they’re already well-stocked with memorabilia at home. And hockey fans are generous when it comes to charity; always have been, undoubtedly always will be.

What other options can be used for fundraising at a charity game?

50/50 & CHUCK-A-PUCK

The most obvious is a long-time staple at hockey games: the 50/50 raffle pot. We’ll discuss more about raffles when discussing jerseys, but this one is a no-brainer.

Chuck-a-puck is a mainstay at ECHL, AHL, and other minor league hockey games. People buy pucks, 1 for $1 or 6 for $5, and there's either one big prize to be one (signed jersey, for example) or one big prize and a couple secondary prizes, depending on what the sponsors have donated on any given night. If you've ever witnessed chuck-a-puck, you know this is another very way to rake in some easy money.


Pucks are a favored collectible among hockey fans; they’re small enough to be easily stored once purchased, and it’s easy to build up a sizable collection.

The absolute easiest possible way to rake in some funds hand-over-fist for your charity event is “mystery pucks”, a long-beloved tradition on fundraising nights around every level of hockey league out there. Depending on the level of the event, mystery pucks may go for anywhere from $10-30 each, or more.

Even if there’s not time (or funds/sponsors) to get event-personalized pucks, buy a bunch of blank pucks – average cost for blank pucks is around $1/puck; even less if bought in larger quantities. (Personalized pucks cost around $2/each if bought in quantities of 300+ and usually need a week for turnaround/delivery.)

Have every player who's in the game sign 20 pucks (make sure they include some sort of notation to signify the event, if the pucks are not customized already); wrap the pucks up in plain wrapping paper – use two separate colors to identify which team each signee is playing for. 

Sell them for $20 each – if you have a minimum of 15 players per team, that’s an easy $12K+ for your event!

The bonus for fans here is that you know whatever puck you get is a "good puck". 


You see them everywhere: silicone bracelets, all kinds of colors, for every event. Bought in bulk, they can average 33¢ or less (depending on quantity) and can be sold for $5 or $10. An easy, inexpensive souvenir from your game; but time factor may be prohibitive to cost depending on how much lead time there is. Also, not as large of a return on investment as a fundraiser as mystery pucks; but also easy to sell via eBay or something online before/after your event.

The main inhibiting factor about special event T-shirts is cost and return (i.e., trying to offer a spread of sizes and possibly being left with inventory). The cost-effective way for T-shirts to be offered is to only offer a single size and keep quantities limited. However, even if T-shirts are not sold, making them up for volunteer staff and/or to toss a couple dozen into your crowd creates a unique souvenir.


Another “no-brainer”, where people could donate either what they want or a pre-specified amount in order to get an autograph from players, either before or after the event game.


If you have unique items to offer, such as framed pictures, game- or practice-used sticks, etc., silent auctions are definitely one way to go. 


If your game is studded with enough stars/is a big enough event, and there's enough lead-in time, consider getting your event onto PPV, even if it's just internet PPV. For fans, plenty would consider the cost of a movie ($10) worth tuning in for, and you could get a lot more viewers/tickets sold for the event.

If the concern is not selling out the actual game in-building, that's why you put it on PPV instead of free TV - people still pay to see it, and you'll attract viewers from across the state or country.


Ah, yes, the jerseys. Any charity event is a special one-time deal and the most obvious special item is jerseys.

Obviously, it’s worth being able to offer VIP packages where fans get seats on the glass and their own jersey; even better if they get to meet players from the game, and to get those jerseys signed.

A prime item for fundraising at your charity game is of course selling off the game-worn jerseys. While the temptation is to go the easy and obvious route of silent auctions – or even live auction post-game – why not put them up for raffle?

Say you have 30 players and the average jersey auctions for $400 (this is figuring some players will bring in less than others); that’s about $12K.

Let’s think about sports fans here for a moment. Hockey fans love owning game- (or practice-) worn/used jerseys and sticks. The majority of fans – as badly as they might want a game-worn item – are not going to be the ones bidding at silent auctions. If you’ve ever walked by a silent auction table, there’s usually a handful of bids; if it’s a really popular player or rare item, the bid list might stretch to a full page worth.

But let’s say you could buy raffle tickets 1 for $5, 3 for $10, 7 for $20. A lot more fans have the “you can’t win if you don’t play” mentality and are willing to risk $5, $10, or even $20 for a shot at winning a game-worn jersey – especially if the proceeds are going to charity. The thought is, “Ok, even if I pay for $20 worth of tickets and I don’t win, the money is going to a good cause.” 

In talking with a couple fans at a recent charity game, and asking about jersey raffles vs. silent auctions, the feedback was, “Not only would I put up at least $20 for raffle tickets, there’s a pretty good chance that once I got a beer or two in me, I’d be going back for more tickets.” 

And at charity events, people do go back, time and again, to get “just a few more” raffle tickets. It appeals to the little gambler inside all of us... if our chances are good enough, we might win that highly-prized, unique jersey. For special, one-off events, the appeal is even greater.

So, let’s say the average fan was dropping $20 on raffle tickets – it would only take selling tickets to 600 people to make as much money as silent auctioning them off at $400 apiece – and chances are solid that many more people would spend more than that.

Alternatively, the top three players from each team - that is, the "star" players whose jerseys could be expected to fetch $1K or more - could be available via silent or post-game live auction while all other player jerseys are available through raffles.

* * *

Granted, any charity event is 100% reliant on volunteer efforts to get things set up, and the time frame leading up to your event. 

However, armed with the knowledge of how hockey fans spend, combined with the best choice(s) of options to suit the time frame you have ahead of you, you can create the best fundraising possible for your charitable cause.

* * *

Thank you to ALL the players who have been out there participating in a variety of charity games during the lockout. Your participation has created some impressive fundraising for many great causes across North America. /Sticktaps to all of you, the event organizers and sponsors, and the volunteers, for these fun events.