How are grassroots sports funded?

Grassroots sports are the base of most communities. In fact, as of December 2023, approximately 41% of men and 32% of women participate in some kind of sport on a weekly basis! But, with the cost of living crisis and rising costs forcing grassroots clubs to close, you may be wondering how grassroots sports is actually funded?

In this article, we are going to explore what grassroots sport is, how it is funded, and the challenges that teams may face when it comes to funding. Let’s get into it!

What is grassroots sport?

Grassroots sport is a ‘physical leisure activity, practised regularly at non-professional level for health, educational or social purposes’. Unlike professional sports, which usually receive significant media attention, grassroots sports are characterised by their lower-level participation and community-driven nature.

How is grassroots sport funded?

Grassroots sports can be funded in a number of different ways, depending on the location, type of sport, and the specific needs of the team or programme. 

Local sponsorship and SMEs

Community sports teams often seek sponsorship from local businesses and SMEs to help cover important expenses, such as equipment, kits and facilities. In fact, in 2020, it was estimated that £250m is donated to grassroots sport each year by SMEs. This is the biggest single source of grassroots funding in the UK! 

These local businesses can provide anything from a few thousand pounds as the club’s main sponsor, all the way down to a set of shirts for the younger team. Regardless of the amount, this type of sponsorship is critical for the continuation of grassroots clubs up and down the country.

Corporate sponsorship

On top of local businesses providing sponsorship, another way that grassroots teams can receive funding is through larger sponsorship campaigns with corporate giants. In exchange for this sponsorship, these businesses often receive branding opportunities, such as their logo displayed on the kits, and other promotional benefits. 

Finding sponsors for your team may be challenging, but that’s where Gift of Kit step in! We connect grassroots teams with major businesses, such as Sky, Starling Bank and Kia Motors, and help them to receive funding! We have lots of handy tips and guides about securing sponsors, and getting funding!

Member generated revenue

Grassroots sports and community programmes often rely on monetary contributions from their members or participants to cover operating costs. These may include yearly membership fees, bar taking and profit from kit and merchandise sales.

Fundraising

A popular way of raising money to cover operating costs is for teams to organise fundraising events. These can be anything, ranging from raffles and auctions to crazy challenges like fun runs and sponsored silences! Pretty much any activity can be turned into a fundraising event, so get your thinking caps on!

Funding grants

Grassroots organisations may be able to apply for grants from foundations or non-profit organisations to support specific initiatives. We have a handy guide all about different funding grants you can apply for!

Volunteers

Many grassroots teams and community organisations are run by volunteers. These coaches and leaders provide their time, skills and expertise to coach teams, organise events and manage the admin, without receiving a wage from the team and often cover some of their teams costs from their own pocket. 

easyfundraising

Here at Gift of Kit, we know free funding can be hard to come by. That’s why we have teamed up with easyfundraising! easyfundraising partners with over 7,500 online retailers who want to give back to the communities that buy from them. Simply register your team on easyfundraising, and every time a player, coach or volunteer shops online, these brands will donate to your team!

Government funding

Some grassroots sports programmes are lucky enough to receive financial support from the government, either in the form of grants, subsidies or direct allocations to support the operation of facilities, equipment and coaches. For example, in January this year, the UK government announced that over 1,000 grassroots sport projects will benefit from £93 million of funding as part of the continued drive to get more people active!

Despite this though, when we surveyed our audience in 2021, we found that less than 4% had received support from a government organisation.

 

By using a combination of funding sources that work for your team, you will be able to finance your operation and expand your programme to provide more opportunities for members of your community to get into sports!

Challenges in funding grassroots sports

Despite there being a range of different funding opportunities for grassroots teams, coming up with enough money to keep the organisations running efficiently can prove challenging. Here are some common challenges that grassroots sports teams face:

 

Limited financial resources: Grassroots sports tend to operate on small budgets, making it difficult to cover expenses like renting the facilities, buying the equipment and paying the coaches.

 

Competition for funding: Grassroots sports compete with other sectors, such as education, healthcare, and social services, for limited funding from  the government and corporate sponsors.

 

Economic imbalances: Communities with lower income levels may struggle to access funding and resources for grassroots sports programs, leading to inequalities in access to sports opportunities.

 

Rising costs: The cost of operating grassroots sports programs continues to increase because of the cost of living crisis, increasing inflation, facility rental fees, equipment costs, and insurance premiums, putting additional strain on limited funding resources.

 

Volunteer shortage: Grassroots sports teams rely heavily on volunteers. However, recruiting and retaining volunteers can be challenging, due to the lack of pay –  especially in communities where people have limited time or resources.

 

Facility availability: Access to suitable sports facilities, such as fields, pitches and tracks, can be limited, making it difficult to offer sports programmes.

 

Lack of government funding: Even with the £93 million funding plan that the government announced in January this year, government funded teams remain few and far between. Although this announcement is an excellent step in the right direction, with over 150,000 grassroots sports teams in the UK, this funding will reach very few teams.

 

 

Addressing these challenges requires collaboration from stakeholders, the government and volunteers. By recognising the importance of grassroots sports in promoting physical activity and community well-being, we can overcome these obstacles.

How Gift of Kit can help

At Gift of Kit, we are the bridge between grassroots clubs and corporate businesses. So far, we’ve delivered over £4m of sponsored kit to clubs on behalf of global partners such as Starling Bank, all free of charge to the clubs!

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you, or register with us to have the opportunity to get free kit and equipment from world-class sponsors!


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Whether you’re a club searching for support, or a business looking to access the power of grassroots sport, we want to hear from you.

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