Fundraising for Your Team
Start at the Beginning
- Determine how much money your team needs by developing a budget.
- Find volunteers who are willing to help you by heading up different projects.
How to Raise Money
There are many ways to raise funds to meet the financial needs of your team:
- Special Events: Bowl-a-thon, dinners, auctions, dances, etc.
- Sales: Popcorn sales, car washes, ad books, etc.
- In-Kind Contributions: Donation of equipment, facilities, services from service organizations, schools, churches or recreation departments in your community.
Before you ask for any contributions or plan an event, read the Special Olympics Texas fundraising Guidelines included in this section. These policies will give you some important information about what guidelines must be followed to meet state laws and Special Olympics policies. All fundraising projects or events must be approved in advance by Special Olympics Texas. A Team/Committee Event Planning Checklist must be completed and sent to your area office 90 days before the project/event is held.
If You Plan . . . Then You Will Succeed!
Any successful fundraising project or event depends on three important factors:
- The type of project or event you select.
- The people you choose to organize it.
- The timing for the project or event.
Good organization and management prior to and on the day of the event or during the duration of a project will demonstrate that your team is organized and run by committed volunteers.
Recognize Volunteers and Contributors
Be sure to thank everyone who helped make the event or project a huge success. Recognition of a job well done, through a letter or certificate, or even through an announcement at the beginning of the event, is always appreciated and is the key to bringing back good volunteers year after year.
Remember that the purpose for your fundraising activities must always support the mission and vision of our organization. Involve your athletes in fundraising activities to increase awareness.
Area Fundraising Boundaries
The geographic boundaries of each respective area office must be honored whenever fundraising occurs through any means. At no time may a team solicit funds or in-kind services from an out-of-state company, or from outside of your geographic territory.
Tax Exempt Status
Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Tax Code grants tax-exempt status to nonprofit organizations, allowing them to raise funds for their charitable purpose exempt from federal income tax. Special Olympics Texas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Therefore, other than ISDs and group homes, teams and/or athletes may not have their own 501(c)(3) tax identification number. Please refer to Section D for specific guidelines on tax exempt and/or 501(c)(3) status.
In light of increased liability on the part of Special Olympics Texas, staff must oversee any and all fundraising events. If your team wishes to host a fundraising event, you must first complete the Team/Committee Event Planning Checklist and submit it to the program/area director. If your team is conducting the event, then it is considered a SOTX event. Question number five should be marked yes and question number six would be no. After initial assessment, you may be asked for additional information, including questions related to food and beverage preparation and service, event budget, targeted sponsors and other income sources, etc. Teams may not sign contracts without approval from the chapter office. Likewise, teams may be asked to submit a pre-event budget and a post-event budget, to ensure that events which bear our name and/or logo are effective. Submitting this form ensures that staff are aware of your event so they may assist you and, if people call for information, staff can validate the event and provide accurate information.
Please note: You must fill out an event form if your team is receiving a donation from a restaurant that is donating a portion of its sales.
When planning an event, please refer to and review the Special Olympics Corporate Insurance Policy starting on page H-5; some fundraising events/activities may be excluded from coverage.
A team may not sign a contract with any individual or organization conducting fundraising until it receives approval from the chapter office. Any contracts must first be forwarded by area staff to the Vice President of Resource Development for review and approval. In some cases, Special Olympics Texas’ insurance company may require additional information (See Fundraising Event Flowchart). If this is the case, the team will receive a phone call from SOTX staff and the insurance company to discuss contractual requirements before the contract may be executed. (Please allow two weeks for contracts to be reviewed and approved.)
Before seeking corporate sponsorships, please review the enclosed list of major companies/ organizations that already sponsor SOTX activities. These companies are off limits to teams at all times.
Statewide or International Companies
Businesses, corporations or organizations that have multiple sites or operate statewide, nationally or internationally, may not be solicited without prior approval from the Vice President of Resource Development. All sponsor solicitation must be pre-approved. Please contact your area director or call the Vice President of Resource Development at 800.876.5646, ext. 2938.
Alcoholic Beverage Companies
Special Olympics teams may not publicly or visibly recognize the manufacturer of alcoholic beverages or the trademark of an alcoholic beverage at Special Olympics events or activities. Non-alcoholic beer products are treated in the same manner as alcohol and beer products. Alcohol distributors (e.g., “Andrews Distributing” - ok; "Coors Distributor" - not ok) may sponsor team fundraising projects if the name of the company does not have a beer or an alcohol brand listed in it.
Tobacco Product Companies
A Special Olympics team shall not allow the manufacturer or distributor of a tobacco product to publicly or visibly connect the trademark of a tobacco product with Special Olympics in any way.
Athletes and coaches may carry and use non-apparel, non-sports equipment items, such as tote bags, bearing small and attractively designed identifications of corporate or organizational sponsors except at competitions and related activities.
Athletes and coaches who are not in competition and who are not at sports venues (e.g., training sessions, practices, trips) may wear apparel bearing small and attractively designed identifications of corporate or organizational sponsors.
Opening and Closing Ceremonies are deemed to have the same status as sports venues. Hence, team or delegation members and officials shall not wear warm-up suits, jackets, caps, etc. which bear corporate or organizational logos at any time.
Tax Deductions – Informing Your Sponsors
When you acknowledge donations, you should be aware of IRS rules. If you receive a donation of $250 or more, your thank-you letter must include this statement: “Special Olympics Texas did not provide any goods or services in return for this gift.” This statement can appear anywhere in the body of your letter or even at the bottom of the page, beneath your signature. Gifts made to independent non-centralized teams (i.e., school districts, group homes, etc.) are not donations to SOTX, and will not be recognized as such.
Fundraising Utilizing Social Media
Athletes, teams, coaches, family members and other individuals or entities may not solicit funds through social media sites in the name of Special Olympics Texas. For SOTX's complete Social Media Policy, refer to Section U.
Direct Mail Solicitation
SOTX utilizes the services of SOI as its vendor to conduct direct mail campaigns to individuals throughout Texas. A team may not at any time conduct or enter into an arrangement or contract for direct mail services.
Telemarketing (Telephone Solicitation)
Special Olympics Texas has contracted with Heritage Medallion Telemarketing to provide these services exclusively in the state. At no time may a team enter into a contract for telemarketing services or conduct a campaign themselves.
Your team may not solicit funds through raffles or drawings. The State of Texas limits the number of raffles a non-profit organization may conduct during a calendar year to two. The Chapter Office reserves the right to conduct these two raffles per year. The state regulations governing a non-profit's participation in raffles are very restrictive and SOTX will adhere to all such regulations. A team may benefit from a raffle or a drawing but only if a third party entity plans, conducts and concludes the raffle by turning funds over to the team as a contribution from a third party entity.
United Way Affiliation
A team may not participate in United Way campaigns, may not apply for funding from United Way and cannot be an affiliate or a member of a local United Way. Likewise, a team may not accept United Way funding. If your team receives a United Way donation, please mail the check to the Special Olympics Texas chapter office and it will be returned to United Way.
All grant proposals must be coordinated through the Development Director – Grants (firstname.lastname@example.org) in advance of submitting any applications. If you have identified a viable foundation prospect, the Development Director – Grants will review your request to complete a grant application on behalf of the Team. Development Director – Grants and/or the VP of Resource Development will decide if an individual, on behalf of a Team, would be approved to proceed with an application or denied approval on a case-by-case basis.
Area staff shall provide information to Development Director – Grants regarding the delegation’s standing. Proposals must be approved by the Development Director – Grants prior to submission; all forms and letters, etc. must be provided for review with at least a two-week turnaround time. Applications requiring the signature of an authorized SOTX representative MUST be signed by SOTX staff on behalf of SOTX.
Applications requiring the signature of an authorized SOTX representative MUST be signed by SOTX staff.
Teams must consult the Protected Corporate and Organizational Contacts list in the SIG; please note the most current list is maintained by the Development Director – Grants and will be consulted during the pre-approval process. Teams may not apply for funding from protected foundations identified by the Development Director – Grants as SOTX funders/prospects.
Grant funds received by teams that were not reviewed and approved by the Development Director – Grants prior to submission are subject to refusal by Special Olympics Texas, Inc. All grants are subject to final review by Special Olympics Texas, Inc.’s President/CEO and/or Board of Directors.
All team patrons need to be reviewed through the SOTX Support Services office.
Sale of merchandise is an important means for SOTX to raise money for our programs. Merchandise is sold at our state games, as well as at most of the larger area competitions. Teams and committees are not permitted to sell any souvenir items at competitions if SOTX is offering merchandise. Please check with area staff in advance to determine sales plans at area competitions.
Discounts for Uniforms and Equipment
Check with your area director before purchasing uniforms, etc. It is possible that SOTX staff can secure a lower bid on apparel and equipment through one of our vendors.
The Torch Run is now the largest grassroots fundraising program benefiting Special Olympics in the world. In many communities, police officers and other "first responders" welcome the opportunity to become involved with your team and your training.
In addition, the Texas Law Enforcement Torch Run® raises funds each year to help support Special Olympics Texas. A portion of these funds are available for team scholarships but only if an application is submitted on a timely basis and only if your Team's financial account is centralized with SOTX. Contact your local office for more information about these scholarships and how to apply, or fill out the form in section S-10 and submit it to your area office.
Teams are responsible for submitting all receipts that substantiate use of the scholarship funds to the chapter finance department within 60 days of receipt of funding.
Protected Corporate and Organizational Contacts
The following is a partial list of businesses or organizations that are current SOTX sponsors. A team must contact the area office before approaching a local franchise for a donation so the company only receives one “knock on the door.” Of particular importance is attention to our Official Partners, who are always off limits: Coca-Cola Refreshments, Food Town, H-E-B Tournament of Champions Charitable Trust, Law Enforcement Torch Run, UnitedHealthcare and Walmart. If you have any questions about approaching a company for a sponsorship, please contact the area Development Director or Vice President of Resource Development.
This list is updated annually. For the most up-to-date list or to check a name before soliciting, contact the Vice President of Resource Development at 800.876.5646.
The ABCs of Fundraising
Special Olympics Texas offices across the state will work with our teams to provide whatever assistance possible to make fundraising “fun” raising for teams. Assistance may include:
- Sample letters of solicitation.
- Sample thank you letters and recognition ideas.
- Review event plans and budgets and provide feedback and suggestions.
- Provide critical information regarding insurance issues to minimize risk.
The Keys to Effective Fundraising
- Anyone can learn to raise money.
- People give for their reasons . . . not yours.
The Most Important Thing to Remember in fundraising is that People Give for One Reason:
- Because you asked
Every good fund raiser needs to promote the cause in a clear, emotionally appealing way and to select appropriate people to deliver the message or, in other words, “make the ask.” Any good fundraising campaign will also find a way to recognize, promote and thank its contributors.
- People will give if they are in sync with your mission.
- People will give if "the ask is timely and appropriate."
- People will give if they're asked by the right person.
Fundraising – How to Ask for Money
- Make a cash or in-kind contribution yourself, and let them know . . . as a coach, I volunteer more than eight hours a week during training.
- Ask in person when at all possible. Using the phone or writing a letter makes it easy for you, but it also makes it easy for them to say NO.
- Practice your “ask” or “pitch” in front of the mirror or with a friend.
- Tell the truth; don’t exaggerate. Giving to Special Olympics will not solve world hunger nor will Tim Shriver write a personal thank you.
- Stress the cause . . . not the organization. Causes are emotionally appealing; organizations are brick and mortar. This is called "selling the mission!"
- Tell them why you are involved or committed.
- Don’t talk them into saying YES, but instead remove the reasons to say NO.
- Avoid putting other causes down and avoid saying such things as: “Give the money to us and not the local area office or chapter office. We never see that money.” That shows a lack of teamwork and a selfish attitude that often won’t appeal to donors. And remember, the donor should always have the opportunity to designate how their contribution is used.
- Avoid “bail out” please. No one likes to support a sinking ship. We spent all of our money on these cool jackets and now our athletes will run barefoot if you don’t give.
- Be yourself.
- The number one reason why people don’t give . . . they weren’t asked. You are not asking for yourself. If you really believe in the value of Special Olympics, why not give other people the opportunity to be a part of something so important and meaningful.
Sample Thank You Letter
Personalized with Name
- City, State, ZIP
Dear (always personalize):
Recently, you (your company) donated to XYZ Team. Your donation made a real difference in our ability to participate in many competitions across the state, nation and around the world. (Insert an example such as “Because of your generosity, xx athletes were able to travel to (city) to compete in the (competition name).
On behalf of the (number of athletes) athletes on our team, we thank you for your generous contribution of $_____. We are pleased that you have chosen Special Olympics Texas and our local team to help make a difference in the life of a person with intellectual disabilities.
We believe that Special Olympics reveals the very best in human nature and character. We feel our families are strengthened, and we hopefully help the community at large to accept and respect people who may be different. It is only through the continued support of people just like you that our athletes are able to participate in this program.
We invite you to see the athletes you support in action. You can share in their many accomplishments because your contributions allow them to be the best they can be. Our athletes practice (dates and times) at (location). We encourage you to stop by or call us and you will see the difference your support has made in the training and dreams of our athletes.
Thank you again,
- “Special Olympics Texas did not provide any goods or services in return for this gift.”
- (include this statement for gifts of $250 or more)