FTC:Funding A Team

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If a team is part of a school that offers FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), they will likely pay for registration fees and provide equipment for a participation fee. Teams should check with their school first to avoid having to pay fees and buy equipment themselves.

If a school does not offer FTC, teams need to find ways to get funding. These teams often rely on the help of sponsors from their community, fundraisers, and grants in order to fund their robot expenses, tournament registration fees, travel costs, and any other investments.

Sponsorship

Making connections with companies is the best way to get funding, and many engineering or design companies are eager to support local robotics teams. Before reaching out to sponsors, it is a good idea for teams to write a business plan with information about the team and their goals for the season

Finding Companies

FTC teams have many options when it comes to finding companies, so it is important to try different methods. One way is to research local companies, particularly ones specializing in engineering or design, and get contact information through their website. Teams can also attend community events to meet company employees and make more personal connections before contacting them about a sponsorship.

Contacting Companies

There are multiple ways that teams can reach out to companies asking for support. One way is by cold calling companies. Teams call the companies and ask receptionists to direct them to someone in the company who handles community relations. Teams can then get an email address and send a cover letter and your business plan. Cold calling is good since it can be more personalized. Another method for reaching out to potential sponsors is to attend local career fairs or visit companies in person. This way, teams can actually meet companies to get more information and better connections within the company. A final method is through teammates’ personal contacts. If any team members know someone who works at an engineering company, this can be a good person to contact since it is more likely they can connect the team with the company and can vouch for them.

Asking for a Sponsorship

To help companies better understand the FTC team and its goals, and as a great engineering outreach opportunity, teams can offer to give them a robot demo and might even be able to get a tour of the company’s facilities. Companies can also have a lot to offer aside from money, so teams can ask if they could help manufacture custom parts or offer advice. After making contact with a company, teams should send them the business plan and ask if they would be interested in helping. Get contact information Make first contact (phone call, email, in-person) If there is no response, give them 1-2 weeks then contact again Once contact is made, send the business plan and offer to demo Ask if they can support your team in any way

Fundraising

Another great way to raise money for your FTC team is to have fundraising events. This is a great method because there are many different types of events you can do and they can be personalized to your team.

Local Restaurants

One possible fundraising idea is to contact a local restaurant. They often hold events and donate a portion of their revenue for a given time to schools or school activities.

Concession Stands

Another way is to run the concession stand at a FIRST tournament or sporting event. Items can be bought in bulk, and sometimes even donated from restaurants, to be sold at these events.

GoFundMe Fundraisers

Teams can set up fundraising events on GoFundMe for family and friends to donate to. These can be used for general season expenses or for a larger financial project or goal.

Teams can also do fundraising events such as candy sales, bake sales, or car washes where friends and family can support them.

Grants

Aside from seeking support from local businesses or the community, there are many different grants available to teams. There are grants available through FIRST, REV, and other companies, each with different requirements. Some are specifically for rookie teams, while others are open for anyone. There are some grants which have teams respond to longer essay questions, and there are others that just require basic team information. Grants are usually available in the late summer or early fall.

Preparing to Receive Money

Many companies will want a federal tax id number, or employer ID number (EIN), before donating money, so it is a good idea to get one for the team. It is a quick process and free. The team can be set up as a Doing Business As (DBA) organization with the coach as a sole proprietor. The resulting federal tax id number can then be used to open a checking account. A checking account for the team that is separate from the coaches’ or mentors’ personal accounts is recommended so that tracking of monies in and out of the team is explicit and auditable.

Some companies can only give to a 501(c)(3) organization, so a team could also set themselves up that way. However, there are a lot of legal hoops to jump through and monies must be tracked carefully because the IRS scrutinizes 501(c)(3) organizations more carefully. The added benefit of becoming a 501(c)(3) is that some companies like Slack allow those non-profits to use their services for free.

Additional Resources

References