Program needs met easier through online fundraising

Teams in need of financial boost have turned to ‘GoFundMe’
Milton High School's Eagles Nest is home to the Eagles football team.

Milton High School's Eagles Nest is home to the Eagles football team.

During the time that her two sons played football at Forest Park High, Sybille Moore saw firsthand the planning and costs that go into a season. So she quickly keyed in on one task that she knew she could handle — team pregame meals.

Her plan included the use of GoFundMe, a popular online fundraising site that, according to its website, allows people to “raise money, thank donors and share updates all in one place.” Moore took advantage and continues to try to give back to the Forest Park program, though none of her children have played on the team since 2019.

Moore’s GoFundMe, which she started on her own accord and independently from the school, has raised $2,330 from 25 donors as of Aug. 26.

“It’s been a very good experience,” she said. “It was easy to set up and easy to comply with the requirements. As long as you can verify your bank account and provide state ID, then it’s no problem. It’s easy to maneuver on the site and on the app.”

It doesn’t matter what a team’s needs are — meals, spirit-wear, title rings, or in the case of Milton’s football team, funds for a distant road game — online fundraisers have replaced or supplemented traditional fundraisers in recent years.

GoFundMe, the most popular of online fundraisers, has seen exponential growth since its May 2010 launch. Within five years, it had raised $1 billion dollars, then raised its next billion within the next year.

Schools across the state, from Rome to Savannah, have benefitted from the site, and there are other examples nationwide. In Florida, Pine Forest used GoFundMe to pay for its 10-hour cross-state travel to the Class 6A championship game in Fort Lauderdale, according to the Pensacola News Journal. Branson School in Colorado used its website to assist in raising $550,000 to build a new football stadium that was completed last year.

For Moore, it simply was a matter of putting food on the table.

“Pregame meals are not covered by the school or county, and it’s considered a parental responsibility,” Moore said. “I wanted to help these boys on the football team because the program did a lot for my sons. A lot. These coaches put in a lot of work, and it takes away a lot of their family time. And they’re putting their own funds in, as well. So I thought, ‘You know what … let me try to help where I can without putting it on someone else.”

Moore said each team pregame meal, which would feed around 80 people, costs between $160-$400, depending upon whether the meal is prepared by Moore or bought through a restaurant or catering service, as often is required for longer road trips. Her goal with each meal is to include a meat, a grain and a fruit and/or vegetable.

On Aug. 19, Moore posted an update to GoFundMe praising donors for their help, and to say that the first week’s pregame meal was covered — with parents showing up to volunteer — and that Week 2′s meal has been financed.

Members of the Forest Park Panthers football team gather in the cafeteria ahead of a pregame meal. The Panthers' pregame meals have been paid for through a GoFundMe fundraiser.

Credit: Sybille Moore

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Credit: Sybille Moore

At Milton, the program has benefitted from online fundraisers on both GoFundMe and Instaraise to help pay for the team’s 2018 Class 7A state championship rings, alternate helmets, and recently, an Aug. 26 trip to play St. Louis’ Christian Brothers in Canton, Ohio.

First-year coach Eagles Ben Reaves listed an abundance of benefits to using online fundraisers in an email to the AJC.

“They’re time-efficient,” he said. “We can reach everyone in our phones and address books within seconds, and we can do it day after day after day. That’s something you can’t do when you’re going door-to-door. Coaches can control the message and the narrative. Oftentimes, a teenager not used to selling a product or speaking to groups of adults may stumble over their words. Using an online platform allows us to clearly communicate and define our ‘why’ for the fundraiser.”

The online route also streamlines the financial transaction.

“It eliminates money that could go missing or never make it back to the coach, and also eliminates the coaches from having to sit around and count money and handle money,” Reaves said. “And we get live updates. At any moment, I can log on and track who’s pulling their weight and how much they’ve raised.”

Of course, like with any fundraiser, the online versions are not immune to scams. In 2018, a man was arrested for creating a GoFundMe account and accepting money on behalf of the family of a Pike County football player who died after collapsing on the field during a game.

But overall, most experiences have been positive.

Online fundraisers profit by taking a cut from donations, usually through a percentage-based fee structure, but Reaves noted that’s cheaper than paying worker or facility fees that are charged for events like golf tournaments.

“It also eliminates the, ‘I don’t have any cash on me’ excuse,’” he said. “All forms of payments are accepted. I’m able to reach and include family and friends that are out of state.”

Reaves and Moore agree that while online fundraisers are convenient and effective, traditional fundraisers are also necessary.

“Physical fundraisers like car washes, cutting yards, functions and events are a good thing for a team in a public school,” Moore said. “They need community events to show up for and to be present at because people want to know what they’re paying for. They want to see the progress and who they’re putting their money into.”

Reaves echoed that sentiment, adding that it, “helps our kids improve and develop their communication skills, since most other forms of fundraising are done in person.”