Youth sports programs are an important physical activity for kids and the community as a whole. But securing enough funding each year is a challenge for many leagues.
Nonprofit grants can help sports leagues find financial assistance to grow and plan for the future. Every youth sports leader should know how to apply for grants for their organization each year.
Grants can be a valuable supplement to annual fundraising activities and help keep your sports program on track financially.
How do you research, apply for, and receive youth sports grants? We've got some tips in this post to help you start before next season.
What is a youth sports grant?
Youth sports grants are financial assistance programs provided to youth, community, or public school sports programs. These grants can assist various sports organizations financially, including recreational leagues, travel teams, and sports facilities.
There are many different youth sports grants available. Grants are typically offered by:
- Government agencies.
- Private companies.
- Nonprofit organizations.
- Professional sports leagues.
Youth sports grants are usually awarded on an annual basis. Grant recipients must often provide progress reports or evaluations to the grant provider during and after the season.
What are the benefits of youth sports grants?
A grant can provide financial assistance to help fund your organization's goals. You can use a grant to:
- Purchase equipment.
- Update facilities.
- Invest in youth development programs.
- Pay for travel expenses.
- Offer kids reduced registration fees and scholarships.
- Build credibility for your league or team.
- Contribute to long-term stability for your organization.
Types of youth sports grant programs
First, it’s important to know that there are many types of grants for athletic programs.Most grants have a very specific aim.
Some may focus on supporting youth sports involvement for underserved populations, building new sports facilities, or supporting the growth of a particular sport. You can find relevant grants across many categories:
Regional or local grants
Some grants have a very broad focus. They aim to fund any program that supports kids.
It's important to search locally in your area for businesses and community organizations that provide grant opportunities.
You may find grant programs like the AEI Heritage Fund that support youth sports in Bartholomew County, IN.
Sports facilities grants
These grants provide funds specifically for buildings, fields, gyms, and more. Communities or cities may provide grants to build or renovate sports complexes. Make sure to research in your region to see if funding is available to rehab or build new sports facilities.
Sports equipment grants
Sourcing and maintaining equipment can be one of the biggest challenges for youth sports volunteers. Equipment grants can be a big help in getting new equipment when your organization needs it.
Programs like Good Sports and Sports Matter help provide equipment, apparel, and footwear specifically for youth sports.
These grants help organizations recover from the unexpected, such as a natural disaster or devastating financial loss.
If you’ve suffered from a negative event that damaged facilities or impacted registration, look for grant opportunities that target disaster recovery.
Special populations grants
These initiatives focus on programs that serve underserved communities. Target populations may include youth with special needs, disabilities, or low-income families.
If you think your organization qualifies for special grants based on your community's or players' circumstances, do research in your area.
Some organizations focus on specific sports. For example, you can find grants for youth football, baseball, softball, and soccer programs. Look around, and you’re sure to find more!
Researching grants is one of the top baseball fundraising ideas.
How to get youth sports grants
1. Research grant opportunities for your organization
Now that you know the types of grants available, you can search for good fits for your recreation program. It’s a good idea to think about your needs today and your vision for the future.
The best way to get started is by searching on Google.
- Search by region and sport . For example, if you manage a basketball organization in Texas, you can search “youth basketball grants in Texas” and comb the first page of results on Google.
- Create a spreadsheet with a list of the grants programs, websites, and contact information to stay organized.
Once you’ve researched grant programs in your city and state, you can explore national grant programs that your organization could qualify for. You’ll find that many well-known companies offer grants for youth sports.
Check out grant programs from Nike, Walmart, Home Depot, and Cabela’s. Nonprofits and professional sports teams may have grant programs as well.
There are also online databases that can help you search for grants. Try a few of the sites below:
Make sure you read all the details to know if your league meets grant eligibility requirements. It can waste your time (and the grant provider’s time) if you aren’t qualified for the grants you seek.
Keep a list of grant opportunities and share it with key people in your program. Be sure to include essential details like due dates and links to grant applications.
2. Prepare your grant applications
No youth sports fundraiser is successful without organization and preparation. Every grant program is going to have a unique grant application process. In some cases, you’ll need to submit a simple online form.
Others may require detailed documentation or details on current league financing, mission statement, code of conduct, and demographics. You may also need to write statements or essays that describe why your league is worthy of support.
Always think of your audience when preparing a grant application. What do they want to hear? Evidence of success or specific uses for the funds can often be vital. You can re-use material created for donation request letters in grant applications.
- Make sure you have all the information you need.
- Share it with key league leaders to get buy-in if necessary.
- Include your organization’s letterhead, logo, and mission to stand out among the crowd of applications.
Make sure you’re well prepared ahead of the deadline, so you don’t bump into a time crunch.
3. Submit applications and track results
Aim to have all the information you need together before the grant program due date. Double and triple-check any financial statements to make sure you are accurate. Proofread written materials. You want your league to appear responsible and well-managed.
Set aside some distraction-free time to focus on your grant submission. You don't want a small, preventable mistake to prevent your league from securing funding.
Limitations to youth sports grants
While grants should be a key component of your youth sports budgeting strategy each year, you shouldn’t count on grants to provide all of your funding. Here’s a few reasons why:
- Grant programs are often highly competitive. Grant programs often have a limited amount of funding and many applicants. Even if your organization meets all of the qualifications, you may not be approved.
- Grant programs often award their grants once per year. You’ll need to prepare applications well in advance in most cases, so if you are close to your season you may have to wait until next year to go through the application process.
- Relying heavily on grants isn’t a great long term strategy. A grant program might shut down in future years or decide to distribute funds to another community. It’s important to have other fundraising strategies in addition to your grant applications.
Keeping your board accountable with youth sports grant applications
Along with finding sponsors for your next season, you should be applying for grants that you might be eligible for.
No sports program wants to struggle with finances. Having an active focus on securing grants can help you build a thriving youth sports program.
One person in your league should be responsible for making grant requests and tracking due dates of applications. You may need to involve several people on your board involved in writing letters, submitting applications, and following up with decision makers.
Navigating your first grant application can be tricky–but you can build on what you learn. Over time, you’ll build relationships with grant-making organizations. You’ll know you can rely on them for funding support. And they’ll know that supporting youth sports through your league furthers their charitable mission.
This is a win-win-win for your league, the grant providers, and the young people that play at your organization.