Athletes Turn to Crowd Funding to Raise Money

In the News–August 21, 2013–By Jen Benepe

Emily Scott, a US Speedskater, raised $4,800 in a week through crowd funding after an article appeared about her efforts in USA Today.

Erin Hamlin on the USA Luge Team is shown on her the crowd funding page for USA Luge on Indiegogo this year.

She had to do that because unbeknownst to most of the American public, unlike many other nations, U.S. Olympic hopefuls don’t get funding from our government to compete.

Some cyclists have also gotten into the action, with a handful of teams and athletes trying to raise money on the site. The 1K2GO junior development team raised $1,600 through RallyMe.

But more often than not, the other sports are way ahead of cycling in using crowd funding to fund their dreams of becoming Olympian winners or even pro cyclists.

Some Olympians have turned to crowd funding sites like RallyMe.com. That company has also partnered with six national governing bodies including U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, and USA Speedskating to provide an avenue for their athletes to raise money.

The front page of the RallyMe site features a speedskater on a beautiful piece of ice, out in the wilderness.

Richard “A-wire” Lecky, a pro BMX rider from Jamaica “with dreams of competing in the X Games in 2013,” raised $1,300. “Being from a lower class in Jamaica, getting into BMX Freestyle was not easy for many reasons. One of the biggest factors in this is that we have no skate parks nor do we have bike shops that we can get bikes or parts even if we could afford it,” he wrote on the site.

On it’s ‘How to Rally” instruction page, the company starts out by playing on the old adage, “build it and they will come,” that was made famous by the movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner: “Hear that voice whispering in your ear that’s telling you “if you build it, they will come”? Ignore it. Sure, it worked in the movies, but this ain’t Iowa,” they write.

Team USA Speed skaters have only raised $1,400 out of a goal of $50,000 for their efforts on RallyMe.com, but perhaps the team’s marketing page is not all it could be: it does not show the athletes names or photos and their bios on the site.

The team has 45 more days to reach their goal to fund their critical need to win:

Speedskating is the most decorated winter sport in the U.S. With 85 Olympic medals (and counting), our athletes are poised to add to that medal count at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Now we need your backing to help us get there.

Some of the athletes have individual pleas to raise money, among them speed skater Alyson Dudek, a short track speed skater who has

Chris Mazdzer USA Luge eam

raised $2,925 out of a $15,000 goal.

USA Luge will become the first U.S. National governing body to turn to crowd funding, teaming up with Indiegogo, a digital fundraising company based in San Francisco with the hopes of raising $50,000 for the Sochi Games, according to the Sports Business Journal.

So far USA Luge’s Indiegogo has raised more than $13,000 with a video plea and photos of the athletes Erin Hamlin, 2009 World Champion and soon to be third time Olympian, Julia Clukey, and Chris Mazdzer.

Writes the team,

Your contribution, no matter how large or how small, makes a difference.  By donating to USA Luge, you can take pride in the knowledge that you are playing a direct and meaningful part in the Olympic team’s success.

But even on Indiegogo, cyclists represent a fraction of the athletes looking for funds.

Justin Oien, a junior racer, successfully raised almost $3K, –his goal, to travel to Canada and Belgium for USA Cycling.

Justin Oien, a junior bike racer, was able to raise almost $3,000–his goal, to travel under the umbrella of USA Cycling. The money would help support his efforts to race in Canada and Belgium.

Some cycling-related organizations have used Indiegogo for their funding efforts, among them a charity ride for Cambodian children, a unicycling across America endeavor, and group that sought to save poor cyclists from danger by providing them with lights who raised $288.

Another 17-year-old cyclist who sought funding, Luke Hattersly, did not win a penny from the group. One reason, his video does not really work.  Cycling CEO, a start-up that seeks to engage corporations in cycling programs, also was unable to raise a penny through Indiegogo.

It is clear that sites like RallyMe are still undergoing growing pains: some of the videos have no sound, and athlete’s pages look hastily put together and amateurish. Searching for cycling and cycling related projects on Indigeogo yields the unfortunate results of  “recycling” projects among its rather bare results.  A better search and indexing system would really help for those people interested in funding sports and athletes. But as with their sports, the competition will make them better.

  • admin

    thanks Bill! We stand corrected!

  • Billkerig

    Hi There,

    I’m the CEO at RallyMe and an avid cyclist myself. Freshly back from a mountain bike ride in Park City (yep, I’m typing in Lycra), I just read your story. Thanks for the great coverage of crowdfunding for athletes.

    At RallyMe we are committed to serving all athletes, but hold a special place in our hearts for cyclists. We hope that soon we will have many more cyclists raising money on our platform.

    One niggling point: Although I know that you were quoting a Sports Business Journal story that said that USA Luge was the first National Governing Body to turn to a crowdfunding platform, that stat is in error. As the US Ski Team, USA Snowboarding, US Freeskiing, US Bobsled/Skeleton, Women’s Ski Jumping USA, and US Speedskating had already turned to and found success on RallyMe’s crowdfunding platform USA Luge was probably the 7th NGB to try it out.

    That chronology notwithstanding, thank you again for your fine piece.

    Bill Kerig
    Founder/CEO RallyMe