Online Fundraising – The Most Profitable and Efficient Fundraiser

Animated Image of athletes practicing
Expert Author

Sean Connors – Former Collegiate Baseball Player  and Current Team Fundraising Expert, eTeamSponsor

Author Bio: Since 2010 Sean has been company Quarterback (CEO) at eTeamSponsor.


Read Time: 9 min

Updated: 6/15/2023

Digital Fundraising
Effective Fundraiser
Most Profitable Team Fundraising
Team Discount Cards 


When it comes to fundraising for a team, club, or school activity there are a seemingly endless number of options. Selling popcorn, cookie dough, and discount cards or hosting sports camps and car washes are all popular fundraisers, but which one is the most profitable? What is the best fundraising method? With limited time and resources, how do you know where to focus your fundraising efforts?

To answer this question our crack team of investigative fundraisers researched all the options – interviewing area coaches and going straight to the websites of top fundraising companies themselves – and ranked each fundraiser based on profit and time investment.

The winner? Online digital fundraising for schools and teams is the most profitable and efficient fundraiser that takes the least amount of time! Read on to see how each of these fundraising options compare.

Profit Rank #1: Online Digital Fundraising

👍 PROS: 80% Profit to Team; Very Low Time Commitment and Highly Incremental (Up To 90% of Donations Can Come From Outside The Local Area)

👎 CONS: You May Have To Get Your Cookie Dough at The Grocery Store

🕓 WHEN TO RUN: Start in Pre-Season and Run Until Season End

Written by: Sean Connors, eTeamSponsor

Online Digital Fundraising is the most profitable and efficient fundraiser you can run for your high school and college team or activity that takes the least amount of time. How is this possible? Digital fundraising is very efficient as it takes less than 60 minutes to get set up and leverages text messages, social media posts, and email to reach potential donors.

These potential donors tend to have strong personal or family connections to the student-athletes in your program resulting in a high willingness to donate. In addition, many of these donors live outside the local area and haven’t been contacted to donate for your other fundraising activities (see below). As a result, digital fundraising is highly incremental to your school or team (at eTeamSponsor our clients find that 90% of donations come outside the local area).

What is the digital fundraising strategy? Given how easy it is to set up and run a digital fundraiser, we recommend starting your fundraiser in the pre-season and running until the end of your season. This maximizes the amount of funds you will raise with your digital fundraiser.

Are there any downsides to running a digital fundraiser for your sports team? Your team or activity may no longer need to sell popcorn or cookie dough, so you’ll have to get those items at the grocery store instead!

High School football players in red walking off the football field

Profit Rank #2: Booster Cards / Discount Cards

👍 PROS: 60-80% Profit to Team; Team Bonding Opportunity and Way To Show Value of Hard Work

👎 CONS: Very Time Consuming to Set Up and Execute; Team Typically Loses Money on Unsold Cards

🕓 WHEN TO RUN: Pre-season

Written by: Paul Reynaud, Concord HS Head Football Coach

Boosters cards / discount cards can be a useful tool for raising funds for your team or activity. One benefit of booster cards is their flexibility and versatility. These cards typically offer a range of discounts and deals from local businesses, allowing supporters to save money on their purchases while also supporting the team. You sell these cards for a fixed price (typically between $10 and $20) and pay for the cost of the cards keeping the difference (the profit on discount cards ranges from 60%-80% of the selling price of the card).

Depending on the popularity and number of participating merchants, discount cards can appeal to local residents and parents of students at your school. Additionally, booster cards can be used multiple times during the life of the card (typically one year) providing ongoing benefits for the cardholder.

There are some drawbacks to selling discount cards you should consider especially the time it takes to set up and execute a discount card program. Everything from finding local businesses to negotiating discounts, to physically selling the cards takes time. As a result, we recommend tuning your discount fundraiser in the off-season to not interfere with the team’s training. Once the discount cards arrive, additional challenges pop up like ensuring the cards are delivered to sellers and tracking sales. But the biggest risk to your team or activity is unsold cards. Most discount card vendors charge upfront for the number of cards produced and don’t offer refunds for any leftover cards. These unsold cards cut into the profit of your organization. The most popular discount card company is The Discount Card.

Booster and Discount Cards with local offers

Profit Rank #3: Popcorn

Profit Rank #5: Cookie Dough Sales

👍 PROS: 30-60% Profit to Team; Good Team Bonding Experience

👎 CONS: Very Time Consuming to Execute (typically 8-20 hours per student)

🕓 WHEN TO RUN: Off-season or Pre-season

Written by: Nichole Schumann, Clayton Valley HS Head Cheer Coach

Selling Popcorn and Cookie Dough are two popular fundraising options for teams or activities. There are many companies that offer perishable foods like these for your team to sell. You purchase these items from the vendor (who adds their mark-up and profit to the selling price) and then your team re-sells these items to students and parents at your school at a price that typically leaves your organization with a profit of between 30% and 60% of the selling price. Selling perishable foods can be a good bonding experience for your students and an opportunity to show them the value of hard work (and hard work it is – see below).

There are downsides to selling perishable foods, especially the fact that they need to be properly stored and delivered in a timely manner to maintain quality. In addition, you need to consider the time it takes to sell the products, about 8-20 hours on average per student. One of the leading popcorn fundraising companies, Popcornopolis also advises that  “results may vary and are based on the experience of your group, your local demographics, group leadership, and the amount of time you have to run your fundraiser”. The time spent selling perishable items door-to-door is also time your students could be using to perfect their craft, so we recommend holding these sales during the off-season or pre-season. This way you won’t interfere with their training and preparation for upcoming games or events.

Profit Rank #4: T-Shirt Sales

👍 PROS: 40-50% Profit to Team; Great for Team Support; Fun Way To Show Team Spirit

👎 CONS: Very Time Consuming to Set Up and Execute; Team Typically Left with Unsold Shirts

🕓 WHEN TO RUN: Pre-season

Written by: Nichole Schumann, Clayton Valley HS Head Cheer Coach

T-Shirt sales have proven to be a popular fundraiser with the potential for average to better profit. T-shirts provide an opportunity to show your team spirit through personalized designs. They also are a product that, if well-designed, supporters will proudly wear, raising awareness for the team or school activity. Just like the sale of perishable food items, you purchase the t-shirts from a supplier who adds their mark-up and profit, and you resell to students and area residents. Typically t-shirt sales will generate profit equal to 40-50% of the t-shirt sales price for your organization.
It is important to consider the limitations of t-shirt sales before selecting this fundraising option. Designing and producing shirts that appeal to a wide audience can be a challenge. Also, t-shirts and shipping can be expensive, and unsold t-shirts will eat into your team’s profit margin. Managing inventory and ensuring consistent sales require careful planning and effort, and the time investment can be significant, ranging from 8 to 20 hours per participant. Additionally, promoting and marketing t-shirt sales to reach a larger audience can be time-consuming and may not yield significant returns. Given the time commitment involved, we recommend running this fundraising activity in the off-season to not interfere with your organization’s events or training schedule.
High School football players in red walking off the football field

Profit Rank #6: Sports Camps

👍 PROS: Promotes School in Local Area – Helps Cultivate Next Gen Of Players; Great Team Bonding and Leadership Experience

👎 CONS: Only 30-40% Profit to Team; Very Time Consuming to Set Up and Execute (Typically 20-80 hrs Per Participant); Logistics and Cost of the Facility Rentals

🕓 WHEN TO RUN: Off-season

Written by: Steve Jacoby, De La Salle HS Football Coach

Sports camps are a fundraising option for your organization with a lower profit of between 30-40%. These camps are typically run by the students and coaches and provide great leadership and skills development opportunities for both participants and the students themselves. They are also a great way, especially at the college level, for students to earn money. For schools that do not offer scholarships to prospective students, income from these camps can help level the playing field with schools that DO offer scholarships. Lastly, camps are a great way to get your organizations name recognized by parents as well as the next generation of students for your program.

While sports camps provide opportunities for skill development and community engagement, they can be quite expensive. Costs for running a sports camp include facility rental, supplies, and wages to name a few. Sports camps also require a significant amount of time to plan and execute with the typical time investment ranging from 20-80 hours per participant. As a result, we recommend running your sports camp during the off-season to not interrupt training and games for your students while in-season.

Football Camp

Profit Rank #7: Car Washes

👍 PROS: Great activity for team unity; helping the local community; Getting a tan and building muscle

👎 CONS: Only 20-30 Profit for the Team; Very Time Consuming to Set Up and Execute;
Requires purchase of additional supplies

🕓 WHEN TO RUN: Off-season or Pre-season

Written by: Nichole Schumann, Clayton Valley HS Head Cheer Coach

A Car Wash fundraiser can be a fun way for a team or activity group to collaborate and work together towards a common goal. Additionally, car washes provide an opportunity for teams to engage with the local community and strengthen their bond with supporters. 

That said, it’s important to consider the financial aspects of holding a car wash. According to the leading supplier of car wash fundraising supplies, the profit margin for car washes is only 30%, and can be as low as 20% when you factor in the cost of water and the value of your team’s time. The time commitment can also be substantial, with participants needing to invest 10 to 20 hours to plan and hold the car wash. Given the significant time commitment of hold a car wash, we recommend running this fundraiser during warm weather months in the pre-season or off-season.

Run A Car Wash


In conclusion, digital online fundraising has transformed the way school, team, and activity fundraise. With its remarkable profitability, minimal time investment, and expansive reach, digital fundraising has proven to be the most effective and profitable form of fundraising. Schools and organizations that embrace this innovative approach unlock new possibilities for generating funds, providing them with the necessary resources to enhance educational experiences, support teams, and empower a wide range of activities. By tapping into the limitless potential of the digital world, we can revolutionize the way we fundraise, fostering growth, unity, and success for schools, teams, and activities in the U.S.

Sources: 1. Digital Fundraising industry average based on review of eTeamSponsor.com and websites of two competing digital fundraisers.  2. Booster/Discount Cards information based on US Fundraising Spreadsheet from May 2023 –  profit range is based on 80% all cards received being sold including any “free cards”. 3. Popcorn fundraiser data based on review of ABC Fundraising website on May 16, 2023: “Typical fundraising groups earn 50%-60% profit with the Popcorn fundraiser”. 4. T-shirt fundraiser information based on review of Custom Ink website; assumes that t-shirts are sold for between $20-30 each. 5. Cookie Dough fundraising information from review of BigFundraising.com Program Details which lists typical profit of 40%. 6. Sports Camps based on interviews with High School Coaches 7. Carwash fundraising information based on review of Sudz Fundraising website FAQ May 2023: “What Profit Can Our Group Make? Your profit is 30%”.

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Since 2010 eTeamSponsor has helped over 10,000+ schools raise $200 Million for their teams and activities. Let us help you raise more for your team this season!

Download our expert guide and learn about:

eTeamSponsor's 2023 Expert Team Fundraising Guide is designed to help optimize your in-season and out-of-season fundraising. Download eTeamSponsor's expert guide to learn:

Since 2010 eTeamSponsor has helped over 10,000 schools raise $200M for their teams and activities. Let us help you raise more for your team this season!

Download our Expert Guide to Team Fundraising and learn about:

  • The cost and profit of popular team fundraising options
  • The pros and cons of different fundraising options
  • How to maximize the funds raised for your team
  • The secret to structuring and effective fundraising program for your team 
  • The cost and profit of popular team fundraising options
  • The pros and cons of different fundraising options
  • How to maximize the funds raised for your team
  • The secret to structuring an effective fundraising program for your team
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