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How to Raise Money for your Team to Attend Nationals.

There are dozens of ways teams go about finding the money to pay for the trip to Nationals. For some it's surprisingly easy; others find that qualifying for Nationals turns out to be a much easier task than raising the funds to get there. Here's one creative idea, reprinted with permission from Scholastic Visions newsletter, February 1999. The author is Linda Monge, Fairfield Community High School, Fairfield, Illinois...

The first year that our varsity scholastic team gained the right to participate in a national competition we were extremely happy! Then the realization set in that it would be up to us to raise the necessary funds for such a trip. We asked our school board for help, and they agreed to pay for the gasoline for our school van and to pay the expenses of the coach. This was great news, but we would still need $1500 to cover the remaining expenses.

That is when the idea of an annual Community Knowledge Bowl came forth. The team and I knew we did not want to sell goods door-to-door, and we hated to just ask family and friends for donations. So, we decided to hold a scholastic tournament that would allow adults and students other than the scholastic team and our high school some positive publicity.

We set our date, a Saturday morning in May. Then from the Chamber of Commerce we obtained a list of civic organizations in our town. Our goal was to get at least eight groups from this long list to participate. Then, we realized that we would have to charge quite a high fee to raise the necessary $1500 if we only had eight participants. So, we gave the opportunity to all groups of either having a team that would actually compete in the tournament or having a "ghost" team. A "ghost" team would be entered in the tournament, and the name of the group would be recognized, but they would not actually compete. A "ghost" team would be a bye for that round. In either case, the cost would be $50.

We sent letters to over fifty different organizations. We also sent letters to members of past varsity FCHS teams and to area high schools and junior high schools. The response was even better than we had expected! Our goal of eight competing teams was surpassed, and the idea of a Community Knowledge Bowl started creating quite a bit of excitement among the community. Several local businesses sponsored teams, and even some other surrounding scholastic teams entered the tournament. Also, we had teams of teachers from our own high school and feeder schools.

The format of the meet was that of a usual conference meet. Since we figured that most teams would not want to spend their entire Saturday at a tournament, we shortened the number of questions to 20 toss-up questions each with an accompanying bonus. The type of question was similar to our usual competitions, but we used more "common knowledge" science and mathematics, and we included more current events questions. We even added some local current events questions for fun.

The varsity scholastic team not only wrote all the questions, but also served as moderators and officials of the tournament. My team really enjoyed writing the questions, and they especially enjoyed moderating the actual games. It also led to an appreciation of the work that goes into hosting a scholastic tournament.

After our initial mailing we sent a follow-up letter if we did not get a response in one week. We also set a date for entries to be closed. The response was just great! We had 15 teams the first year that actually participated in the tournament and enough "ghost" teams so that more than the needed $1500 was raised. We found that many groups wanted to help us reach our goal, and some even gave more than the $50 that we had requested.

As for the prizes, we decided to give gift certificates for pizza for the first and second place teams and for the consolation team. We also gave individual trophies to the winning team. Our plans were to have the tournament over by noon, and that would allow the winning teams to have lunch together at a local restaurant after the competition. All of the prizes were even donated by local businesses.

The winning team from our very first competition was a team that called themselves, The Graduates . This was a team of former FCHS scholastic team members who came together to try their luck after a few years away. This team has been back each year to defend their title, and it has created quite a desire on the part of other teams to beat The Graduates each year. The members of this team do not even live in Fairfield anymore, but they all mark their calendar for this special reunion.

Yes, it is possible to get the community involved in fund-raising efforts. I think that the publicity for our scholastic team was probably more important than the $1500 that was our goal of the project. Now, more of the community has an appreciation for the knowledge that it takes to be a good team, and they also understand what a scholastic meet is.

Our first tournament was so successful that we have held the Community Knowledge Bowl each spring ever since. Of course, first, it is up to our varsity scholastic team each year to do the necessary work to need the money. So, if we qualify for a national tournament again this year, our fourth annual Knowledge Bowl will be in May. Do you have a team that would like to enter?