By Nick Simonson
As the fall season of the North Dakota State High School Clay Target League (ND CTL) draws to a close, the excitement for the sport is only beginning to ramp up. Over the past four years, participation in the neighboring Minnesota league has nearly tripled, from 3,600 shooters in 2013 to 11,400 this year, and a similar trajectory is expected throughout North Dakota in the coming seasons as awareness and popularity grow. For those individuals or organizations looking to start a CTL team for youth in their area next spring, the challenge can often be multipronged – from finding funding to keep it affordable, to convincing a school to affiliate with a team, to assembling a reliable staff of coaches and gearing up for the season – all of which make starting the team with a click of a button on the ND CTL website seem like a walk in the park. In this exclusive three-part series, we address those matters of securing funding, gaining school or school board buy-in and preparing for a new team.
Now, well ahead of the next season, is the perfect time to get local buy-in in terms of financial support for a new CTL team. Keeping the cost of shooting low, and getting as many participants involved with the least amount of expense will help a team grow faster and will encourage community and school support. Starting with local sportsman’s groups, conservation clubs, shooting sports facilities, and outdoors or shooting-related businesses, founders of a CTL program can not only request funding from these groups that are dedicated to getting the next generation outdoors, but can also offer the promise of advertisement, sponsor recognition, assistance with banquets, and ultimately, new members through the ranks that will form as part of the team.
These organizations and businesses often have dedicated donation funding for local activities that encourage youth outdoors activities, and those funds – up until now – often go unused, or sit in a bank account collecting a nickel a month, as there has never been such a rapidly growing program in the history of shooting sports, and the investment is not just in the program itself, but in the future of the organizations.
“There are all kinds of examples of how young people embrace these supporting clubs by helping improve their facilities, do projects, and we see kids giving back: painting, volunteering, putting new roofs on trap houses, and so on” said John Nelson, VP of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, on just how participants give back and contribute to those local groups which support their shooting efforts.
The sponsorship of a successful CTL team builds brand awareness for these groups and businesses, and should not be downplayed when approaching them for support. The activity has made an incredible difference in the lives of thousands of young people in its first 15 years, and is only expanding further, increasing the confidence and ability of students and their understanding of safe, enjoyable shooting sports. These same young people are the future hunters, anglers, conservationists, shooting sports advocates, legislators and lobbyists who will protect those traditions into the future. Ingraining an organization’s support for their activities now, leaves a life-long, positive resonance in their minds going forward. That, and the club or business logo emblazoned on a slick shooting jersey or vest every spring, is also a good reminder of who helped them accomplish great things and enjoy high school a little bit more. While the amounts donated don’t need to cover all the program’s cost each year, cutting the cost of each participant by a third or half makes shooting sports open and more affordable for all.
When approaching local groups and businesses for donations, talk about what will be done with the money and how it will fund the success of the program. One early option for donated funds is the creation of a team endowment through the MidwayUSA Shooting Sports Foundation, where for every dollar put into a team’s account, the foundation will match it (at least through 2017) at a two-to-one ratio. Then every year thereafter, teams can pull out up to five percent of their funds to have a regular base amount to fund each season.
So, assembling $20,000 in donations, if placed in the endowment by Dec. 31, will leverage another $40,000, creating a base amount of $60,000 for a team, and withdrawn at $3,000 per year, helps take an effective bite out of budgeted costs the following season and each one thereafter. A good idea just prior to starting a team is to approach these groups and businesses with the idea of getting a large donation to start akin to a Charter Sponsorship, and smaller annual sponsorships for later seasons, once such an account is created. Place the larger, charter donations in the endowment to form the base and get the match, and use the annual withdrawal and future annual donations from these groups and local businesses to sustain each season.
Leading into the second part of this series, nothing is more convincing than a full bank account to a school board, when approaching them for their support. When an Activities Director or School Board President knows that sales of football, or basketball or hockey tickets or other school-based sources of funding won’t be needed to fund this new activity open to nearly every interested student and that the founders of the team and its volunteer coaches have done their due diligence to make the program financially viable before it begins, giving the blessing and sanctioning of the CTL team is a much easier task. Beyond the money, the rest of the hurdles of getting school board buy-in are fairly modest, but will get equal attention in the next part of this series.
Nick Simonson is a freelance outdoors journalist, a founding coach of the Marshall (MN) High School Clay Target League Team and a current coach for the Bismarck, Legacy and Century High School Clay Target League Teams in Bismarck, ND.
(Featured Photo: Long before a squad takes aim behind a trap house, getting a team organized requires funding, school approval and organizational efforts. Simonson Photo)