No one will describe me as shy, so I am not afraid to share my ideas and the ideas of other successful clubs on how to raise funds.
As the insurance broker for the International Mountain Bicycling Association, I talk with hundreds of IMBA Club board members and volunteers. We help them manage the risks associated with routine club activities like trail building, maintenance, special events, advocacy events, etc. It seems a common struggle for these clubs is raising funds. Many clubs use membership dues as their sole revenue source, which is seldom enough to purchase equipment for trail building and maintenance, and pay their ongoing expenses, such as insurance and tax preparation.
Many clubs believe advocacy events should be free, so they end up losing money by promoting bicycling and putting on special events like Take-A-Kid-Mountain-Biking, or a free skills clinic. There is nothing wrong with free events, but there are also great ways to use these events to help raise funds.
If a club is considering charging a small fee - say $5 - they may have to pay for additional insurance coverage that cuts into the profits. Many clubs, instead, charge $50-$75 to attend events. If they are fun and the money goes to a good cause, people will spend the money.
Cyclists have very high average incomes. In many parts of the United States, studies have shown that 45% of cyclists have household incomes over $100,000, so for many of the, a $5 fee or a $50 doesn't make much of a difference.
Special events are a lot of work to put on, but the rewards can be great for both industry advocacy and your club's finances. My club, Chequamegon Area Mountain Bicycling Association (CAMBA), puts on a Festival of Trails event. It is a full-weekend of fun events. We have a ton of silent auction items that are donated by the bicycle industry, and have teamed up with another local event, Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, to help solicit donations. They added a section on the race entry form, which allows people to donate money to our club, and Trek matches the amount donated.
Do you have a local event that uses the club's trails? If so, ask them to add a spot to donate on the application. Simple? Absolutely.
The easiest way to raise money is (it's really complex) ready? JUST ASK those who use and benefit from the trails! Two years ago I created a list of people who use our local trails a lot. Then I received a list of people who sponsor and/or are members of our local club. If the user wasn't a member/donor, I sent them an email explaining the cost and work that goes into making singletrack trails. I suggested they donate if they regularly use our trails or help build trails if they can not afford to donate. This resulted in nearly $2,000 in donations within a couple weeks. I only emailed about 35 people and it took 10 minutes. Not a bad return!