The Essential Guide to Adaptive Sports Fundraising

Michael Evert

When we recently spotlighted the adaptive sports organization Challenge Aspen, we were thrilled to see the amazing work they are doing to help folks with disabilities enjoy sports like skiing. Yet were you aware that Colorado has the largest amount of programs dedicated to adaptive sports in the country? Or that New Mexico has the second largest amount of programs?

We wanted to take some time to dive deeper into the amazing world of adaptive sports. Given that over 12% of individuals in the United States have some sort of a disability, this means that you or someone you know may benefit from enjoying adaptive sports, either recreationally or competitively.

Since our specialty is data backed fundraising strategy, we wanted to provide some resources and strategies for organizations looking to fundraise for their adaptive sports needs. We’ll explore what exactly is adaptive sports, what options exist for funding, and what strategies a nonprofit can leverage to optimize their fundraising.

What are adaptive sports?

Adaptive sports (or para sports) are competitive or recreational sports for people with disabilities. Adaptive sports often run parallel to typical sports activities. However, they allow modifications necessary for people with disabilities to participate and many sports use a classification system that puts athletes with physical challenges on an even playing field with each other.

The types of adaptive sports can range greatly. Some categories are:

  • Indoor and outdoor
  • Cold weather and warm weather
  • Team and individuals
  • Inclusive and disability-specific
  • For children, adults, and families
  • For people with physical, intellectual, and/or emotional disabilities
  • Competitive and leisure

If you can think of a sport, there’s most likely a modification process to ensure its inclusive for folks with disabilities. Disabled Sports USA has an amazing resource section on their website that helps explain what can be done to ensure a sport is modified that anyone can enjoy it.

Let’s use snowboarding as an example of what we mean by modifications. The two primary items that need to exist as resources are equipment modifications and trained staff to teach individuals who want to enjoy the sport in the adaptive environment. As Disabled Sports USA says about snowboarding specifically, “Choices are divided into equipment which a student uses independently and that which is instructor guided or assisted. Appropriate equipment is ability-oriented and based on whether a student has sufficient balance and strength to ride vertically or needs to use a mono-ski type of adaptation.”

Yet equipment, modifications, and training aren’t free and in fact may be quite expensive. When explaining the reason she started her nonprofit, disability fundraising expert Tamara Simmons explained “Where the average two wheeled bike may cost around $300; the adaptive bikes average $3000. That is the challenge and reason families of the disabled need funding support; the expenses they face usually have an extra zero added to the number.

What options exist for funding adaptive sports needs?

While unfortunately not every state has an adaptive sports organization, there are an increasing amount of opportunities for families to either work with a nonprofit or find funding themselves. The absolute best resource for understanding all the fundraising options is Tamara Simmons free and low-cost resources. We’re going to focus on the options available for non-profits specifically, though check out her website if you’re interested in funding opportunities for individuals and families looking for help.


While not a guarantee, grants can be an indispensable option for a nonprofit looking to make a big impact. There is a wide variety of options when it comes to grant funding for adaptive sports. It may come from a private foundation, a charitable arm of an adaptive sports company, or from the government.

There are grants for veterans, children, specific types of injuries and sportslots of options exist to explore for your nonprofit. If you’ve never written a grant before, it can be a daunting task so take your time, do your research, and write a clear story of why your organization should be the recipient of the funding opportunity.


Turning toward your community and stating a clear need is a powerful way to engage people with your mission as well as fund the immediate objectives that you have. It is important to understand the differences between crowdfunding and peer to peer since that is going to impact the strategy when telling your story and providing resources for your ambassadors to spread the message.

It is vital that your messaging be focused on the needs of your constituents and not become simply a pitch for buying something. Donor trust is built on ensuring that people benefit from your services, where you want to make it a transformational experience as opposed to a transactional one.

Fundraising Events

There’s a unique opportunity when it comes to utilizing fundraising events for funding adaptive sports needs. There are the basics for any type of fundraising event that should be followed to keep things fresh, but it also may be exciting to build in elements that speak to the purpose of the funding itself. Some ideas:

  • Sports related events like 5Ks and walk-a-thons
  • Host a screening of an adaptive sports movie, such as The Movement
  • Include auction items that will be inclusive to all participants
  • Meet and greet with assistance dogs

Annual Fund Ebook

How can a nonprofit streamline their fundraising?

Nonprofits need a diversity of revenue sources to ensure that if one falls through, that it won’t be an organization ending hit to the bottom line. Juggling so many items though can mean that grant deadlines get missed, donors don’t get receipted, and meal preferences at a gala don’t get logged. So what can a nonprofit do to streamline this?

Focus on relationships

When a nonprofit adopts software that goes beyond a transaction management system for donations and instead focuses on relationships, it means that the strategy for engagement is inherently more sophisticated than just logging what money came in and when.

Adopting a constituent relationship management (CRM) system will ensure your nonprofit can tailor their messaging specific to the interests of your organization. Imagine being able to reference a donor’s favorite sport when making an appeal for adaptive technology funding? This is why going beyond basic donor data is important.

Automate the daily tasks

One of the most common pain points we hear about relates to proper receipting of donors. Being able to get out a personalized receipt within 48 hours is vital to donor retention, but it’s something that many nonprofits struggle with. This could be sped up by automating some of the tasks that may be done in a manual way right now. Items that could be automated with technology include:

  • Online donations and event ticketing
  • Email receipts and mail merge letters
  • Logging donor interactions
  • Tracking emails and physical appeals

Freeing up this time can have a major impact on your organization’s ability to focus on donor personalization and retention.

Personalize, retain, rinse and repeat

Automation should not come at the expense of personalizing your donor interactions, however. Freeing up time on the basics should then have the focus turn on personalizing the donor’s interaction with your mission and hence focusing on retention.

When crafting your appeals, your event invites, and your overall messaging your organization should be writing from the heart. What is it about your services that speak to your donor’s passions? Zero in on that and you’ll have a winning strategy to help fund any adaptive sports need.

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