Funding for private teams?

So for those people who are on or mentor private, non-school affiliated teams, what do you do for funding?

Next season I’ll have 1-2 teams that I’ll be running. I have no issues with investing my own money into the teams, along with having some parts already.

But for long term success and making things work, I want to know how you all go about funding and fundraising for your teams.

This was our full second year as a homeschool team. We have had parents go to biz owners they know, sit outside of Sam’s club, sell PDQ gift cards, GoFundMe, etc…
Unfortunately, it still takes a great deal of our own money to make it work. Especially when we go to Worlds, last year and this year.
Many teams make money on hosting tourneys, which we can’t do without a facility, so it’s just beating the bushes.

From a practical standpoint, per year, 2 teams, we spend around:
$1.1k - practice arena
$500 - new game elements
$3k - parts
$3k - registration, including Worlds
$5k - travel, including Worlds

Short answer: parents write checks.

Your job is to figure out start up one time costs versus the operating costs. I’ll get some more details as we close out he current season. The numbers above seem about right. See if you can ask $450 a kid and then worlds travel is extra.

We estimate at $75 per event for 5 events plus states costs. 4.25 average number of kids per team in our club. Costs of hosting your own should be a wash with registration fees + food profits + the money you would not have spent going elsewhere. but there is a ton of costs running an event from tons of extension cords, a wireless router, monitors, etc etc. Sharing with other teams helps.

We already have field perimeters and other items but you have some start up costs to deal with. More people actually makes it easier as it shares the cost burden. Tools, workbench, storage locker, etc it all adds up.

You may have to incorporate to open a checking account depending upon the bank. Or you could do it out of your own account but that can be dicey. Incorporating leads to a new headache of paperwork.

Don’t forget to purchase insurance. You don’t want to be caught off guard and many places to host an event or use facilities require it. $500 or so there.

I am part of a private team. National Robotics Academy Inc. We were founded three years ago by our coach because two middle school robotics students were going to go to different high schools and still wanted to do robotics together. They were willing to take all the cost themselves and do it out of their basements. Our coach, their coach at the time thought that he could do something about it. So he made a non-profit, the National Robotics Academy Inc. It takes a lot of paper work to make a non-profit, but it is definitely worth the time. Since it is a non-profit, the tuition that you pay to participate is a tax deductible. Companies are more willing to support non-profits that works in a basement over just a bunch of kids that work in a basement. It takes a lot of money to run our non-profit. How we do it is; tuition, our tuition is $500; hosting events, you can make a lot of money from hosting an event, from entrance fees, concessions, to raffels, and whatever else you can think of to make money at an event; and our coach writes to corporations asking for donations. This year we are going to sell fireworks at a stand to make more money. Basically anything that you can do as a fundraiser works. If you have any questions about raising money or starting a non-profit you can email me at or my coach at

Unfortunately, hosting events will not be a thing here. Many of the primary events in VA are run hosted and run by the organization that forms a lot of the infrastructure of robotics here.

That said, because I volunteer at all the events, our tournaments go from $75 to $25. With 4 events, that’s $100.

I’ve got 8-10 kids coming, and I was thinking of $75-$150 a kid, making it around $1500 I’d rake in off of fees.

Assistance from the main STEM organization here will be a great thing to do.

This was as of December so most parts were ordered at this point.

You can see from this chart, the needs of parts for new teams versus existing teams. Can you guess which are the new teams? This does not even count common parts like the Cortex, battery, and joystick. Some teams were very effective at scrounging/hoarding parts for their robotso they did not order much.

I would allocate a wee bit more for parts for a first year team. Parents will generally pay for something that benefits their child as much as robotics does.

Look at comparative activity costs too. What does travel soccer or baseball cost? Easily far more than robotics.

Here are the most common parts

If you had one or two fields you could host a skills challenge. It isn’t a huge fundraiser, but you could get $10 per team and have some concessions. Any money that you can get helps getting all the parts and paying entrance fees.

I would allocate a wee bit more for parts for a first year team. Parents will generally pay for something that benefits their child as much as robotics does.

Look at comparative activity costs too. What does travel soccer or baseball cost? Easily far more than robotics.

Here are the most common parts

Oh My… That is crazy, however we do follow a similar system.

If you cut it, you bought it. I keep it.

I’m not sure it matters whether you are private or school-affiliated. The high school team I mentor is 100% parent-funded, though we are hoping to make some changes to that for the upcoming season. The three school-affiliated middle school IQ teams that I help coordinate/mentor are also 100% parent funded, though the parts stay with the school.

I’m not sure what your’s and the kid’s expectations are, but those dollar values look awfully low to me. Travel soccer teams at the middle school level here range from $1200 to $1600 per child per year. I, personally, think that’s completely reasonable for a successful VRC team. My IQ parents put in more for each of their kids than you are considering.

Being under the school helps with the 501c3 designation is automatic so you can do fundraising easier without the hassle of the paperwork.

The downside as evidenced by our Oak Park friend, decisions can be made outside of your control. He was not allowed to travel to worlds even though he qualified. (sorry for the salt in the wound dude).

School educational orgs and foundations actually have additional tax advantages that a normal 501c3 does not. You can benefit from that too.

You may want to make sure that you have checks as designated funds for robots so accounting rules apply as a designated liability on the books for robotics. Making your parent contributions an activity fee for the designated activity can reduce shenanigans when there is a cash flow issue of the higher organization.

So I should definitely go through the process of being a 501c3 designated organization?

I’ll be establishing a bank account designated for robotics as well.

The large reason of the decision to go private STEMs from the lack of effort and support the current program and coach at the middle school they’re assigned to gives.

501c3 differs from incorporating. 501c3 comes after incorporating and takes 8-9 months. Many companies shy away from giving to non-501c3 orgs since it questions the tax deductability of their contribution.

Depending upon the bank you use, they may require you to be a proper registered corporation with the state prior to opening the account. Each state varies on their requirements so I have no idea what VA does differently from PA.

Incorporating has some forms, fees, and public notices (newspaper ads) to buy. This can cost a few hundred dollars by the time you are done.

If you plan on doing this for the long haul it is worth it. Otherwise being a sub-organization of the school is easier but comes with limitations.