Crowd Financing For Athletes' Dreams

PHOTO: Lindsey Van of the USA competes during the during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup Womens HS108, Jan. 12, 2013, in Titisee-Neustadt, Germany.

Athletes needing money to pursue their sports—everyone from would-be Olympians to actual Olympians to little league baseball teams—now have an efficient way to get it: a new crowdfunding site called RallyMe.

It's the brainchild of author and screenwriter Bill Kering, who was appalled to see the grubby, time-consuming lengths elite amateur athletes must go to raise even a few bucks: attending bake sales, washing cars, peddling candy door-to-door. In 2010, Kering watched Olympic ski jumper Lindsey Van (about whom he was making a documentary, "Ready to Fly") work the crowd at a farmers' market, begging strangers for a few dollars each. He asked himself: Can't there be a better, quicker way than this for the Vans of the world to finance their dreams?

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So, he came up with RallyMe. He tells ABC News that the site, which went live a year ago, has raised about $500,000 so far.

It works very much the same way Kickstarter does, with a few important exceptions: First, RallyMe caters exclusively to athletes, teams, sports organizations and sports-focused creative projects. Second, the type of fundraising it provides is not the kind Kering calls "all-or-nothing."

On some sites, the money-seeker gets nothing if he fails to raise 100 percent of his target sum by a stipulated date, and he gets no money until that date.

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On RallyMe, an athlete who fails to reach his full target amount gets however much has been donated, and he gets it incrementally. "You get your money in real time, as you go," explains Kerig. Thus, if you need new curling mittens now—not later--you can get them now, provided enough contributions have trickled in.

Why else might an athlete opt for RallyMe over, say, Kickstarter? That's an easy one: Kickstarter does not allow athletes, teams or athletic organizations to raise money on its site. They are specifically excluded.

Donors who use RallyMe are eligible for "swag"—defined by the site as an item or service given as a thank-you by the money-seeker. A donor who contributes to a golfer, for example, might get a personal lesson.

What guarantee is there that an athlete will use the money the way he's said he will—on liniment and talcum powder, say, rather than on lap-dances? None, says Kerig.

A transgressor's punishment is left to providence. Reads a disclaimer on the site: "We believe in honest participation in sport. We also believe that if you are someone who is ready to lie or [to] cheat your friends and family (who will be your first circle of support), then you will get yours, one way or another."

Whether or not a donation is tax-deductable depends on whether or not the money-seeker has qualified with the IRS for 501(c)3 status. On the site, a "501 icon" denotes those who have.

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While he's happy to see RallyMe being used by Olympians such as Van, Kerig says his goal is to see it used "much more by the Keller Middle Schools of the world."

Keller, in Las Vegas, is gearing up now for its 2014 basketball season. Its boys' team, according to the school's RallyMe page, "is in desperation to raise funds for practice jerseys"--$200 worth. Donating $10 gets you a team photo; $20, a signed team photo. Fifty dollars gets you "a shout-out during our game on the loudspeaker."

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