How clubs and counties are pulling in cash by buying houses
Initiative, which began in Louth, has proved a success to date but has the trend already run its course?
A tranche of clubs around the country are also mirroring Roscommon’s template in the hope of raising much-needed funds for their own local facilities. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
When Roscommon GAA first announced that their latest fundraising initiative would involve holding a raffle for a house, the news was greeted with a combination of incredulity, support and a general sense of wariness – “They hardly just said they were going to raffle a house, did they?”. The idea was so far out of the box that ridicule from some quarters may have been understandable.
But 14,034 tickets later, priced at €100 each, and the county had made a tidy profit of €943,400.
The idea wasn’t an original one, as it happens, with the inspiration coming from a similar initiative undertaken by Termonfeckin’s St Fechin’s GAA club in Co Louth. It was Roscommon’s project, however, that really set off what became something resembling a domino effect, similar initiatives taking off right across the country. Of course, Roscommon had a trump card in Sean Mulryan of Ballymore Properties, the county’s most prominent financial backer, and they were gifted a golden egg in the shape of a discount on a property in Ashtown, Dublin 15. Yet, there was still work to do.
“We had a quick chat with the people in Termonfeckin and we went from there,” explains Pat Compton, chairman of Club Rossie, the fundraising wing of Roscommon GAA.
“People trusted us to do it but they were obviously wary. Our finances were in pretty poor shape and we were in difficult circumstances, so people were willing to embrace a new idea – with some worries, some concerns.
“Our expectation was to sell maybe 10,000 tickets if we could. We set a limit at 15,000 but if we sold 10,000 we thought we’d be doing well. We almost hit 15,000.”
The success of the initiative has been noted and county boards in Cavan, Meath, Carlow and Donegal have began following similar paths since. Indeed, a tranche of clubs around the country are also mirroring Roscommon’s template in the hope of raising much-needed funds for their own local facilities.
Many of them have knocked on Roscommon’s door in search of advice ahead of taking on such a daunting challenge, but instead of holding on to their learnings in anticipation of a similar project in the future – of which there is one in the pipeline – the county was happy to pass on their wisdom.
‘GAA is a family’
“We haven’t kept this to ourselves,” continued Compton. “If any club or county came to us, we went through what we did and what worked for us and what didn’t. Anyone that came to us we were open with what we did. And we went through it went them. The GAA is a family and we weren’t going to keep any secrets.
“We’ve met a number of counties and we’ve met a number of clubs, and we’ve engaged with anyone that wanted to talk to us.”
The importance of online sales is just one example of something that was discovered during the project and, true to their word, Club Rossie are more than happy to share this with whoever comes asking.
“Eighty-four per cent of our sales were online. That gives you an idea that are website and our marketing online was attractive.
“We sold tickets in seven countries – Australia, the UK, the USA. We even sold a ticket in Nepal.”
One of the clubs the idea has filtered down to is Faythe Harriers in Wexford. They launched a similar initiative in July after they bought a house in Maynooth, Co Kildare. With the much-anticipated raffle taking place on New Year’s Eve, these are nervous and exciting times for the club that is in the midst of preparing for what they hope, in terms of ticket-selling, will be a busy Christmas rush.
“We saw what Roscommon had done and we said we wanted to be the first in our area to take it on,” explains club chairman Nicky Keeling.
“We knew what we were getting into. We did research it in a big way and we knew exactly what we had to do. We’ve tried everything else. We’ve pulled in €10,000, we’ve pulled in €12,000. But we’re in the middle of building a state-of-the-art clubhouse and the top half is not finished. We needed to finish it, as well as our parking facilities. We needed a good fundraiser to have one good go at it.
“We thought about it for about a year and discussed it amongst ourselves. It’s going well now but it’s hard work. You’re trying different things to try and get people to go and buy the tickets.”
Similar to Club Rossie’s experiences, much of the Wexford club’s ticket sales come through their website, www.winthehouse.ie, but “every single member” of the club is still committed to the project in some way or form. That’s 200 people in total.
“We had to get everyone involved. It’s the only way we could do it. There’s meetings twice a week nearly – different ideas, different versions on how we push ticket sales, ticket drops, leaflet drops. Even Larry O’[Gorman] and Lee Chin are heavily involved.
“We’ve done different things [in the past] – we’ve climbed over mountains, pikeman challenges. We just couldn’t do that again and make the money we needed to make.
“There are times when you would have sleepless nights. As chairman of the club you’d say to yourself, ‘Is this going to work?’
“We’ll give this one shot and that will be it because it has taken every resource in our club to do it.”
The question remains, however, whether we’ll see more of these initiatives down the road, or whether they’ll eventually run their course. Keeling, from his experiences over the last few months, feels the latter scenario is more likely.
“This is our opportunity as far as I’m concerned. I wouldn’t like to go at this again in two years’ time.
“I think you get one shot at this. This is our shot to make the few bob.”
Compton agrees, and even though there is talk of Club Rossie undertaking a similar project again, it is understood the house in question could be abroad this time, perhaps in an attempt to target a new market away from one that is quickly flooding in Ireland.
“Everything has a shelf life,” Compton says. “At the moment it has worked for clubs and counties that have done it right.
“It’s fairly challenging and it takes an awful lot of work. We had a committee that practically worked full-time on it. I’m retired so I had the opportunity to stand in shops and shopping centres and places like the Ideal Homes Exhibitions and things like that.
“It’s tough going – it’s something that you have to do well, you have to give the time to do it and you have to set up about doing it properly and organise it, and then you have to execute it.
“You have to set targets and you have to achieve them. There has to be a good plan there. And people have to be responsible for whatever sections of the plan they have to deliver on. It’s a business.”
So a house raffle would seem to have been a financially rewarding undertaking for those that put in the requisite resources and research, but it also seems like it could be a temporary craze. Already, some clubs and counties in the middle of fundraising are experiencing just how tough it may be to undertake a similar project in the future.
Resources and research may have reaped rewards in the past, and the combination may be continuing to help committees reach targets, but this style of fundraising may shortly run its course.
Then again, many shared a similar view when the likes of Roscommon and Termonfeckin came up with their preposterous ideas. Each of those, it’s fair to deduce, became quite the resounding success.