The South Carolina Men’s Rugby Club supports several philanthropic programs as a way to give back to the community for their support, grow its fan base and keep the club in top condition.
Its programs include Rent-a-Rugger, the With You campaign and alumni weekend. It uses the funds raised from these programs to help pay its coach's salary and cover travel costs.
Head coach John Roberts and team members ask the community to help the club by making donations. However, Roberts emphasizes that he doesn't want his club to just ask for donations without any return from the club.
“We need to be able to show that we’re asking people to give to us, but we are willing to work on our own” Roberts said.
Roberts wanted to make sure the team’s supporters could see tangible returns in their donations to the club through services, fundraiser events and the team’s overall high-quality structure. One such service the club provides is Rent-a-Rugger.
“Basically, people in the community — students, faculty, staff, anyone who's in the Columbia area — can hire a rugby player or group of rugby players for a price,” club president John Golden said.
To rent a player or group of players, someone can make a donation of at least $75 for a particular job. Then, players sign up and go complete the jobs over the weekends.
The club has taken on jobs ranging from yard work to demolitions. To date, the club has raised approximately $4,000 from Rent-a-Rugger.
Aside from raising funds for themselves, Roberts noted that by helping out the community like this, the team has been able to expand its fan base. Those who they've helped via Rent-a-Rugger go from renters into fans after seeing the club work hard in providing quality service.
“We’re building a relationship in the community,” Roberts said. “You build friendships and you expand the profile of the rugby club, but you also just represent the University of South Carolina in a very positive light.”
Roberts said he is proud of his team for embracing this community service as a means of paying back the fans that help support the club.
Another important group of supporters the club keeps in close contact with are its alumni. Through programs such as its With You campaign and alumni weekend, the team asks for support from former players and gives back in creative ways.
“We’re asking alumni who’ve played here with me when I was a freshman, we’re asking people who’ve played with coach Roberts back in the day — we’re the oldest club in South Carolina so we’ve got a whole lot of alumni we try to reach out to,” John said.
The With You campaign is a direct way for alumni and other community members to help the club get the funding it needs for its scholarships, coaching salaries and other such program fees. John said that people participating in the program can dedicate a donation amount each month to help subsidize the costs.
The club directly interacts with alumni through its alumni weekend event. Here, the club can meet former players and make bonds with them face-to-face in an entertaining environment.
“We had a bunch of alumni come out. They played a game against us and then they watched our game the next day," member Dan Golden said. "We just raised money for the club and gave out awards to some alumni”
The goal of these programs is the connections that come with reaching out to alumni and community members, Dan said. Making these connections helps to create a strong fanbase for the rugby team, according to member Grant Howard.
The club’s hard work when fundraising isn't unnoticed, Roberts said.
“You can’t take on anything like this unless you have a full-throated endorsement of what you’re trying to do,” Roberts said.