USRowing ups fundraising, saves more than $500,000 during Games

USRowing raised $120,000 during a 60-day fundraising campaign called “Row to London.” The first-time fundraiser increased private gifts to the organization to $1.2 million in 2012.

The fundraising total doubles what the organization raised in 2008 and is a 1,000 percent increase from the $30,000 in private gifts raised in 2002. Some of the individual gifts given in 2012 topped $25,000.

The U.S. women's eights team won its second straight Olympic gold medal on Thursday.
“We’ve never seen those type of numbers before,” said USRowing CEO Glenn Merry, speaking after the women’s eights team won their gold medal Thursday. “It’s been an organizational process, eight years in the making. It’s really changing the culture here.”

Merry said the Row to London campaign not only helped raise money, but it also helped drive interest among rowers in the USRowing team. Clubs around the country organized viewing parties for this week’s Olympics.

The Row to London campaign was the first marketing campaign the organization had ever launched before an Olympics. USRowing developed a “Row to London” logo that it featured on its website and apparel.

The money the organization raised is put into its elite athlete program. The organization spends $13 million to $14 million on its elite program during a four-year Olympic period, far less than the $60 million-plus that Great Britain spends on its rowing teams.

Merry said $1 million of the $1.2 million raised will go to cover athlete travel costs, training equipment and facilities used by elite athletes. The other $200,000 goes to administrative costs.

The organization saved more than $500,000 this Olympics by staying in an athlete village that London Olympic organizers developed for rowing teams near Eton Dorney, where the rowing has been held.

It’s the first time in the last decade the organization has had its rowers stay in the athlete village. The organization historically reserved hotel rooms for its rowers. In Athens, it spent $450,000 on hotels and in Beijing it spent $600,000. Neither Olympics had a village for rowers near the rowing venue.

Merry said coaches were concerned about there possibly being distractions for the athletes at the village, but staying there has worked out well. He praised LOCOG for creating a separate village for the rowers.

“It’s such a large rowing nation that they wanted it to be a showcase and the best possible situation for the athletes,” Merry said. “They’ve done that.”

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