Developing the Swim Team Budget

There are two kinds of expenses in a budget: fixed expenses and variable expenses. In developing the budget you must plan for both and limit variability as much as possible. 


For most clubs, the main fixed expenses are coaching salaries and pool rental. If you pay coaches hourly, it is harder to budget. When both head and assistant coaches are paid a salary, you know exactly what the budgeted amount must be. If coaches are currently paid hourly, figure out how much you are paying in the course of a year and consider switching to salary. Other fixed expenses for coaches may include:

  • Insurance
  • Unemployment contributions
  • Retirement/benefits
  • Coach certification
  • Continuing education

How much money is allocated toward coach salary and benefits says a lot about your commitment to quality coaching. 


The other main fixed expense is pool rental. Pools are not free and you need to be prepared to pay your share. But work to secure a long term contract with your facility so there are no surprises every year. 


Variable expenses include coach travel, athlete travel, social events and equipment replacement. These expenses can vary greatly from year to year. Keeping track can give ballpark figures to use in planning the budget. 


A “program enrichment” budget should be developed for both short-term and long-term goals of the program. Money for program enrichment should come from fundraising. People will raise money when presented with worthwhile goals. 


Where does the money for your swim team come from?

Traditionally, swim team income come from two sources, team fees and fundraising. Fundraising will be the subject of future articles. Let’s look at fees.

Swim team fees should cover the basic fixed expenses in your budget. Fixed expenses are the items without which you cannot exist: coaches and pools. Teams should not be fundraising to pay the coach or rent the pool, however an annual proven fundraiser might go toward fixed expenses. For example, hosting an annual swim meet might cover part of the fixed expenses, but car washes and candy sales should not be paying the coach’s salary!

Determining your fees involves research and an honest assessment of what your program offers. Are your fees competitive with other area clubs? Should/could they be higher? How do your fees compare with other sports or after school activities? “You get what you pay for” can be used as a positive club attribute. If you offer more or better services, you can charge higher fees.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world where swim club budgets are built almost solely from competitive swimmer fees. Many teams are now looking beyond team fees to fund their programs. They are running Learn to Swim programs, pre-team clinics or bridge programs and aquatic exercise programs to raise additional funds.

Finally literature suggests that a swim team should have a minimum of 50% of its yearly fixed operating budget in “reserves”. Therefore, it is okay for a team to plan to “make a profit” at the end of year to build up reserves and save for the future.

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