Fundraising Essentials for Your Program

by Jodi West, Head Coach, Poland Seminary High School (Youngstown)

Funding is always in the back of every head coach’s mind when it comes to speech and debate.  As more districts continue to lose district funding sources, fundraising for your team will be more important than ever.  In this day and age, there are many different types of fundraisers out there for your team to utilize.

Do Your Due Diligence / Plan Ahead

Before you complete too much planning, especially if you’re part of a new program, first check with your school/district administrators (early) to understand their fundraising regulations and restrictions.  Some districts only allow a certain number of fundraisers based on the size of the activity/group, while others may need pre-approval from the district treasurer; also, many districts need to inform their administrators/school board of what they plan to do just to get it onto an official school calendar.

Keep in mind, the Ohio State Auditor has been advocating for school district policies regarding crowdfunding sources like Donors Choose, Go Fund Me, EDCO, Crowdrise, etc.  These policies would include any crowdfunding that would be used to “help enhance classrooms and enrich the education of their students.”

The state auditor released a special report in July (2018) citing concerns about student privacy, financial controls and accounting, and reputational risks.  As such, the auditor is advocating for school districts to have official policies in place regarding these types of funding sources.  The following segment (below) is straight from the Ohio State Auditor’s Office regarding the policies it would like to see implemented in school districts.

The Auditor of State’s Office recommends that districts consider designing a policy that incorporates the following guidelines and best practices:

  • Requiring that all crowdfunding campaigns be reviewed and approved by a designated school administrator;
  • Directing the designated administrator to ensure that the proposed crowdfunding campaign does not violate any federal or state law, including those governing the confidentiality of student information, and that the campaign seeks donations that comport with the district’s education philosophy, needs, and technical infrastructure;
  • Designating which crowdfunding services can be used by teachers. These should be services that send donations directly to the school, not to the teacher, to ensure that donations are not diverted or misused. The district also should determine if participation with a given crowdfunding site obligates the school district to assume any responsibility to file government-required reports of charitable activities;
  • Requiring that donations only be used for the stated purpose;
  • Mandating that no donations will be accepted without school board approval;
  • Establishing that all crowdfunding donations are the property of the school district, to be entered promptly into the district property inventory or deposited in district bank accounts so that they are subject to normal financial oversight and auditing.

To see the whole report, just click on this link.

“Before you complete too much planning, especially if you’re part of a new program, first check with your school/district administrators (early) to understand their fundraising regulations and restrictions.”

Choosing the Best Fundraisers for Your Team

So how can you make it rain money for your program?  The answer is simple: Know your customer base; motivate your team to sell; and maintain fundraisers with healthy profit margins.

Fundraising can be the bane of every team’s existence; however, there are ways to make it fun for your team at the same time.  Let’s face it, the way to get the most out of any fundraiser is to get everyone on board—from team members to parents and coaches.

Try activities that put the “fun” in fundraising.

Activities that promote team-bonding have always been successful for my program.  From “Flamingo Flocking,” Bowl-A-Thons, and Car Washes—any event where the students can have fun participating and promoting will motivate them to get out there and sell.

Don’t make it a chore to participate.

Remember, these people are giving up their free time to help.  Make it worth their while.

Show appreciation for the help you receive.

Even if a fundraiser is mandatory on your team, “thank-you” gestures go a long way.

Come up with an incentive for the person who sells the most or brings in the most profit.

This could be reduced/no fees for an overnight trip, first choice of roommates for an overnight trip, or even a simple $15 gift card.

Use fun incentives to promote participation.

Offer things like a whipped-cream pie-attack to the coach of their choice for top sellers reaching certain goals.  Extreme examples of incentives could be shaving your head or beard, dying your hair your team’s school colors, and more.  Other options include wearing a funny wig to school all day, dressing like a clown for the day while teaching, or even (Dare I say it?) a dunk tank.

“Basically, don’t be afraid to try something new.”

Make sure you pick fundraisers that you know will be successful in your local area.

This is a little harder for a new program; however, after a while it becomes easier.   If your school is located in an area with a well-known chocolatier, this is a good place to start.

Though many districts have policies about selling candy during school hours, do not feel thwarted.  Ask every team member and coach to sell two boxes of candy bars/each, or even $100 worth of Easter candy/each—if that is an option with your local chocolatier (etc.).  Most of these types of fundraisers run at a 40-50 percent profit margin.  (I cannot tell you how fast my own team goes through candy bars!)

Also, make sure you are selling a quality product.

No one wants to buy a rock-hard candy bar, for example.  But a nice, creamy, milk-chocolate bar will fly out of your team’s hands with the money going quickly into your team’s spending account.  (Keep allergies in mind, as well.)

Also keep in mind the price of the products you’ll be selling.

If you are in a lower-income area, find items you can easily sell for $1/each.  Most candy bars from local chocolatiers are within that approximate range.  The fundraising packs you find at Sam’s Club and/or Costco encourage selling at $2/each.  If you go that route, you may be pricing yourself out of a successful fundraiser based on your area.

In my fundraising guide (on the OSDA website), I offer a few different fundraisers that have all been successful for my team.  I do encourage you to check them out as they all yield moderate-to-high profit margins—and with little-to-no upfront cost.

Click here for a link to the guide, for you to read at your leisure.

Basically, don’t be afraid to try something new.  Remember that the best fundraisers are something different that no other group (so far as you know) is currently doing.

With that, good luck raising money this year for your team/s.


In the Name of Optimal Speech Judging

by Chris Jennings, Assistant Coach, Canfield High School (Youngstown)

Fellow coaches, what is the thing that frustrates us most?  What frustrates our students most?

The subjectivity of speech judging, of course!

Subjectivity is inherent in judging.  There is no way to eliminate it, and we shouldn’t want to do that.  But we should absolutely do everything possible to ensure that the judges in the room are the most knowledgeable, capable ones available.

The following are things we can do to improve the quality of judges in the state of Ohio: Continue reading In the Name of Optimal Speech Judging

The Road to States: Another Look Back

Updated-headshotBW.pdfThis weekend’s Opening Ceremony will feature speeches from three new OSDA Coaches’ Hall of Fame inductees (Dolores Muller, Alan Bates, and Jason Habig).  In preparation for these upcoming speeches, here is a look back at one of last year’s inductees, Holly Custer of Wooster High School.

Can you remember a time when your life changed?

Maybe it was a big life event—like a wedding, a birth, or a death.  Or maybe it was a smaller change, like starting a new job or making a new friend.  We all have moments in our lives that help shape and define who we are and whom we will become.  For me, one of the most definitive moments of change happened in the spring of my eighth-grade year.  That spring, I said “yes” to speech and debate, and that decision completely altered the trajectory of my life. Continue reading The Road to States: Another Look Back

The Road to States: A Look Back

Penny HarrisThis weekend’s Opening Ceremony will feature speeches from three new OSDA Coaches’ Hall of Fame inductees (Dolores Muller, Alan Bates, and Jason Habig).  In preparation for these upcoming speeches, here is a look back at one of last year’s inductees, Penny Harris of Canton Central Catholic.

According to one famous comedian, “Life isn’t something you possess.  It’s something you take part in, and you witness.”  Thank you, Cleveland, for welcoming us to “The LAND.” The Land where we are all witnesses. Where Lebron James proved that a dream fueled by dedication, drive, and vision can be achieved.  How appropriate that The Land is hosting the OHSSL State Championship.

We may flex different muscles in speech and debate, but we share a few common denominators: similarities such as passion, competitiveness, and heart.  We are all witnesses to the power and effectiveness of speech and debate.  I am so honored to be standing here to join this group of individuals for whom I have the utmost respect, but no one stands alone in The Land.  Many people stand with me—including all of you.

We are all witnesses.  What I want to share with you now is my witness: how I got here; what I’ve witnessed; and why I love The Land.

I’m just a girl from Canton. Continue reading The Road to States: A Look Back

Rep Your Event 2018 Finalist voting is LIVE!

The Finalists have been selected and it’s time to vote for the winner.

Each competitor was tasked with doing his or her best to encapsulate, within a 1-minute video (perhaps with a slight grace period), what makes a particular competitive OSDA event great.  This year’s Finalists represent the events of International Extemporaneous Speaking, Public Forum Debate, and Original Oratory.

International Extemporaneous Speaking

submitted by Aditi Rajgopal, Mason High School (GMV)


Public Forum Debate

submitted by Grace Cousens, Laurel School (CLE)


Original Oratory

submitted by Natalie Zachariah, Olentangy Liberty High School (COL)


Now YOU get to decide who wins the $100 scholarship from the OSDA, and which event is best represented for the year.

Head to or click this link to vote.

One of these three finalists will be announced the RYE Winner at the State Finals Awards Ceremony in Sylvania.  Votes are limited to one per person/account, so get out the vote!

Voting will be open until sometime shortly before the Awards Ceremony at State Finals on Saturday, March 3, 2018.

Best of luck to you all!

Coaches’ Conversation


Hello and Happy New Year!

Last month NSDA held its first Twitter Chat that focused on strategies for hosting tournaments.  We stayed on that topic with two OSDA coaches who host large tournaments annually.



Coaches’ Conversation

featuring Dolores Muller (Wauseon, TOL) and Jessica Jones (Olmsted Falls, CLE)

How long have you been coaching?


20 years as a head coach; two years as an assistant


This is my fifth year coaching, all as head coach.

What are 2-3 of the most challenging aspects with hosting a tournament?

Continue reading Coaches’ Conversation

Is your team ready to represent?

Rep Your Event 2018 is here.

Contest Rules & Guidelines:

  • Create a 1-minute video encapsulating what makes your OSDA competitive event great.
  • Voiceovers, interviews, and demonstrating the event are all allowed.  There are multiple ways to present your message, but performance clips are encouraged.
  • All videos must be appropriate for public display.  Use discretion.

How to Submit: 

Post your video to YouTube and send a link to the OSDA at

Deadline for Entries:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Winning Entries:

  • Finalist videos will be voted on via online voting before (and their submitters/producers will be recognized at) the State Tournament Awards Assembly at Sylvania in March 2018;
    • Finalist entries will be determined by the OSDA Board of Directors;
  • The Grand Prize Winner, who will be determined at the State Tournament in March, will win a $100 scholarship (and be forever recognized as the winning video producer for that year).
  • The OSDA reserves the right to award additional prizes.

DISCLAIMER: By submitting a video to this contest, or by assisting with production of a video submitted to this contest, you acknowledge that OSDA retains the right to use any submitted video, or portions (including still images) thereof, for promotional purposes.

2016 Winning Video: Melissa Liang (Sylvania Southview, TOL)

2017 Winning Video: Amelia Mainzer (Highland, AKR)

2018 Winning Video: Yours?

Question Mark

Lights! Camera! Action! We look forward to seeing you represent.

Coaches’ Conversation

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, the Ohio Speech and Debate Association’s Board of Directors proudly unveils what we hope is a new, regular feature in OHIOspeaks—something we’re calling “Coaches’ Conversation.”  {The title still is in alpha testing, but that’s its name for now!)

We as coaches certainly have much to appreciate as our teams finish the first third of the OSDA regular season.  We appreciate our competitors for their effort, their willingness to learn and develop skills through practice, performance, and patience; we appreciate our judges who selflessly donate their time and talent on Saturdays so that we can provide students (and each other) with this life-enriching activity.

Not to be forgotten, your dedication and commitment as an OSDA coach inspires not only your students—but also your peers.  Periodically throughout the season, we’ll try to feature 1-3 coaches’ perspectives on various matters ranging from team-building strategies, to lasting memories, to opinions on OSDA policies.

Whether you’re a grizzled, veteran head coach of 15+ years’ experience—or a first-year assistant still trying to figure out just how the heck Policy Debate works—this is an opportunity to showcase our OSDA family by sharing some insight, and through simply getting to know each other a little better.

We give thanks this week especially to Carrie Spina of both Tusky Valley & Fairless (Canton), and to Jeri Neidhard of Centerville (GMV), who each took time to share responses to several questions.

Continue reading Coaches’ Conversation

Reflections on the benefits of the 2017 NCFL Grand National Tournament

by Marie Wetzel, Head Coach, Whitmer High School (Tarhe Trails)

As a first-year coach in the Fall of 2013, joining the world of Speech and Debate seemed much like being a first-year teacher, what with all of the acronyms that rolled easily off the tongues of the experienced—as my team just tried to remember which ones stood for our events.

So when I was introduced to yet another acronym (“NCFL”), I initially blew it off as something I could learn about later. After all, as a new coach with a new team, I still thought that qualifying for OHSSL State Finals was the pinnacle for which we aimed to achieve. After qualifying a student (to States) my first two years—with the second qualification being through a “Bigs” final round—I decided that perhaps it was time to look further into what the world of Speech and Debate had to offer.

I had heard grumblings that the National Catholic Forensic League’s (NCFL) Grand National Tournament “isn’t a real Nationals” or worth my time, yet my experience has been that the tournament is what you make of it. Personally, I offer the opportunity to compete at “NCFL” only to those on my team who absolutely have proven that they deserve to be there. For my team, that means (at minimum) success throughout the season and State-qualification, as well as successful achievement of various team expectations related to behavior and teamwork.

While I have found that not everyone in the country shares my perspective, I have also found that the NCFL tournament provides a variety of challenging experiences for competitors. In fact, this year’s 2017 NCFL Grand National Tournament—fondly referred to as “CatNats”—was an amazing example of such opportunities. Each of my qualifiers represents a different way in which NCFL can benefit competitors.

Continue reading Reflections on the benefits of the 2017 NCFL Grand National Tournament

The Feminist Kritik (Part 2)

Part 2

by Joan Reardon, Grace Haddad, Alexis Santor, Carley Francis,

with technical assistance from Jen Gonda,

Cardinal Mooney High School (Youngstown)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 was published on May 6, 2017.  You can read Part 1 here.

The first step to identify or support an issue is to gather data, and this was precisely what the analyzers were attempting to do by evaluating 333 ballots. There definitely are limitations to this study because the research team was comprised entirely of women, and each round was looked at only once. It is suggested that another debate team interested in this issue evaluate the ballots following the steps outlined above to see if the results correlate. In doing so, the issue of female debater perception can be analyzed by more debaters in an attempt to problem-solve this situation.

Continue reading The Feminist Kritik (Part 2)