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Questions to Ask Yourself Before the Discovery Process with Mike Bahun of Fundraising University

The 19-year fundraising veteran brings with him a wealth of experience on what it takes to be a franchisee.

Fundraising University—a fundraising service for high school athletes—is a franchise built by a team of former athletes and coaches, like founder Mike Bahun, who wanted to change the game in sports fundraising. Started in 2009 in Omaha, Nebraska, the brand has collectively raised over $113 million for high school teams across the U.S. 

As a lifelong athlete, Bahun himself has certainly found a career in something he is passionate about with Fundraising U, and encourages those looking into franchising to do the same. “I was an athlete my whole life and eventually went into coaching. I still coach at Creighton University, and I always wanted to be involved with business in sports,” said Bahun. “We started a fundraising company, and through the success of it on a regional basis, we connected with Franchise FastLane to expand the model. We thought that from a scalability standpoint it would be great.” 

Today, Fundraising U boasts 10 franchise locations that provide coaching services to high school teams in need of fundraising assistance. 

It’s clear that Bahun has an emotional stake in what he does both as a franchisor and a coach, and he feels that this is something essential to consider before deciding on a franchise. “One of the things that I always try to do when developing a prospect is getting them to a point to ask themselves, ‘Why am I doing this? Is it merely transactional, or is this something I can be truly passionate about?’ I would look for someone specifically to have some kind of emotional connection or motivation behind what they are doing,” Bahun said. 

“When you’re selling a service, so much of the business is about relationships. Depending on what kind of business you’re getting into, being a relationship-builder could be the key to your success,” Bahun said. “These skills translate to high-value returns for us.”

Bahun also believes that during the franchise discovery process, finding the right broker can be just as crucial as any other process of due diligence. “I saw very clearly at the last broker conference I attended that alignment with the right broker is very important. After seeing them in action and doing your own research, the top franchise brokers in the industry are very apparent,” Bahun said. “The same way you might research an attorney or an accountant, it’s worth doing the work to get into the right spot.”

Bahun is thrilled to host Fundraising U’s own upcoming discovery day, which will take candidates through every tier of the business. “Our discovery day will take place at the TD Ameritrade Stadium, where the College World Series takes place. It’s going to be a really cool and thematic event for everyone involved,” said Bahun. “When candidates first come in, they hear from our validation group. After that, we have two of our current customers speak from the experience of a customer. We will also even have a few kids—who are the sales force for the team—involved with the service. Finally, our head coach at Creighton University will be there to speak on his experience in fundraising.” The night before, candidates are invited for a night of socializing with each other and the executive team. 

Altogether, this process requires candidates to self-reflect and honestly answer every question that Bahun has for potential franchisees: Are you a relationship builder, is this something you are passionate about, and have you done the right research to set yourself up for success?