SportsAid is launching a new alumni scheme in an effort to compensate for a drop in lottery grants and increased competition for public donations.
"There is more competition between charities when times are tight, and people are reluctant to give to sport because they see Premiership football and think that the sector is richer than it really is," said Carmen Rendell, account manager at SportsAid. "They tend to support more emotive causes instead. The alumni programme will almost be like Friends Reunited - it will give people a chance to come back together and to put something back."
The new scheme, which is supported by marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, wheelchair athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson and Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, is expected to raise a minimum of £30,000. It has been advertised in sports magazines such as Swimming Times, and SportsAid is also running a direct mail campaign.
Athletes who received a grant towards their training and equipment costs in the past will be asked to make a monthly donation to SportsAid. They will then be kept up to date with information on the charity's continuing work and invited to social events.
SportsAid has already organised a ball on 12 June and is planning a reunion in September.
The sports charity has provided grants to many top athletes since it was founded in 1975, but is finding it increasingly difficult to raise funds. It receives an annual grant from Sport England, the body that distributes money from the Exchequer and the National Lottery, to cover its administration costs. However, Sport England is being restructured and the future of the grants are uncertain.
The charity is already stretched and is only able to provide grants to athletes performing at national level. This means that those at county level miss out.