How Kenny Chesney tickets changed amateur sports FUNdraising.

Scoreboards and Kenny Chesney

In late February 2013 I was waiting in the parking lot of our local baseball park. Starting in 2009, I joined a very small team of dedicated volunteers to build an amazing youth sports experience in our community. Planned were a multi-use turf field, 7 baseball fields of various size, and multiple different youth sports amenities.

I was just starting my 5th year as a logistics strategist and global logistics manager for a satellite company. My job entailed arranging complicated logistics solutions for satellite ground stations around the world. I had been successful in my career in coordinating complicated logistics efforts on 7 continents and was the key logistics support agent on a massive public works program in Australia. 

I was right in my element meeting a truck. I knew exactly what to do to coordinate the effort and work with the install volunteers to get these score boards installed. 

It was 8 days to opening day of our new baseball park. All seven fields were what I would call "big league" ready. They'd been built perfectly, dressed, and cared for by our gang. All we needed to tie this down, was the candles on the cake, the score boards!

It's a COLLECT Delivery

"Sir, I am going to need to collect a certified check before I can unload," the driver politely told me as he arrived. 

I found that statement curious, I had been on point for planning the delivery and had confirmed multiple times that our delivery was good to go. Giddy with excitement about opening day the following week, I made a quick call.

I explained the situation to our baseball president, "no problem, I'm in the area Ill swing by the bank and be there in a few minutes." he said.

"THERE'S NO MONEY"

Within a few minutes I received a call back. "There's NO MONEY!" he scream into the line. We'd quickly found out that every penny of registration, sponsorship, and donation money to our baseball board was missing. 100% of the money, 8 days before opening day was gone. 

In a flurry of phone calls, we couldn't figure out what was going on. All we knew is that our money was gone. Every last penny. 

"Kenny Chesney Tickets..."

Dozens of odd charges including Kenny Chensey Tickets were on the bank statement. Our money was gone, in it's place was a trail of receipts to all sorts of events. Disney, NCAA football, even cash was withdrawn from our accounts. Every penny of money was gone, allegedly consumed by one man. 

As the dust settled, we realized that our community had been had. We'd allowed one of our own to create an elaborate scheme to defraud our community.

That's a problem that we will need to solve, but for now we had to figure out how to get baseball on the field in 8 days!

STEP ONE - GREAT LEADERSHIP

  • In baseball we had a great leader who immediately collected the team and conducted a skills analysis
  • He assigned tasks based on skill set and bandwidth and he held constant communication updates to get status. More importantly he held the volunteers accountable for their actions. HE KNEW WE HAD 8 DAYS TO PULL OFF A MIRACLE
  • He assigned task work focused on the short term goal - how do we play baseball in 8 days!

STEP TWO - ALIGN THE COMMUNITY

  • Communicate with partners - we immediately met with our partners to understand our financial risk. 
  • Develop community relationships - banks, car dealers, anyone that could provide some short term support
  • Excite the members - we used this awful event to excite the community about our park. This is an important element to the creating of #communitybaseball
STEP THREE - CREATE A LONG TERM STRATEGY
  • I was tasked with creating a long term fundraising strategy that would first focus on known assets
  • I developed a tournament schedule and created tournament partnerships with local operators
  • Then we went to work creating what would become Bush League FUNdraising. 
 

Fundraising Analysis

Our first task was to perform an analysis. We had to understand our financial situation and create a plan around it. Since our initial goal was to have Opening Day we set our short term sights on supporting debt. 

Many of our key partners such as uniform vendors and umpires agreed to defer payments and key milestones. This enabled us to come up with a plan. 

We determined through some quick analysis that the first solution would be fundraising baseball tournaments. 

We enlisted the help of a local sanction and with the power of the news media on our side; we knew we could stand up some quick events to help our park. 

Within two days we had three weekends scheduled and started marketing to the baseball community...

What we Learned

Tournaments ARE NOT EASY!

They take massive amounts of labor. 

For example, when scheduling an event make sure you have planned the following:

1. TD - gotta have a main guy that can be there from the night before the action until well after

2. Awards - need to have awards and distribution planned for all fields through the day

3. Field Maintenance either paid of volunteer. To run a great event you can't look Bush, fields must be pristine!

4. Umpires - need a good involved UIC that is willing to donate scheduling fees

5. Concessions - from supply to clean up this is a HUGE piece to your success

6. Teams - you need teams. 

We found this to be hardest. Even with media backing on the event. The first event was amazing as we filled our park and made a quick $10K. After that though, filling events takes a full time team. 

7. Day support - running trash, dealing with injuries, complaints, back-up toilets

If you think executing a tournament is easy - think again! It's the most difficult, most time consuming fundraiser there is. 

But it's very profitable if you do it right. 

That first year, we had 8 events and put almost $75K back into our park. 

Fundraising takes a labor force

The most important lesson we learned out of the gate is that fundraising takes massive amounts of labor. 

We will share more labor lessons as we evaluate different types of fundraising that we've practiced over the last 7 years. However, if you plan to execute a simple 32 team tournament, plan to have a team of at least 10 volunteers!

Tournaments were the life blood of our park for many months. They sapped our park of volunteers. Worse, they created a divide between "travel" baseball and the original mission of our park which was to provide a safe space for any fan of the game. 

Be mindful of using tournaments as a plan to augment revenue, there's more to think about than just a few bucks. 

 

FUNdraising

How did we build the FUNdraising model? How can your team or organization benefit? Every Wednesday we will blog about our experiences. Over the years we have done every fundraiser you can imagine. Cookies, laundry soap, christmas trees, books, apparel, and more....

We've taken a Lean Six Sigma approach to each and used the lessons learned to create the Bush League FUNdraising model. 

If you're interested in more fundraising tips and tricks stay tuned on Wednesday for more. 

Next week: Community Partnerships and why they are changing

 

 

Jacob Kimbel has been a Logistics and Supply Chain strategist for over 20 years. As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Jake has consulted with companies and public entities such as Level3 Communications, Kiewit Construction, NBNCo, Amazon, Google, NATO, multiple foreign and domestic governments, and more. Jake left logistics in 2019 to focus full time on amateur fundraising, founding Bush League Brands. Bush League Brands is committed to changing the youth sports fundraising model by creating innovative and functional e-commerce and social media marketing solutions that streamline fundraising for any youth sports organization. A leader in logistics strategy Jake has been recognized by multiple logistics organizations for his innovative solutions for over 20 years. Bush League Brands provides a powerful fundraising solution for amateur sports organizations that relies on social media as the key marketing tool coupled with the same e-commerce engines that drive major on line retailers. Partnered with the best brands in sports, Bush League automates the fundraising process for your organization. From design to final mile delivery Bush League does it all!