Are Derby Fundraisers Worth Your Time? How to Find Out

Fundraising-BakeSale-ROII’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The moment you sell your first ticket, you are no longer a club; you are a business.” Because leagues are volunteer organizations, it’s easy to lose focus on business responsibilities.

Don’t confuse business with boring. I promise this post on fundraising will not put you to sleep, but will help you measure league activities in a way so that you get more sleep.

Fundraising ROI

If you are not familiar with the term “Return on Investment (ROI),” add it to your basic business vocabulary.

If your league buys an old school bus for $2,000 that brings a bar crowd who spends $3,000 in tickets and merch that season, your ROI is 50% for that time period. In other words, you’ve covered your investment and made 50% more.

Let’s not get bogged down by the oil changes and the one flat tire you replace (someone always brings too much reality into my perfect-world examples). ROI is an easy way to measure the efficiency of money spent and “bang for your buck” scenarios.

True ROI measures money performance, plain and simple. It’s profit divided by your investment to create a percentage. The percentage helps determine where your money is having its greatest impact. You should use it to measure everything from the performance of individual merch pieces to your venue options vs. derby ticket sales.

The one important factor basic ROI doesn’t measure: your time.

Using Person Hours to Determine ROI

In derby, time is the greatest investment. In a paid business, you can factor time into an investment by including the wages of those contribute to work that goes into a project. In derby, you invest hours of volunteer time.

What if you measured the success of your fundraising efforts based on return for the number of person-hours invested. Of course, the idea here is to make more with less, right? Here’s an example:

Car washes. Fun? Sure. Worth your time? That depends. You hold a car wash on a beautiful, sunny Saturday for six hours. You staff the car wash so that there are always six people helping, or 36 hours volunteered. On a great day, I’d estimate a car wash would make $400 in six hours. Your volunteers’ efforts generate nearly $11 for every person hour or $67 per person for the entire day.

Was that worth everyone’s time? That is something you need to decide. This is the simple formula; it doesn’t include the time volunteers spent getting to and from the wash, supplies needed (subtracted from your money made), nor bad weather.

But now, at least you have a measure.

Get Creative

Each of you only has so many hours to give. Determine the most efficient use of time so that you work only on fundraisers that raise funds.

As fun as they may be for some, garage and bake sales take a lot of time and generate little funds. Is it a good use of your league members’ time considering you also need them to practice and assist in bout production? Probably not, unless your league attracts PR or exposure.

Think about it, if you take four volunteers to work the game crowd for a 50/50 raffle, as opposed to just buying tickets at the merch booth, that four hours of total volunteer time will produce hundreds of dollars. Would you rather put four hours into the raffle or 50 hours into organizing and manning a garage sale that produces less money? If 50/50 raffles are not legal in your state or part of the world, consider a public appearance where volunteers also sell tickets to your next game and some merchandise.

Don’t limit fundraising to the ideas your members can come up with. In Madison, where I live, the local soccer club raises money by selling concessions at the arena, helping distribute sales flyers and coupons at a department store, and gift wrapping presents during the holidays at a mall.

These activities are structured, so you don’t have to plan nor do preparatory work, they pay an hourly wage, and once you have your foot in the door, they can recur every year. Plus, your league will gain community exposure—have them wear league shirts or boutfits.

Time is money when it comes to fundraising, but time is also part of balancing life in derby and outside of the sport. Remember, roller derby is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. Your league members need time to maintain friendships, time with family and “me time.” The smarter you are about using your time can mean making more money with less fundraising and volunteer time.

Then you’ll enjoy more financial stability and the flexibility to shift time back to members or do something else more productive for the league.

Comment below and share your fundraising tricks. We’d love to hear them.

Roller Derby >

What’s in a Name? (Hint: Everything)

Your derby league’s look and feel affects the success of your marketing and your community relationship. A smart, calculated and yes, creative selection of your logo, league name, team name(s) and tagline is vital.

Derby Branding 101 

97931 Fort Wayne

If you are not familiar with branding, think of it as a consistent look and voice that represents your league. When it comes to derby, branding gives merchandise, boutfits and marketing a unified style.

I’m a flat-out sports fan. I can identify professional teams at a glance. And it’s no accident–a group of experts choose logos, colors, team font (yes, even the typeface stands out) and taglines that fans can spot in an instant. Good branding is a must for any business and sports teams are businesses.

Lovin’ it or hatin’ it, McDonald’s is a branding machine. The signature red and yellow, arches, jingle and tagline make their ads and restaurants recognizable in a few seconds. You want to capture a consistent visual and written style that strives for a McDonald’s-level of familiarity to your community.

Let’s start with the first steps—a logo and a name. I’ll touch on all elements of branding in future posts.

Choose Logo Colors Carefully

Roller Derby Apparel Your logo is a major part of your branding effort. It is the fastest way people will identify your league and an image that’s unmistakably you. It also should make the connection with roller derby very easy.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I owned Flyin’ Squirrel, a derby novelty t-shirt company. I approached a Mad Rollin’ Doll’s fan to create the logo for the company. He was known nationwide for his style. He delivered my vision and my logo kicked butt. This was my calling card, my stamp. It affected how we designed the website and every piece of marketing collateral.

My logo was a tremendous success visually, but it created a few problems price wise.

The success: I was able to sell merchandise that simply had the logo on it, a goal of mine when searching for a logo design.

The problems: the logo was a bit complex, which created some small hurdles. But the biggest issue was that it comprised six colors.

If it looks cool, who cares?

Your bank account cares. Every color in your t-shirt, banners and program printing can cost additional money, depending on technology used. This is a definite when you print clothing. League merchandise, clothing in particular can be a major profit center for your league. Printing costs account for the majority of money invested in merchandise.

My merchandise company’s brand centered around one image (as it should), but my brand identifier was a profit assassin. I sponsored leagues, an actual b-team, and was printing t-shirts with my squirrel. The b-team sponsorship included both home and away boutfits. Making the team’s uniforms was expensive enough without the logo and really expensive with it. The team’s logo was so cool that fans bought loads of the shirts. But my profit was a fraction what I made on other shirts.

So what, you were still making money.

Wrong attitude. You’re a business. Weather, unexpected costs/economic downturns, time and pocket money needed from league members affect the league’s ability to survive. Spend wisely, as if it was your own cash. And remember, the non-profit model does not mean you shouldn’t make a profit.

My branding developed from that logo. The expense of traditional printing of images on clothing grows with every color. Six colors meant I could only print logo clothing occasionally. Even when I received price breaks for ordering a higher quantity, the profit was half or less than other shirts I made.

It may not just be clothing that’s affected by your colorful logo. Color copies, stickers, posters (if screen-printed) will potentially be more expensive.

The Deal with Die Cutting

Though certainly the lesser evil than the color, the logo’s shape also came with a price. If your logo has sharp features, it may not look right inside a circle or rectangle. Die cutting is a process where the vendor cuts the sticker or patch to the outline of the image.

Though I compromised to use a less expensive tagline, I chose to die cut the patches. They were great to sell and I had them pressed onto winter hats and shirts, but I had to order 500 to 1,000 of them to keep the cost down to a reasonable per-piece price. The cost was high, an amount most leagues couldn’t afford to spend, especially ones just starting out.

What’s in a Name?

squirrel1

What’s not in a name? The logo may be the visual trigger, but early on, the name means more.

I’ll admit it. Coming from a business background, I don’t understand creating a league or team name that has a double meaning, is inappropriate, or represents something negative in the community’s history. There are plenty of these out there. Taglines can be as helpful or damaging as the name itself. Madison’s “Hurt in a skirt” is an example of a fun, appropriate use of words.

New derby used to be more edgy, racy and rebellious, but those comedic names created marketing barriers. Most leagues today describe themselves as family friendly. It’s increasingly important that names avoid innuendos and aren’t disrespectful. I love that roller derby welcomes open-minded, free thinkers. However, our sense of humor and irony get the best of us on occasion.

If your community finds your brand offensive or off-putting, your marketing and publicity opportunities will be limited. I won’t name names (see what I did there), but there are some teams that will never appear in local publications and newspapers. Their brand is too controversial or vile to publish. Think about it: how does the local newspaper report on the league if the league’s name cannot be used? They’ll likely skip the story.

Pick-up teams, regional teams that come together to play exhibition games or closed-door leagues can go outside the bounds with their branding. But if you’re playing in front of a crowd, being covered by media or receiving acknowledgement for charity or community work, craft your brand for the mainstream.

Prepare Your League for the Long Haul

If there is one piece of advice to take away from this entire blog series, it’s that you should take the time you need to prepare your image and build a foundation that will support your league for generations to come. The sacrifice? Playing the game publicly may happen later than members would prefer.

Remember, you can play whenever you are ready; just don’t open the doors publicly until your business is prepared. Marketing and public relations will hit the ground running the moment the league is announced.

If playing to the mainstream is what you desire, make sure your brand won’t hurt profitability in pure cost or the cost of negative public opinion. Back tracking to fix your brand image is a long process. It can take years to win back community love after a branding snafu, so craft your image carefully from the beginning.

What are your biggest derby branding challenges? Don’t be shy–comment below.

Roller Derby >

14 Best-Kept Roller Derby Recruiting Secrets

roller-derby-recruiting-steel hurtin' copyBrown Paper Tickets is proud to present our new roller derby blog series. Take a rink-side seat as we explore the business side of derby with Bob Noxious, a veteran of modern derby. Bob will share lessons learned, advice and tips to make your team or league even more fierce. Our resident “Derby Answer Man” has a BBA in business management and over a decade of experience announcing bouts. Read more about Bob Noxious.

Take it away, Bob.

Derby’s biggest recruiting issues

Today, I’ll dispel roller derby recruiting myths and provide improvement tips. And at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a four-minute video created by Brown Paper Tickets. Watch it and feel free to use it during your functions or share on social media.

Finding fresh meat is one of the most difficult tasks a roller derby league will face, especially in the beginning. Successful recruiting is a continuous, machine-like process. You probably already know the biggest contributor to recruiting breakdowns: letting it stop.

Don’t push the league so quickly

Roller Derby RecruitingBob, though we have a mix of both new and tenured skaters, we’re proud we took time to build our membership, train patiently, and design a method of continual recruitment to keep skater numbers where they need to be.”

Yeah, right. And I’m a 24-year-old Brad Pitt.

The problem:

1. Leagues push too quickly to play. Once they begin play, they lose focus on recruiting. It takes 30 skaters to sustain an inter-league team. You will start with 20 trained skaters. You roster 15, play a few bouts, skaters get hurt, quit, can’t travel and suddenly that 20 skaters becomes 10. You’ll skate 10 and that number quickly becomes seven or eight. Now you can’t skate without borrowing skaters from another league – and don’t do that or you’ll never fix the problem.

2. You push new skaters to play too soon. Under conditioned and under trained equals injury.

3. And as you face these issues, what recruiting is happening? After years of seeing this same problem, I’m guessing none.

Recruiting never stops

Remember, training new skaters doesn’t have a season.

4. Generally, the core group of original skaters will produce ones who can teach skating and conditioning all year.

5. Some leagues have a separate “new skater” practice night for training, which works well. There’s no competition for practice space and new team members tend to feel more comfortable around those with the same learning curve.

6. If these practice nights have skaters coming in and advancing to the tenured group with regularity, the class can go on all season. You shouldn’t waste time, energy, and potential space rental on training two people, but small leagues can maintain a group of 5 to 10 newbies.

My experience with skater trends

7. Derby doesn’t have a strong history with universities, as undergrad students rarely surface. I spent nearly six years in Madison, WI, one of the largest university towns in the Midwest (student population over 40,000) and can only recall one undergrad skater from the school.

8. The college students who join leagues are typically non-traditional students working on post-grad degrees or returning to school at a later age.

9. Reach beyond your immediate community. Skaters are willing to go the distance to play with a league. A 60- to 90-minute commute to practice is not unheard of.

Want to attract new team members? Hire a babysitter

10. It’s shocking how few leagues cater to athletes with kids. This deters many from starting or causes them to start and quit. Offer free babysitting during practice hours as a perk. Moms skate too. Well ok, not my mom.

For crying out loud, reach out and sell your sport.

11. Host a “Skate with the Skaters Night.” Roller derby leagues charge about a $5 entrance fee to skate with derby women or men over a 3-hour period. Anyone can attend, but it’s also a way to get league members talking to curious skaters about signing up.

12. Make appearances at town/city functions. A table at a local festival is cheap, if not free. You can recruit at these town functions and they give you more exposure to the community, which grows your audience. Wear your uniforms, including your skates. Do short, demo scrimmages in the parking lot or street and become part of the entertainment.

13. Prepare a kit and take the following to your recruiting events:

-League banner
Photo album from bouts, with your best shots. Try to include photos with fans and kids.
League schedule
Recruiting info for skaters, refs and volunteer positions
Advertising opportunities
Newsletter sign-up sheet
If there will be power, take some of your better bout footage to play on a small TV.

14. Be creative in your recruiting. Have themed recruiting events: bar party, rummage sales, restaurant tasting event or “Ask a Derby Skater” nights.

(Photo credit: Feed My Kids Productions)

 

Roller Derby >

What Is Roller Derby Love? Watch and Learn

Blood, sweat, tears, joy, family. Roller derby hurts, but it also heals.

Brown Paper Tickets went behind the bouts to talk to 4 derby girls about the sport’s lasting impact. For young women like Uno Socko, the athletes are role models. “I didn’t really see many sports where it was just all women. I thought they were tough. I thought they were really cool. And I wanted to be like them.”

For Donna ‘The Hot Flash’ Kay, roller derby is a metaphor for life. “Roller derby is just like life. We go around in circles. We try to gain momentum. We fall. We assess the damage. We get back up. We look for the holes to jump through. And we look behind to help each other through the pack.”

Broken bones and bruises are real. But so is the love. Derby love. Watch below.

Roller Derby Video


Love our video? Comment below or share it with your league pals, friends and family. Want more derby? Check out our how to get more involved in roller derby.

Roller Derby >

Artist Ticket Picks: El Radio Fantastique, Burlesque in Black & White, Derby and more Derby

347963-250Welcome to this week’s Artist Ticket Picks. The Artist Ticket program gives our customers a way to donate to causes that we care about.

If you’re an event producer, you can allow your ticket buyers to purchase limited-edition tickets printed with original artwork in your event settings. The ticket buyer will pay a small, additional charge of $0.25 and receive a limited edition, collectible ticket imprinted with original artwork. The current charity of our choosing will receive 100% of the additional charge. Physical tickets must be enabled on the event.

If you’re a ticket buyer, check to see if the limited edition ticket is available at the beginning of the ticket check-out process or by visiting the Artist Ticket page. You receive a small piece of collectible art and support a valuable cause just by checking the box in the Artist Ticket widget when you’re purchasing your tickets.

Saturday, April 5 I El Radio FantastiqueSeattle, Washington

Led by its creator, the charismatic singer, songwriter, dumpster diver and one-time gravedigger Giovanni DiMorente, EL Radio Fantastique is a collection of talented and electrifying musician-performers from the small farming community of Point Reyes Station, California.

The overarching musical influences for the group derive from DiMorente’s coveted record collection scavenged from abandoned tenements in New Orleans and a lifetime of dumpsters. EL Radio Fantastique comprises a unique menagerie of sights, sounds and musical styles. Indeed, the vibration emitted from this group defies all genres as much as an archaic knob would turn on an antique radio. EL Radio Fantastique is known to put on bewitching and alluring shows with steamy theatricality. Consistent with DiMorente”s folklore, witnesses have remarked that the band’s players appear to be charmed and somewhat possessed, inspiring a visceral and enchanted concert experience.


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Artist Ticket Picks: Getting Back to Abnormal, Roxy Music, Body Painting and more.

getting_back_to_abnormalWelcome to this week’s Artist Ticket Picks! The Artist Ticket program gives our customers a way to donate to causes that we care about.

If you’re an event producer, you can allow your ticket buyers to purchase limited-edition tickets printed with original artwork in your event settings. The ticket buyer will pay a small, additional charge of $0.25 and receive a limited edition, collectible ticket imprinted with original artwork. The current charity of our choosing will receive 100% of the additional charge. Physical tickets must be enabled on the event.

If you’re a ticket buyer, you can check to see if the limited edition ticket is available to you at the beginning of the ticket checkout process or by visiting the Artist Ticket page. You receive a small piece of collectible art and support a valuable cause just by checking the box in the Artist Ticket widget when you’re purchasing your tickets!

See a full list of events carrying the tickets on the Artist Ticket page, as well as find out more about the beneficiary for the current run of Artist Tickets.

So, without further ado, here are this week’s Artist Ticket picks:

Sunday, February 3 I Getting Back to AbnormalSeattle, Washington

New Orleans’ long history of political dysfunction gets a new lease on life when Stacy Head, a polarizing white woman, wins a seat on the city council after Katrina. Four years later, she needs to get black votes to be re-elected. Getting Back to Abnormal follows the odd couple of Head and her irrepressible political advisor, Barbara Lacen-Keller, as they try to navigate New Orleans’ complicated political scene. Featuring provocative commentary from New Orleans cultural figures like David Simon (Treme, The Wire).

** WARNING! This trailer contains language that may be offensive to some viewers. **


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The Tuesday Tease: Burly Meets Derby This Weekend!

High-Heel-roller-skates-1I’ve always felt that there were a lot of similarities between the roller derby community and the burlesque community. Both are predominately run by women. Both take something that was once exploitative and  and turn it into something that is empowering. Both seem to have sprung out of the punk and retro scenes and both require adopting some sort of moniker; tough names for roller girls and sexy names for burlesque girls.

Both communities also seem to love Brown Paper Tickets! We’ve had a long-standing relationship with both derby and burlesque and we’ve seen both grow at a rapid rate over the last decade with practically every town boasting its own roller derby league or burlesque troupe. We like to think that we helped that growth but the full credit should be bestowed upon the hard-working, DIY-minded producers that have put their blood (literally in the case of derby!) and sweat into building their local communities, often for little or no monetary reward.

Of course there’s even more overlap between the two communities with many roller girls dabbling in burlesque and vice versa, so this week I thought I’d highlight two upcoming shows that bring these two worlds together.
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Arts >

Artist Ticket Picks: A Winter Solstice Party, Ska, Roller Derby and more!

300205-250Welcome to this week’s Artist Ticket Picks! The Artist Ticket program gives our customers a way to donate to causes that we care about.

If you’re an event producer, you can allow your ticket buyers to purchase limited-edition tickets printed with original artwork in your event settings. The ticket buyer will pay a small, additional charge of $0.25 and receive a limited edition, collectible ticket imprinted with original artwork. The current charity of our choosing will receive 100% of the additional charge. Physical tickets must be enabled on the event.

If you’re a ticket buyer, you can check to see if the limited edition ticket is available to you at the beginning of the ticket checkout process or by visiting the Artist Ticket page. You receive a small piece of collectible art and support a valuable cause just by checking the box in the Artist Ticket widget when you’re purchasing your tickets!

See a full list of events carrying the tickets on the Artist Ticket page, as well as find out more about the beneficiary for the current run of Artist Tickets.

So, without further ado, here are this week’s Artist Ticket picks:

Saturday, December 21 I The Winter Solstice Party with L’Orchestre d’IncroyableSeattle, Washington

Assembled in the gray light of a Seattle winter’s eve by the shadowy lunatic, M. Incroyable, L’Orchestre D’Incroyable exists on the premise of arcane calculus, moonlit ceremony, copious poison potions, and the occasional sacrificial slaughter. L’Orchestre lulls you into a trance, and stirs your inner demons to the point of driving the body to wild and sensual shaking. Armed with a melange of musical weaponry (homemade stringed boxes, banjo, upright bass, theremin, cello, percussion, baritone guitar and more) Incroyable’s meticulous methods of hypnosis and musical abuse are certain to render any audience slave to its sonorous tonic.

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Arts >

Celebrate the History of Roller Derby!

Today, we have another guest post from Jerry Seltzer, often referred to as “The Commissioner” of roller derby.

His father, Leo Seltzer, invented the sport in 1935 and Jerry has followed in his footsteps since 1957, going from roller derby promoter (SF Bay Bombers) to television syndicator, to co-founder of BASS tickets, to Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ticketmaster and now, finally, to Brown Paper Tickets, where he is serving a role as an Outreach and Sales Representative. We are honored to have a living legend as part of our team and Jerry has a ton of great stories on derby history and the history of the modern ticketing industry as we know it today.

Today, on the eve of roller derby’s 78th birthday, he shares a little bit of history of the sport and who would know better than the son of the sport’s inventor?

So, without further ado, here’s the man himself: Jerry Seltzer, the Roller Derby Jesus!

Pictured above is the historic Chicago Coliseum.

It was built in the late 1800s, constructed largely from the bricks of the terrible Civil War-era Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, which was re-located to 1513 S. Wabash St. in Chicago in 1889. For a long time it was the main exposition and gathering place for Chicagoans:  the 1896 Democratic convention was held here, and events from sporting goods shows to basketball and horse shows utilized the building.
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Roller Derby >

Rollercon 2013: What To Do at Rollercon Besides Skating (Which I Don’t Do)

159524-250Today, we have another guest post from Jerry Seltzer, often referred to as “The Commissioner” of Roller Derby.

His father, Leo Seltzer, invented the sport in 1935 and Jerry has followed in his footsteps since 1957, going from Roller Derby promoter (SF Bay Bombers) to television syndicator, to co-founder of BASS tickets, to Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ticketmaster and now, finally, to Brown Paper Tickets, where he is serving a role as an Outreach and Sales Representative. We are honored to have a living legend as part of our team and Jerry has a ton of great stories on Derby history and the history of the modern ticketing industry as we know it today.

Today, Jerry shares some memories of past Rollercons and lets you know where to find him at Rollercon 2013, happening Wednesday, July 31st to Sunday, August 4th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

So, without further ado, here’s the man himself: Jerry Seltzer, the Roller Derby Jesus!

The first Rollercon I attended was in 2006, and I don’t remember exactly why I went. I think it was because Loretta “Little Iodine” told me about it.

 

I had met the Windy City Rollers and my first derby wife Val Capone the year before. Judi Flowers sent along 300 pair of her flower slippers that had been featured on Oprah and Sex and the City and we gave them out…..anyone still have them? Loretta and I were so honored to be introduced and to get to say hello to everyone at the big opening dinner (which has since gone the way of the dodo bird).

Rollercon 2013 at the Riviera Las Vegas will be either my fifth or sixth Rollercon. Ivanna and Trish and all the people who put this amazing event together are wonderful…..at least to me. Rollercon has become the centerpiece of modern roller derby, even more so than the championships. Over 5000 attendees from all over the world will be there (anyone coming from the leagues in China, Russia, Korea, South Africa, Egypt or Israel?). This has become Roller Derby Mecca:  the best skating instruction, the best functions, seminars, trade show, etc.  Or, perhaps think of it as Roller Derby University, where it is not as much what you learn, but who you meet, hang with and make bonding relationships with.
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