Miracle League's across the country survive based on our awesome volunteers that come to support our league every day. So the question in today's blog is: How do you recruit volunteers and retain them year after year. Here are some examples and suggestions from us, and we hope to hear from you in the comments section.
1. Develop a relationship with your surrounding school districts -
We've been blessed to have principals and teachers in our area that support our mission. Getting on their newsletters, handing out flyers to the kids, and being invited to their volunteer days has helped us get the word out to prospective student volunteers. We target the middle schools because we believe that once they are a buddy at age 12, we will have them as a buddy throughout high school.
2. Work with local clubs (Rotary, Lions, Legion, etc) -
This has helped us to not only recruit some adult buddies for our older leagues, but it has been a nice supplement to our donation pool too.
3. Corporate or Group Volunteers -
Many businesses want to give back together. Reach out to companies in your area with a detailed plan on how they, as a group, can make a difference in the community. You may just get them to fill your volunteer needs for one day each season.
4. Seek out businesses that allow employees to take paid leave to volunteers and ask to speak at their business -
We just started this because one of my coaches came to help me with a program the Pittsburgh Pirates were doing. I asked her if she was playing hooky from work, and she said her company allows her a set number of volunteer hours that she can do instead of coming into work. Brilliant! Now, we just need to let these companies know who we are and what we do!
Here is an article that will help you focus on recruiting volunteers the right way.
Starting a Junior Board
One of the major undertakings we've started is creating a junior board. This board is made up of high school students from all the area high schools. They act as the eyes and ears for us in the schools. Benefits to having a junior board:
I always say, "Volunteer one-time and you'll be a volunteer for life at the Miracle League of the South Hills." This is true in a sense, but we need to make sure we treat our volunteers with the respect that they deserve. Currently, we have over 400 volunteers in our database that come out each week between our coaches, buddies, game day help, announcers, score keepers, etc. Making them feel appreciated, even though many don't need/want the recognition, is important.
Things we do for our volunteers that we believe goes a long way:
We look forward to hearing how you get new, retain old, and develop your volunteer program. Thank you for your comments!
In this post, we hope that Miracle League Organizations across the country can share ideas on how they fundraise (large or small). Please make sure to note which Miracle League you come from too! This specific post will focus on events. We will discuss grants and sponsorships on a later blog.
Miracle League of the South Hills, Pittsburgh, PA
Here are some events we do that you might be able to try in your Miracle League city. Enjoy!
Miracle Bash (Raises $100,000+ annually)
This is an all you can eat and drink event at a local fire hall that we rent out. We bring in entertainment to go along with a large silent auction which helps us raise most of our dollars. We keep ours pretty comfortable (not a black tie event).
Details of our Event
1. $50 ticket cost with max capacity of 500 people. We feel we could increase this cost, but instead we want to keep it at a very reasonable price for our patrons.
2. Entertainment has included a DJ to go along with comedians, live band, dueling pianos, etc. Many people charge us a minimal fee to perform and other do it for free as a donation to the league.
3. Create easy ways to generate more donations. Examples include a 50/50 raffle, Chinese auction items, sponsoring a child forms at the tables (you can do this online too, see below), etc.
4. Our silent auction is where we get a lot of our donations. I highly recommend using an online platform instead of the traditional paper/pencil format. Prior to going online, the most we made at this event was 33k. Now we hit 100k annually.
Handbid is the name of the organization we use. I suggest that you email their founder, Jeff Porter, and he'll set up a time to walk you through the platform and answer any questions you might have. There is no cost to do this! He is TERRIFIC! If you go with them, I also recommend that you sign up to have one of their staff members join your event, especially for year 1 that you use them. That staff member handles all questions Handbid related and assists you with the check out system!
Keys we've found to have a successful online auction
a. Ask your donors to help you spread your link to the auction. If that company or organization tweets, shares, etc about the items they gave you, their followers who are interested in that product will go take a look and bid.
b. Tag local media in posts and do a press release for the auction
c. Make sure to get a few front line items. This helps draw attention to the auction and many people might bid on the smaller things while browsing.
d. Add "Sponsor a Kid" to your list of items. This is the easiest way to increase your donations. Someone might be browsing and not be able to afford the necklace or signed baseball bat, but they can give $35 to sponsor a kid to play that can't afford the registration fee. Put down all your expenses...buddy shirts, jerseys, hats, etc.
e. Create experiences with donated items. Instead of putting everything out individually, create an experience that has more received value to it. Package movie tickets with a dinner gift card and label it Date Night. Do the same with local hotels to create Staycations.
Getting items for the auction
a. Use your board members. We ask our board members to supply a minimum of 1 item for the auction each year. Some host wine/liquor parties and create a wheel barrel full of the donated bottles for auction. Others host gift card or lottery ticket parties to create a basket.
b. After the holiday season, throw out on social media and your email channels asking parents to donate any unwanted gifts. We got some pretty awesome things because people wouldn't want them or they'd get two of something.
c. Click Here for a list of companies that donate to nonprofits.
d. We all have volunteers. Sign them up on Disney's website to get free Disney vouchers for any of their parks! We entered our volunteers from the spring and just received 20 free passes in the mail that we'll use for our next auction!
Run For A Miracle (Raises $10,000-15,000 annually)
I know many organizations that run their own 5k, but for those of you who want a very simple way to earn money without taking up much of your time, find a city closest to you and ask them about their run for a charity program. This event allows you to do as much or as little work as you want. Here is how it works:
1. Players register through the marathon website to run for a charity. In Pittsburgh, they select Miracle League of the South Hills.
2. Each player gets "Free" registration, but is committed to raising a certain dollar amount for the charity they are running for. The charity pays the registration fee at a discounted rate.
3. Runners ask for donations from their personalized website that the marathon gives them. All donations come straight to us!
4. Our minimums are $150 for 5k, $350 for the half, $450 for the full, $50 for the kids race and pet walk. We are guaranteed that amount when someone registers.
5. We give incentives for those who raise more than the minimum. We have a $1000 club who is honored at our Italian dinner a few nights before the race.
Things we add for our Run For A Miracle Team
a. Welcome packet that includes a MLSH tee shirt and letter of thanks with ideas on how to help them raise the minimum and beyond.
b. A team dinner two nights before race day.
c. Small contests to incentivize them to raise money...example: the person who raises the most in the given week will get a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.
d. Team Tee Shirt. We have a local high school help make the shirts in their home economics program. Last year, our shirts were made by many of our players!
Sean Casey's Golf Classic (Raises $10,000-15,000 annually)
We don't do much outside your typical golf tournament set up, so if you run a golf tournament we'd love to hear what you do to be different! You can see details of our golf tournament including what we charge for golfers by clicking here. We also have a video that showcases our event. Watch Here. I'm lucky enough to have a board member who used to run golf tournaments, and he does this as his way to give back to our organization.
Things we do at our tournament:
a. Generate "free" dollars by offering things that cost you little to no money, but your patrons are willing to buy.
Example 1: We sell tee signs. The company gets its logo or words on a sign that is placed out on the course. $150 per tee sign.
Example 2: We sell mulligans. At check in, we ask the players to buy 4 mulligans at $20. The mulligan allows that player to re-hit 4 shots during his 18 holes. They are non-transferrable so we try to get $20 from each player (not each foresome). Most people will throw out the $20 which typcially will add $2000-2500 to our total!
b. Have contest holes to keep it fun. We have closest to the pin, longest drive, and longest putt. Work with a golf course that helps you out! Our club will handle setting all this up for us.
c. Player gifts - we try to create unique, branded player gifts that make the golfer feel appreciated, but it doesn't take a lot off the bottom line. Past gifts include hats, songBirdies, pint glasses, etc.
d. Food...we provide lunch at the turn and dinner after the golf with the awards ceremony.
1. Purchase a brick on our Wall of Fame. This is a great way to generate $100-$200 at a time. If you have the ability to build a wall or cut out spots on a building, I suggest doing this. It allows people to make a donation in support of a player, memoriam of someone, give a shout out, or put a company logo on it. See more about our Brick Program Here.
2. Day of Giving Program - The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is the National Day of Giving. Create a specific ask for this day instead of a broad ask for money. We've doubled our donations by providing our donors with a specific thing their money would go towards rather than just saying we need your donation for our league. Example: Ask for donations to help cover the cost of Buddy shirts, sponsor a child's registration, etc.
3. Tag as many local media outlets as you can for any fundraiser that you do. You never know who will see it, pick it up, etc. The more eyes you get on something, the better chance you have at raising money.
What do you do? Please leave your comments and share fundraising ideas large and small on this page. We look forward to reading about them.
If you have topics you'd like to discuss, please email Tim Gebhart or tag the Miracle League of the South Hills in a social media post.
If you'd like to be the initial writer of a blog post, please email Tim Gebhart to discuss the topic and date you'd like to post.
Hello Miracle League Directors -
The purpose of this blog page is to help share ideas, plans, fundraisers, events, miracles, and more. Helping each other, with our common goals, will only benefit the kids we serve everyday. Every couple of weeks, I will introduce a new topic where Miracle League Directors from across the country can comment with their thoughts, suggestions, successes, and failures.
Who knows...the Miracle League of the South Hills may incorporate an idea picked up here from the Miracle League of San Diego. We all do things differently, and this can be a place to share those differences that might have a positive impact on another league.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I will post on our social media pages every time we start a new topic. That way you don't have to always check out out website and wonder if there is something new.
Examples of blog topics will include:
If you have topics you'd like to cover or start a discussion with other Miracle League Directors, leave a comment below and I will get it in the rotation.
The first blog post will be next week. I hope this will be a great way to support each other as we watch our kids and adults thrive on the baseball field.
Miracle League of the South Hills (Pittsburgh, PA)