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KC Current Provides Access To Sports For All in Kansas City

Ben Aken| Vice President

KC Cares interviews Ben Aken, Vice President of the KC Current, Kansas City’s newest sports team. They have three pillars that focus on community involvment. 1) Access to Sports for All: They believe that all children should have the opportunity to dream big and aspire to the same achievements as their players. 2) Inspiring Bold Ambition: They want girls and young women to have visibility to roles where women have traditionally been underrepresented, and in fields they may not have previously considered. 3) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – In elevating the community and all those within it, they believe it is essential that they use their platform and the power of sports to support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

visit them here: https://www.kccurrentstadium.com/our-story#commitment-to-community

 

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[Transcript]

00:00:00:09 – 00:00:22:03
RUTH
Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the nonprofit and other communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work and play. This KC Cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. WW W.K. Kauffman dot org.

00:00:22:15 – 00:00:53:20
RUTH
I’m Ruth Bomb Vegas Soccer. It’s all the buzz around the world. And in Kansas City. Our town is blessed with two professional soccer teams, Men’s Sporting KC and our new kid on the block, the KC Current, the incredible women’s team that has had an amazing trajectory in the brief two years they’ve been on the scene. While the players are amazing and providing fans with some great bragging rights, the team is making its mark off the pitch as well through its philanthropic efforts.

00:00:54:03 – 00:01:12:01
RUTH
Here to bring us the very latest and greatest is Ben Akin. He is vice president of community relations. And we may have a surprise visit from another big deal with the current, but we’ll wait to see if she hops on with us. Ben, it’s so great to have you on the show.

00:01:12:19 – 00:01:13:27
BEN
Thank you so much for having me.

00:01:15:13 – 00:01:22:24
RUTH
So for you, it’s just been fast and furious. I mean, this is like you guys are like, wow, pow.

00:01:24:07 – 00:01:35:27
BEN
Well, it’s hard to believe. We just celebrated our second anniversary. So the current’s only two years old. And it’s really been amazing what our ownership is, is put together in that short amount of time.

00:01:37:05 – 00:02:00:19
RUTH
I don’t want to tell tales on you, and I want to put you in an awkward position. But you were with another sports franchise in our city. We don’t have to name it if you don’t want to. But I’m just wondering, because you’ve had experience with an established franchise to a newer franchise, why don’t you? What do you see as the differences in how things are moving forward?

00:02:01:24 – 00:02:35:17
BEN
Well, I do I really enjoy enjoyed my time. I was with the Kansas City Royals for a little over 20 seasons and I so enjoyed my time there and just had a great experience coming into a pretty well known organization. In the time I joined, we had won the World Series in 85 and had this established brand and this established like commitment of being a part of Kansas City and then to have the opportunity to come in to the current and really kind of help build something from the beginning has been really a lot of fun.

00:02:36:25 – 00:03:03:04
BEN
I think one thing that I’ve really enjoyed about my time with The Current is just working with these incredible women on the field. You know, these players are a diverse group of players from all over the world really, and they’re really the best of their game. So we have several players that appear in the U.S. Women’s National Team, Canadian national team, and a Jamaican player last year and other countries represented as well.

00:03:03:16 – 00:03:12:08
BEN
And so it’s neat for us here in Kansas City to have had the opportunity to work with these players and to see them and really excel on the field.

00:03:14:00 – 00:03:22:19
RUTH
It seems like everything is very organic. Can you elaborate on that?

00:03:23:12 – 00:03:50:07
BEN
I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair to say. Our really it goes back to our our owner. So Angie and Chris Long, a along with Brittney Mahomes are three owners and they are Kansas City at their core. So any of any of our our outreach or events is really based back in Kansas City and they’re involved in a lot of our decisions.

00:03:51:00 – 00:04:17:06
BEN
You, you know, whether to add like our different pillars and our outreach efforts. They’ve been involved in making those decisions all along. So I think their base of being from Kansas City and Chris and Angie Long are at the front. Their parents are for kids. And so I tell people this a lot, but a lot of times we’ll have meetings or discussions and the kids kids conversation will come up all the time.

00:04:17:06 – 00:04:43:04
BEN
And there’s been several times where we’ve been in meetings and it’ll hit like 330. And even if we’re nowhere near our point of discussion, they’re like, We’ve met. We’ve had everything that we want to talk about during our meeting. Angie will say, Well, I have kids pick up, so I need to leave. And that’s really just set up for for all of us as we’re building these things out and our community outreach just at the core, it’s back to families, it’s back to Kansas City.

00:04:43:10 – 00:04:59:20
BEN
And really just we can get into a little bit later. But at the core, it’s important to do what’s right for these players. And so it really is organic because everything is there’s no like history to build upon. It’s all like what’s best moving forward.

00:04:59:20 – 00:05:01:00
RUTH
You’re creating history.

00:05:02:07 – 00:05:29:18
BEN
We really are literally with the development of the the building of the New stadium down by the riverfront will be the first stadium built specifically for a women’s sport in North America. There’s some debate there whether it’s like how worldwide that is. But it’s really a first. It’s not only the first in the league, but it’s, you know, it’s going to be their first downtown stadium and we’re going to be the first in the league.

00:05:29:25 – 00:05:38:13
BEN
And then just really providing the first class opportunities for these players to play in front of fans in a stadium built specifically for that.

00:05:39:09 – 00:05:40:14
RUTH
You’re leading the way.

00:05:42:00 – 00:06:07:23
BEN
Yeah. You know it’s you know I Angie long some sometimes says that yes we’re the first but we won’t be the last. So I think the Longs really believe, along with Brittney, that this is just the standard moving forward. So other teams and we’ve heard from other teams that are going to do something similar hopefully down the road, they may be a little jealous that we’re moving as as fast as we are.

00:06:08:00 – 00:06:13:24
BEN
But I think in this league this will become a standard and we’re just going to be one of the first, which is great.

00:06:14:21 – 00:06:39:18
RUTH
Well, as a soccer mom, always back. I love a female soccer mom. What a great example for young women and for boys, too. I don’t mean to do that, but especially for young women to really be able to have this kind of team here in the heartland of the country instead of, you know, ending up on either side of the coast.

00:06:40:01 – 00:06:50:27
RUTH
You had mentioned a few minutes ago something about four pillars or four values. Can you share a little bit about that? I think our audience would be interested to know that.

00:06:51:23 – 00:07:16:02
BEN
Definitely. So we have we have three and then we have kind of a new initiative that we’ll be working on in the future as well. But so there are our first pillars and these were established towards the beginning of this of the formation of the club. So it’s the power of sports for all. So we really just believe that all children should have the same opportunity to dream big and aspire to big achievements like our players.

00:07:16:23 – 00:07:44:27
BEN
And so we do that through several, you know, providing opportunity for kids to play sports. Our second our second pillar is inspiring, bold ambition. And that’s really just providing young people access to visibility of women in roles, women in roles that are traditionally filled by women. So kind of the basis of what who Angie Long is and she she made her mark in the finance world, which there weren’t a lot of women in the room when she was doing that.

00:07:45:19 – 00:08:09:11
BEN
And so we’re trying to create opportunity that provides financial literacy, leadership development opportunities and with some STEM outreach. And it is really just giving the opportunity for girls to play sports. And then finally, diversity, equity, inclusion. And really, we just want to be a conduit to support those that are working in that space. So it’s it’s so important to our players.

00:08:09:11 – 00:08:24:29
BEN
We have a diverse group of players. And so as we move into our our new neighborhood and and where the stadium is going and just work with different communities, we want to make sure that we’re we’re representing those communities and just provide voice to those that sometimes don’t have a voice.

00:08:25:23 – 00:08:47:21
RUTH
So how interesting to start with an organization where you really have all that laid out in the beginning. It seems as though from the outside that this was very thoughtful. It wasn’t just we’ll just have a women’s soccer team. Let’s go do this. Let’s have Brittney Mahomes. Who everybody can recognize that name. Can you give us a little peek, a little sneak?

00:08:47:21 – 00:08:52:16
RUTH
Is that really how it came from those values and move it forward?

00:08:53:11 – 00:09:14:11
BEN
It really does. I mean, you know, even in meetings, well, the first thing that comes up in a meeting is where we’re evaluating different opportunities because, as you know, Ruth, and as your show represents, there’s so many different nonprofits and opportunities for people to get involved. And that’s one thing they love about Kansas City. But there are so many opportunities.

00:09:14:11 – 00:09:32:19
BEN
So you have to be selective to kind of where you want to make your mark. So we always talk about is this good for the players? That always comes up. Like every day we talk about, well, is this good for the players? And so that’s everything, like thinking about timing. So, you know, we get a request from a school to go visit.

00:09:33:21 – 00:09:55:29
BEN
Okay, well, we need to think about the timing. So the players train till about two, so probably don’t want to do anything to till four after, you know, those types of questions that come up. And then really does this go back to our brand pillars? So, you know, there’s plenty of things. And coming from the royals, you know, one great thing about that experience is that I got to know a lot of different people in town and different organizations.

00:09:56:09 – 00:10:12:10
BEN
So when I started, you know, this plate is full of, you know, where I have friends in all these different organizations as well. But you really had to go back. I really forced me to go back to our brand pillars and say, hey, is this increasing access for sports? Is this, you know, is there a way to inspire bold ambition?

00:10:13:01 – 00:10:18:04
BEN
And then really, what are the DEI efforts? What’s the community that’s going to be affected by this?

00:10:18:04 – 00:10:21:14
RUTH
So you alluded to there’s a fourth one.

00:10:22:21 – 00:10:53:27
BEN
That’s right. Well, as we so we’re obviously we’re building a new stadium downtown near the river. And so it’s important to us to make sure that we’re being good neighbors in that surrounding area. So, you know, we’re we’re getting to know that neighborhood and working with some local businesses down there to potentially do some some projects. And, you know, there’s a garrison community centers down there that we we’ve visited a few times and, you know, so we really just want to be good neighbors.

00:10:53:27 – 00:11:11:05
BEN
So that’s really what it comes down to is just how can we as moving in this new stadium, how can we be part of the neighborhood and just really, you know, not be coming in and have, you know, for certain our way through? We really run involve the neighborhood and what’s what we’re doing.

00:11:12:29 – 00:11:37:24
RUTH
That’s great. So I alluded to it in my intro about the ladies are or the women are more than just the player you see on the pitch. And of course, we focus on that nonprofit or that communal aspect. Talk with us a little bit about that coming from the KC Current and why is that part of your whole brand?

00:11:38:20 – 00:12:09:09
BEN
You know, one example, we partner with YMCA of Greater Kansas City. So all soccer programing that the YMCA does in the Kansas City area is now branded KC current YMCA youth soccer. So we have we have involved players. They’ve been to soccer practices. The kids wear jerseys that have the KC current logo on it. And it’s not just the girls that are playing soccer, it’s the boys as well.

00:12:10:14 – 00:12:21:20
BEN
So this year we had over 900 kids that participated in the program and the YMCA tells us that’s about a 50% increase from where they were a year ago before the current were involved.

00:12:23:03 – 00:12:24:18
RUTH
So congratulations.

00:12:24:18 – 00:12:51:28
BEN
So awesome. Yeah, it’s so great. And talking to our players that stemmed a lot of them got their soccer outreach or their careers, I guess their their love of soccer by playing in the YMCA soccer programs. So even 84 inches our goalkeeper, she got her start. She said that she was a YMCA kid through and through. Like she would go and just spend all day there with no school.

00:12:51:29 – 00:13:10:24
BEN
She would hang out at the YMCA and she had the opportunity to to learn soccer there. And, you know, thinking about her playing as a little kid, she ended up being on the U.S. women’s national team that won the World Cup. And so she was on the cover of a Wheaties box, and now she’s a goalkeeper for the Kansas City Courier.

00:13:11:12 – 00:13:12:12
BEN
It’s pretty amazing.

00:13:13:13 – 00:13:24:19
RUTH
That’s very exciting. So tell us a little bit about what the Current is doing in and around our community, partnering with nonprofits.

00:13:26:13 – 00:13:56:05
BEN
Yeah, so we’re lucky to have some some great partners here in town. One is Wind for Casey, which is, as you know, part of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission. So we’ve had we had our all of our players attend their their luncheon last year where they where went for Casey honors amazing women athletes. We’ve had we have a beer through Boulevard Brewery called Teal Rising where they’re part of the proceeds benefit went for Casey.

00:13:57:02 – 00:14:25:04
BEN
So win for Casey is one that we support strongly. You know, another example of that is our partnership with United We and United We is a development fair is an organization focused on just empowering women both in civic and government, civic and leadership opportunities. So throughout the season we did a few activities with them, including our Inspiring Women Night, where we had where we honored some amazing women leaders on the field.

00:14:25:12 – 00:14:50:23
BEN
We had World Cup champion Briana Scurry in town who met some of the participants and did all kinds of fun stuff with them, with them. And then we also had a partnership with the Girl Scouts. So this season we had a Girl Scout Day at one of our matches. And it wasn’t just a, Hey, how many tickets can the Girl Scouts sell and come out to the game?

00:14:51:11 – 00:15:18:20
BEN
There was a couple different elements beyond that, so we helped working with the Girl Scouts and American Century Investments, put together a program called My Money Plan, where both the junior Girl Scouts and their caregiver caregivers learned about earning and saving and investing from some of the female financial experts at American Century. And so it was really unique program that the Girl Scouts learned before the game.

00:15:18:20 – 00:15:45:05
BEN
They had a little session and then their parents went to a different session where they could learn as well. And then we honored Girl Scouts throughout the game. They got to meet some players after the game and did some fun things like that. But those are a couple examples that it’s been it’s been a it’s been a fun opportunity to work with these nonprofits and really develop something and not so much such a cookie cutter type event like we just want you at the match.

00:15:45:12 – 00:15:54:18
BEN
You know, there’s that element of it because we really want to have people there to be able to support this team. But really just think about be intentional and what can we do from this partnership together?

00:15:55:17 – 00:16:24:09
RUTH
We’re talking with Ben again. He’s vice president of community relations, a veteran in sports franchises here in Kansas City. And being a connector in the community, you mentioned, you know, bringing over your skill set. I can’t believe you were with the girls for 20 years. You must have been ten years old when you started and now has you and mentioned that the networking that so important you all are that new team razzle dazzle in town.

00:16:24:10 – 00:16:29:01
RUTH
So how do you balance that? As you say, there are a lot of nonprofits in the community.

00:16:30:26 – 00:16:47:12
BEN
I, I think, yeah, I mean, that’s been a little bit of a challenge in some ways, and it’s also been a big advantage, just kind of being able to step in and kind of have some of these relationships. But really you just have for me, I challenge myself and we have a great team that that works with us.

00:16:48:06 – 00:17:07:11
BEN
You go back to your pillars. So, A, is this going to be good for the players? Again, we talk about that all the time. And then where does this fit in with their pillars? So we want to be intentional, you know, just to make sure that we’re making the right moves and the right partnerships to really make a difference.

00:17:08:08 – 00:17:36:04
BEN
So but it’s also been fun, you know, being part of this group and learning about organizations I didn’t know about. And in organizations that are that are newer to the marketplace, one that comes to mind is Girls Preparatory Academy. That’s the only single gender public school in Kansas City area. So it is a it’s just a few years old, but it’s a middle school basically for four girls.

00:17:36:18 – 00:17:57:17
BEN
And so we did a couple fun things with them this year. One, we sponsored their Girls on the Run program at the school, two girls from that school. But it was could participate in girls on their own. And then we sponsored their sports programing. So the last couple of years, they haven’t offered sports. They’re pretty new charter school.

00:17:58:00 – 00:18:24:07
BEN
And but this year, together with the 15 and Mahomes Foundation. So Brittany Mahomes went with us when we were able to tell the students about sports that were coming to their school. So thanks to the current and 15 them, Mommy’s Girls Prep offered volleyball this year and they’re getting basketball started right now, so we can’t be. I’m looking forward to being there this winter and maybe take in a basketball game.

00:18:25:13 – 00:18:37:01
RUTH
Well, I don’t know if people realize or remember. Well, refresh their memory. I believe Brittany was a soccer player herself and played in college, I believe.

00:18:37:24 – 00:19:06:12
BEN
Yeah. Yeah. So Brittney, she played in college and then she also played professionally. And so that experience, I wasn’t here in the very beginning, but what I’ve been told has really has the the organization organization was setting their foundation, Brittany’s voice was in her experience as we were selecting players and going back to that player first mentality, bringing was a big part of making that happen.

00:19:06:12 – 00:19:20:02
BEN
And Brennan’s experience helped the teal and our crests and our amazing logos that have come out for the team. And Brittany was part of all of that and even was on the committee to help select the name The Current.

00:19:20:16 – 00:19:37:12
RUTH
So I was going to ask how much involvement is there from the three owners? Obviously, Brittany is very busy now with two kids and the Longs have children, etc. So are they really in there with fingers day to day? You mentioned a meeting where Angie had to excuse herself to go pick up kids.

00:19:37:29 – 00:20:06:18
BEN
Yes, they are. So Chris and Angie also run the organization they founded our school square capital management. And so for the first probably six months of my tenure, we were office two with Palmer Square. So we saw firsthand and both Chris and Angie run two companies simultaneously. So that was pretty amazing to watch them go back and forth between the two.

00:20:07:20 – 00:20:30:27
BEN
Now that we’re at our at our training facility in Riverside, Missouri, they are still very involved in emails. And we’ll get texts and sometimes we’ll take calls from Angie while she’s watching a kids soccer game either in the city or a different city. So they’re still very involved in activities. And then Brittany, she came to our groundbreaking on the new stadium.

00:20:30:27 – 00:20:57:09
BEN
That was the first part of October. And she was she was amazing. She was very pregnant and also moving her daughter. But she was there for all the pictures and hung out and talked to the players and several fans. And it was neat to see her, her dedication, where, you know, rightfully she could have bowed out of that because she was so close, but she was there and hanging out.

00:20:57:09 – 00:21:00:22
BEN
And we really appreciate her being involved.

00:21:00:26 – 00:21:40:08
RUTH
You talked about the importance of bringing on the right players, you know, for the mix of this all to work, you know, a team that can play well, but a new team and a new ownership group and all of that. So how how do you all work with the players and the is participating in activities quote required. And the reason I mentioned that and then I want you to answer is that I know at a point in time for the Kansas City Chiefs, I think when Lamar Hunt was alive, he required his players to be at so many community events.

00:21:40:08 – 00:21:46:10
RUTH
He wanted them in the community. So how does the current handle that?

00:21:46:18 – 00:22:26:09
BEN
Well, I will tell you that we have a 100% participation from our players on community events. So looking back over the year, every single player participated in one or more community event. Most were at the, you know, five, six, seven events. So they want to be out there. In fact, there’s been a few times where we’ll have opportunities, you know, like going to visit the kids at the YMCA, where we have maybe a two spots, you know, two or three spots, and we’ll get more players that want to participate then we have we’re able to accommodate.

00:22:26:10 – 00:22:57:27
BEN
So a lot of times we can add them or we’ll be like, okay, well we have this other event next week that will get you involved in and so the players want to be involved. And so we really work for ways to to work with them and having events. You know, another cool thing about this organization is really taking the player’s input and direction and some of our community activities and earlier, right before the season started, the NWSL hosted the Challenge Cup.

00:22:58:21 – 00:23:21:29
BEN
And so it’s a kind of an in-season tournament and that we host that is hosted across the league. So during the challenge last year, it took place in March and April for those jerseys we went to the players and we asked them, Hey, we’d love to do something with your jerseys, your game worn jerseys. Let’s, let’s auction them off for for a nonprofit.

00:23:21:29 – 00:23:50:26
BEN
And we let the players choose the nonprofit that would benefit. So I developed a list of like several nonprofits that they could choose from, and we overwhelmed and we chose the players chose zero reasons why. Which is an organization that’s on benefit to reduce teen suicide. And so just taking their input. And then there’s constant feedback. You know, we do a survey beginning of the season and then talk to them throughout.

00:23:50:26 – 00:24:01:28
BEN
Like just getting to know them and their their interest and really just trying to align them with a different area of Kansas City or different nonprofit that benefits, you know, their area of focus.

00:24:02:29 – 00:24:11:04
RUTH
Now, are most of the players living here or do they come and go as as season ends and then starts up again?

00:24:11:29 – 00:24:38:01
BEN
Well, another you know, it’s interesting, a lot of these players grew up in warmer weather, so they have an opportunity to be other places. But with the addition of our new training facility, which is state of the art, you know, players have access to a really nice weight room, locker room. All of our technical staff, massage therapists, you know, physical therapists, all of that.

00:24:38:01 – 00:25:03:27
BEN
Our coaches are based here in Kansas City and Riverside. And so you would think at the end of the season, you know, you would go home to California or we have a player from Hawaii would go to Hawaii to spend your offseason. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend December in Hawaii? But I started daycare and came back to work in Kansas City, along with several other players just because of this facility.

00:25:04:08 – 00:25:15:11
BEN
So, you know, I would think that we wouldn’t have access to a lot of players here in the offseason, but we have several players that are living with us living in Kansas City this winter.

00:25:16:11 – 00:25:35:04
RUTH
So if you’re out and about for the holidays or something, you may want to go look. And if you aren’t familiar with the players, they can go to the Web site at KC, current icon. That’s right. Remind us all when season starts, when we can start looking for the heat up and the excitement of KC Current.

00:25:36:11 – 00:26:05:25
BEN
And so this season, our our schedule isn’t quite set yet, but it’ll be announced probably February-March time and then we’ll start playing in March and then our season goes through October. So it’s we have 14 home games throughout the year and then 14 on the road and we play, you know, as, as you know, we play at Children’s Mercy Park and we played last year and Mercy Park next year will play at Challenge Mercy Park and then our new stadium will open in 24.

00:26:06:26 – 00:26:16:07
RUTH
So that’s really exciting and I know you guys will be very busy planning all kinds of cool stuff when that happens. Your seasons. Almost as long as baseball.

00:26:16:25 – 00:26:41:28
BEN
It is. We have a lot less games, though. So as a as someone working for the front office, I do appreciate 14 home games as opposed to 81 in that regard. But yeah, but it’s a it’s great that it’s, you know, 14 it’s we have a great crowd that came out to Children’s Mercy Park. You know, we have a really strong group of dedicated fans.

00:26:42:13 – 00:26:59:13
BEN
We’ve a great supporter section. You know, the people in the in the end zone that are playing the drums and making a lot of noise throughout the game. So we have a great crowd and we’re really looking forward to having, you know, one more season at Children’s Mercy Park and then be at the new stadium following that.

00:27:00:00 – 00:27:05:11
RUTH
And folks can go check out the renderings and everything for the new stadium. I think they’re on your website, is that right?

00:27:06:00 – 00:27:29:04
BEN
That’s right. Yeah. So and that’s one really cool thing, too. Right now, people have the opportunity to place a deposit to secure their their spot at the new stadium. So the new stadium will host 11,500. And so down by the riverfront, it’s not you know, that’s not a huge stadium. But I think it’s going to be right sized for our team where we are right now.

00:27:30:08 – 00:27:59:07
BEN
But we’re receiving a lot of deposits. So a lot of those seats are, you know, have deposits place for them. But for as little as $25, you can place a deposit and then you’ll have your place in line. When those tickets go on sale for the new stadium, you’ll be first in line to be able to call so and so we encourage everyone to go to KC current stadium dot com that’s where you can check out the new renderings and also place your deposit.

00:28:00:10 – 00:28:09:08
RUTH
What one little secret would you like to leave with us that’s special about the current in the community?

00:28:13:23 – 00:28:14:28
RUTH
I stumped the band.

00:28:15:10 – 00:28:35:10
BEN
I know. Well, there are so many cool things, you know, I. I think it’s just the heart of these players. It really is. It comes down to that, you know, these players, you know, having a background with the Royals and you know, we had some great we’ve had we’ve been lucky with the royals to have some some outstanding players.

00:28:35:19 – 00:29:10:15
BEN
But these players of the Kansas City Current, you know, are the best for their field. You know, they’ve been playing since they were little kids. Their passion for soccer and for spreading the love of soccer to, you know, on to the next generation is just been so amazing. You can see it every day. You know, when we take players out to to meet kids or even just at the at the training facility, you know, interaction with the front office staff, like they’re so appreciative of the opportunity and we’re so thankful to them just to be able to work with them and so Kansas City is really lucky to have the Kansas City current.

00:29:10:15 – 00:29:23:11
BEN
So I just I really just encourage people to get to know these players. And there’s some an amazing athletes on the street on this team and we’re just happy to have them part of our part of our community.

00:29:24:14 – 00:29:35:23
RUTH
Well, connect with the KC Current. Ben, thank you so much for sharing kind of the inside site about all the things that you all are doing, both on the pitch and off. And Kansas City is very lucky.

00:29:37:02 – 00:29:50:14
BEN
Definitely happy to be at work. We appreciate you. I appreciate what you do, Ruth. And shining a spotlight on all these nonprofits and some of the work that we’re doing and some of the other sports teams in town. So thank you for what you do.

00:29:51:06 – 00:30:17:21
RUTH
Thank you and thank you for joining us for KC Cares if you’d like to be a guest on the show or underwriting opportunities, visit our Web site. We’re at KC Cares online talk and Spread the Love. You’ll find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and Instagram. It’s KC Cares online. Don’t forget, you can catch us on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. on SD and 15:10 a.m. and 94.5 FM that Saturday mornings.

00:30:17:21 – 00:30:22:01
RUTH
Thank you for joining us on KC CARES.

 

Previous Episodes!

Nonprofit Fundraising Tips with Jeffrey Byrne

Jeffrey Byrne| Nonprofit Expert

On this episode of Ask The Expert, Jeffrey Byrne discuss 10 valuable tips to fundraising for nonprofits! His firm Byrne-Pelosfky, provides uncommon local, regional and national leadership in philanthropy. Most importantly, Their expertise, experience, deep community connections and hands-on approach will enable them to offer their clients a more comprehensive and complete set of tools for fundraising success – helping them master the art of the ask and partnering with them to achieve their resource development goals.

visit them here: www.byrnepelofsky.com

 

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[Transcript]

[00:00:00] Ruth Baum Bigus: Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas City, nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the prophet and the nonprofit communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work, and play This KC Cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, www.kaufman.org.

I’m Ruth Baum. Bigus fundraising is an. and part of the palette includes annual campaigns. Well, what comprises an annual campaign? What are the musts and how do you make them happen? Should every nonprofit do an annual campaign? Should you only rely on an annual campaign? And how have annual campaigns changed?

Well, as part of KC Cares monthly, ask the Expert series. We’re going to chat about all these questions and much more with our own Dr. Philanthropy. Jeffrey Byrne. Hi Jeffrey. It’s so great 

[00:01:02] Jeffrey Byrne: to have you back. Hi, Ruth and happy holidays to all of our listeners out there, and to you and your family. Well, 

[00:01:08] Ruth Baum Bigus: you as well.

All right, Mr. Guru. Dr. Philanthropy, before we really dig into this, I thought it would be good to define an annual campaign. You would think everybody understands that, but let’s just be clear right from the start, how would you define an annual campaign? 

[00:01:28] Jeffrey Byrne: Well, the annual campaign is where a nonprofit. Each year puts together a fundraising project or an appeal and sends it out to various constituencies of that not-for-profit.

So let’s say for instance, the Y M C A, the Y M C A will, , need to raise money to support operations. So they will put together a campaign, whether that is via volunteers direct one-on-one solicitations, , if they do some direct mail, some social media, some email. You know, I have been involved in the profession now for, this is my 34th ending, my 34th year, and I would say I absolutely hate the annual campaign.

So, you know, I think calling it an annual campaign is very depressing to donors. , they don’t want to think that you approach them annually. They want to think that you approach them on a thoughtful basis. And we can get into that in our conversation about how you, , title the appeal. But I would say, you know, reaching out to your donor base at least once a year is, , part of the overall fundraising breast practices.

[00:02:52] Ruth Baum Bigus: Well, I thought about this, , on our off the air conversation, and I think it probably was the driving force for many nonprofits just to start to be a nonprofit. There’s a problem. Or a cause and it’s like, okay, we gotta solve it. We gotta have money. , so I would be interested from your last three decades of knowledge, you must have been 10 when you started, of course, , but you know, how have annual campaigns changed over the years or over even the tenure of your own career?

[00:03:29] Jeffrey Byrne: Sure. , vastly, you know, I, I, I am not in the profession of implementing annual campaigns any longer having been on the consulting role now for the, my 22nd year. And, but we do advise organizations on overall, Fundraising plans and how you insert an annual effort to generate support for basically operations or general support, undesignated support.

And I think that, , that is, , an important component I think has changed over the years because of technology. And our use of technology in different ways today than we did. You know, I can think of many years ago when I was at the Visiting Nurse Association, working with, , luminaries like Bill Dunn Sr.

Or Adele Hall, or Anita Gorman. , we had not only a direct mail program. We sent out about 200,000 pieces of mail about four times a year, but then we had a telemarketing program that we followed up,  , to do telemarketing. Well, no one owns home-based landlines any longer, right? There’s such thing as a landline.

, I guess there are a few. So, you know, the technology and the, , ways of, , reaching out to donors has changed drastic drastically. So I still think the best way to approach a donor is by a personal touch. However, you know, when you’re thinking about an annual campaign, you’re thinking about a broader base of constituencies.

Just not a narrow group of potential donors for like, for instance, a major gift effort. So as we think about a larger group of donors, then we have to think about how to approach them so that they are responsive, they receive a message that touches them, and that they have an action, , item in that, whether it is clicking on a.

To a homepage clicking on a link to a landing page on the website, which is a donation form. It’s responding to a text campaign, or it’s a friends campaign where you are sending out. Via, , a vehicle, , a fundraising vehicle like Facebook or others that you’re sending out to your a hundred friends raising money on behalf of Children’s Mercy Hospital and the overall effort, my friend, , Jane.

She, , walks for St. Jude’s each year. Mm-hmm. , and they raise I think, like 15 million on this walk. Well, Jane and her team raise about $150,000. Oh. And it’s, , it is a friend to friend program. So those are a lot of different ideas that an organization should consider. And then there are nuances to each one of those approaches.

[00:06:51] Ruth Baum Bigus: Well, we kind of backed into, you know, what, what comprises a campaign, but I didn’t wanna leave your dislike of the annual kind of effort. When did, when did that kind of shift of there’s more than an annual campaign that nonprofits should 

[00:07:10] Jeffrey Byrne: look at. Well, I think it’s just terminology. A lot of times, a lot of times in fundraising we use acronyms and we use terminology that, , the average volunteer, our board members, our constituencies don’t understand.

So when we talk about the annual campaign, to me that is, that triggers, okay? It is a repetitive annual effort to reach out to donors, to bring, to provide them a cause. And ask them for a response of sending in a donation. However, you know, I think if you really want to think about how to communicate with donors, we know storytelling is the way that donors are motivated to give and.

I think that by creating a project for donors to be able to invest in that project could be your annual campaign, however you name it. And you describe it. Instead of giving, , my a hundred dollars to the Y M C A of Greater Kansas City, which has a budget of I believe, 70 million, my a hundred dollars is gonna go into a black hole there.

However, if I get a appeal to keep, swimming pools open and safe through lifeguard and swim education. And swimming lessons for urban core kids that helps to prevent, drownings in our community. Then I can see, and it costs $15,000, then I can see where my a hundred dollars or my $250 is impactful and therefore it is, , motivates me.

To wanna give. So as nonprofits are thinking, and I would think that every nonprofit who’s already doing an annual campaign is already underway with it, or else they’re committing fundraising malpractice 

[00:09:16] Ruth Baum Bigus: at this time of year. You betcha. 

[00:09:18] Jeffrey Byrne: Well, I mean we’re, , we’re into the middle of December now, and, , latter part of December and the holidays are gonna be at Bonis and gone.

And we know that people are most generous during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day period. , there are a lot of opportunities where families are coming together to think about how they want to give. I met with a family yesterday and it was a husband and wife. Don’t meet with a husband, don’t meet with a wife, meet with the husband and the wife and the family if they wanna give through family giving.

And we talked about options and programs that they might want to be investing in. And we asked for a gift before the end of the year. We asked for a specific amount of what they had given last year, and we will be following up with a letter confirming our conversation, the amount. And, , a way of, , a link to giving, , them an option.

We will send them an email and in that same email, we will put that into a letter and we will send that letter to them as well. So, you know, that was, an opportunity to, , think forward and give, , that, , donor potential option to invest before the end of. 

[00:10:38] Ruth Baum Bigus: You’ve already given us some great tips, so I’m gonna backend us up to the very beginning, you know, what are those things that should be in an annual campaign, but I can’t miss your holiday reference cuz you talked about that important window of Thanksgiving to the first of the year.

We’re all very benevolent and then I guess we all become grins for a while at the first of the year when all the bells come in and et cetera. So as you do this annual. Effort of some kind, you know, what are those kind of key steps that you should follow as an organization, whether big or small? 

[00:11:14] Jeffrey Byrne: I think that’s a good, , a good question and let me get to the step by step, , approach and just one comment later.

But my first comment is to say that the fourth quarter of every year of the calendar year is the best time for nonprofits to reach out to donors. Donors take a break around new. Another great time to reach out to donors is in early to mid-February because donors have taken a break. They are probably in the doldrums of the winter, whether you live in Florida, where , it is going to be a beautiful winter or you’re in, Minneapolis where it can be very cold and frigid.

However, you know, that’s another good time of year and then around the end of the school season a lot, another good time of the year. So those are three tips that I would provide around timing now to talk about exactly what we look for in a campaign. I think the number one thing, you have to pick the project.

You wanna raise money around. and I think you need to be specific and try to package it around a specific project or program that’s already in your budget so that you are raising undesignated dollars, but is being geared toward a budgeted item already that, , is part of your operating or program.

Budget Number two, I think you’ve got to share that with your development committee of your board or the board of directors. Number three, you need to ask the board of directors and your development committee and the volunteers that serve your organization to give to that cause and give early and upfront.

Number four, you have to decide how many, , vehicles that you are going to employ today. And with technology, I think you should think about a friends to friend campaign. You could think about, , social, , different types of social media. You can think about an email. You’ve gotta create a a website. On your website.

You’ve gotta create a page, a landing page that explains and reiterates the appeal that you’re making through whatever various forms of communication and solicitation. You also five when I have a good landing page. So if I am. I was asked to contribute to a senior services program that I have been involved in, , professionally for the last, , 18 years.

I am going to do that and I’m going to give an honor of the retiring c e o, who I’ve had about an 18 year relationship with. I asked them to send me a link to their giving page. and they said We don’t have a link and we don’t have a way of electronically accepting gifts. Red flag. Okay. Now I’m not gonna name who that is, , but you know, we have advised that they put together, , on their website a giving link, and then provide, , an access and the, and do the background work that they need to do.

To be accepting online gifts, , through of, , different forms. So I think that there are a number. I, I think then you’ve gotta launch your campaign. You’ve got to, , have a timeline for it. , number seven, I think you need a timeline for, , the effort. Are you going to send just one appeal or are you gonna send multiple appeals?

Are the multiple appeals going to be? A little different and tweaked to create urgency each time. A lot of times they say send three appeals, , for a cause, and each one, create a little bit more urgency. Number eight, do you have a matching gift that you could use to stimulate. That I, if for every dollar we raise up to a hundred thousand dollars, we will have a matching donor who will give a hundred thousand for a total of $200,000 or more that we wanna raise.

Well, you’ve gotta prepare that Mac in the summer to get ready for your fall or your fourth quarter appeal, and don’t forget that. A and then be responsive, , when, , number nine, you need to be responsive to, donor request. , number 10, you’ve gotta be a backroom operation to receive the donations and to process them in a manner during the holidays, , where you are processing the donation.

You’re getting, , , recordings, you’re getting updates. and you’re also receding the donor within a time period that follows your own fundraising policies and procedures. So it’s not an easy process, it’s a very complicated process, but it can be a real effective tool for, you know, some undesignated do contributed dollars to the overall.

[00:16:23] Ruth Baum Bigus: We’re talking to Dr. Philanthropy, Jeffrey Byrne. So it’s Jeffrey’s top 10 of how to get an annual campaign together and run. Well, I wanted to go back to your point about this one organization. You said you’re ready, you’re gungho to give, send me that link or tell me where to do it. And they were not set up.

, it kind of raises the question to me. You’re, you’re sitting in your nonprofit, it’s the staff, maybe some lay leadership, and you’re saying, oh, we need to go do this. And something comes up, let’s say in the news flow, let’s just go do it. And then your example of, well, that’s great, but we have no way then to, to get the money.

One organization I happen to work with, we had that discussion even this week. If we had a great opportunity and it was like, until we get a landing page, let’s not go there because we’ve created all this excitement and we want participation, but we really don’t have any way for them to. Okay. I want the, what are the most common mistakes that you see when folks are doing an annual campaign?

I think we already figured out, number one, don’t send out a pitch and have no way to respond other than it sounds like this organization was, you know, revert to writing a check and sticky in, in the mail. And this time of year, the mail is horrible. So what would be number two or three or four? Where, where do people.

You know, they take that misstep and don’t 

[00:17:51] Jeffrey Byrne: make it happen.

I think, , a common flaw is that. You are designing an effort and you’re asking for a donation, as I said, that, helps to support a black hole in your budget. You know, so be specific. and I think a lot of organizations aren’t specific. Around, , what they’re looking for. , I think at number two, a mistake is to use the end of the year as crisis fundraising.

Donors don’t like to give on a crisis basis. They don’t like to give to a losing organization. They don’t want to hear that you’re in crisis and that you need X number of dollars to keep the dollar, to keep the doors open or to keep programs continuing. If you have programs or projects that are worthy of contributed dollars, then you need to be, , raising money from strength, not from weakness.

I think a third area that I would mention, Ruth is. , not, , having best practices to respond in a timely manner with a thank you letter and a receipt. You know, it’s required that we do that, , for all donations, over $250 that we need to receipt, , the donor donation. Back to the donor, , so that they are able to utilize that, , on their tax forms.

I think also a timely response of, thank you. Regarding of what, regardless of what type of donation it is, an amount is respectful to the donor. You know, I was involved in an organization, , I still am very much. That, , I give, , and I give a multiple, I give to multiple causes with this and within this one organization, but I started at a low end, , as a low end donor.

And over the last 10 years, I have progressively increased my donations significantly because they treated me the same way as a, , thousand dollars Don. Versus a multi-thousand dollars donor. And I notice that they treat others that I know in the organization who give hundreds of thousands of dollars the exact same way they might give that thousand dollars donor or that a hundred dollars donor.

To me, that that is excellent development work where you have a platform and your customer service is providing, , thank yous and the types. , personalization at the a hundred dollars level as at the a hundred thousand dollars. Of course, at the a hundred thousand dollars you’re going to do maybe a little bit more, but that consistency across donor levels I think is really important and it’s part of the best practices as well.

I wanted 

[00:20:49] Ruth Baum Bigus: to go back to your comment for a minute on crisis fundraising. and I’m gonna challenge you for a minute. I understand you don’t wanna put out there, we’re gonna have to shut the doors if we don’t get your donation, but what about crises in the world? For example, the last year, plus we’ve been dealing with the situation in Ukraine and it’s sad humanitarian impact.

What’s your thoughts? If you’re an organization that’s supporting something like that or a, a massive tornado or a hurricane, can you use that to, to, to fundraise to say, you know, this crisis is happening and, and we need your support so that we can send food packets, or whatever it is that you’re, you’re trying to help as the nonprofit.

[00:21:35] Jeffrey Byrne: Absolutely you can. And let me back up and say the word crisis. I, in my context was, you know, we’re gonna go out of business and shut our doors or close down this program. If you don’t give money to me, that that is a real turnoff of a message. Absolutely. However, , with a disa, , a disa, you know, a natural disasters of hurricanes and buyers and, you know, volcanic eruptions in, , Hawaii, , those are really causes to raise money around.

And there’s urgency and there’s situations that you want to make available. Certainly the war in, , Ukraine has been a rallying. Fry around the world to support, , the Ukrainian people and their struggle. And I think that those are really legitimate, , opportunities to do, , crisis style fundraising.

However, even in crisis fundraising, which, you know, the American Red Cross uses a lot with disaster. The Salvation Army and their response to, , , situations of fires, , puts a family out of their home. They also have just limited bandwidth as well to rally the troops per se, to the cause. And so you have to be a judicious in the way you’re messaging.

, your appeal so that you don’t wear out your welcome and you don’t become so repetitive that the donor has, , fatigue with your organization. 

[00:23:21] Ruth Baum Bigus: Let’s say I am an annual campaign donor. I make a gift once a year to widget nonprofit. How many times should I anticipate? Hearing from the organization, or let’s flip it to our nonprofit audience as the nonprofit, how many times should I be touching that person that gave me that one time gift?

[00:23:44] Jeffrey Byrne: I think that’s a really excellent question, and I don’t know if there’s really a good answer, , textbook answer to that. I think it does. it does matter. , it is situational organization by organization how they want to approach their donors. I would say, you know, you approach your donors, a number of times a year with, , perhaps, , electronic newsletters, maybe electronic updates, maybe a paper update, , maybe a telephone call from the development office or a board member.

it might be, , email. I think that, you know, the old way of touching a donor 12 to 14 times a year, and, , using that as a solicitation process, I think a lot of that is, , best practices years ago. I’m not sure if those are the best practices today. You know, we used to, when I did a direct mail program, , many years ago for, , the Visiting Nurse Association, as I mentioned earlier, every time we received a donation, We would thank them and we would put just a business reply envelope in the.

Donation letter back to the donor, and we would see those come in and trickle in over the next few years and we would use a different envelope or we would code it differently each time. I think a lot of that is, , passive fundraising. It might be past. Fundraising as well, . So I, I’m not sure if I have a good rule of thumb.

I do think keeping in touch with your donors is important. If they only hear from you one time a year, , you’re gonna lose your base because probably about a third of your donor base is going to atrophy each year. So if you don’t continue to add people to, , donors to your overall general mailing, , a database.

Through utilizing your c r m, then, , you’re going to, continue to lose, , and have lapsed donors. We 

[00:25:55] Ruth Baum Bigus: have just a couple of minutes left. I want you with your best knowledge, what was kind of the best thing that you’ve seen recently in a fundraising annual campaign effort? Something that you went, yeah, that’s just spot on.

[00:26:14] Jeffrey Byrne: Come back. I stumped you . You did. I had to think about, , some of the appeals I personally, , give to, you know, , when a friend reaches out to me through a friend to friend campaign, I normally will give , a gift because I appreciate them reaching out to me and I wanna support them and their fundraising cause.

I’ll go back to my friend Jane. My friend Jane is, , has been walking now, , for St. Jude’s, , for eight years. This was her last walk. She said she’s going to put it to bed and go and support another organization, but what St. Jude’s does so well, And they have millions of donors, is that they can communicate with you electronically and by mail, , very effectively in telling stories.

So I think the best way I have been approached, , for fundraising appeals over the years has been to hear a story about how a donation changes the life. Of a person heals that person, provides a cultural experience to the community, maybe, , provides, , shelter and, , adoption services for pets and animals, , provides, you know, a good, , environment for our, for our world.

All those are different causes that I think are really important. I think that’s what we do in fundraising, we story tell. So I think the more I, the more you tell stories, , the better your message will be received. Jeffrey, as 

[00:27:55] Ruth Baum Bigus: always, this has been great and I just wanna say to our audience, there are so many nuggets in here that are so useful.

While we do the show live, you can always find the ask the experts on our website, which is KC Cares online.org, but there’s just great tips in here. Jeffrey, it sounds like overall, yes, you probably need to still do that annual campaign, but you need to be thoughtful. It needs to be part of your overall strategic approach to fundraising, and you have to be mindful, I think, from what you tell us of who you’re sending that to and why would that be important to them.

You know why it’s important to your bottom line, but why is it important to your audience? So thank you again for this wonderful advice. 

[00:28:40] Jeffrey Byrne: Thank you, Ruth, and happy holidays to you and all of our audience and their families. 

[00:28:45] Ruth Baum Bigus: And thank you for joining us for KC Cares Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re produced by Charitable Communications, also a nonprofit.

This Casey Care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. www.kaufman.org. Now, if you’d like to be a guest on KC Cares our Underwriting opportunities, visit our [email protected] and spread the love You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at KC Cares Radio and Instagram at KC Cares online.

Don’t forget you can catch us on Saturday mornings at 8:00 AM on ESPN 15:10 AM 94 at five fm. Thank you for joining us for KC Cares.

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Christian Okoye Foundation Serves Underprivileged Children

Christian O’Koye| Founder

The primary mission of the Christian Okoye Foundation is to capture the passion children have for sports, and direct that energy to enhance their educational and personal goals. The Foundation draws at-risk and underprivileged youth by hosting free athletic clinics, where well-known professional athletes coach the kids. Once at the Foundation’s events, the kids are given unparalleled training in sports and, importantly, are encouraged to develop business and entrepreneurial skills by the Foundation’s corporate sponsors. The Foundation’s decision to use athletics as a vehicle for exposing the kids to the business world gave rise to the Foundation’s motto, “Education, Ideas and Sports.”

visit them here: www.christianokoye.com

 

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[Transcript]

 

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Second Chance Risk Reduction Talks Prisoner Reentry

Brittany Peterson| Lead Resource Specialist

The Second Chance Program advocates for effective prisoner re-entry, fundraises for local programs, conducts research, assembles task forces and focus groups, and performs other special projects in the community. This coordinating force is dedicated to the vision of helping released offenders make a seamless transition back into the community, receiving the second chance these men and women so desire.

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[Transcript]

 

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Eventology KC Discusses Nonprofit Events

Donna Thomason| Founder

Eventology KC discusses nonprofit event execution and management

visit them here: 

 

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KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, tells the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and connects them with the community.  

Produced by Charitable Communications 

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In partnership with: 

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

TW: @kauffmanfdn FB: @kauffmanfdn IG: @kauffmanfdn

[Transcript]

 

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Defenders of Freedom Provide Care for Military Suffering from PTSD and TBI

Brian Hughes| President

We Help Local Veterans Suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) & Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)Defenders of Freedom’s primary goals are to provide care, resources, and transitional support for our Troops and Veterans through the following actions: access to TBI treatment program; personalized options for PTSD treatment; basic living needs; address physical and mental health issues

visit them here: www.dofkc.org

 

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Also available on

Itunes || Spotify || Stitcher || Soundcloud || Youtube 

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KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice, tells the stories of Kansas City nonprofits and connects them with the community.  

Produced by Charitable Communications 

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

In partnership with: 

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Take risks. Own success. Be Uncommon.

TW: @kauffmanfdn FB: @kauffmanfdn IG: @kauffmanfdn

[Transcript]

 

Previous Episodes!