Fundraising during COVID times — Interview with John Ircandia, Owner and Manager of Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Club, Rafflebox client
The Okotoks Dawgs are currently on their second 50/50 raffle with Rafflebox. Their first raffle was sold out with $20,000 in ticket sales. We sat down with owner John Ircandia to find out how Rafflebox helped their sports team.
How did you get started with Okotoks Dawgs?
I started the Dawgs as a youth development program in the mid 1990s. I had a baseball and athletic background myself and as my young boys grew interested in the sport, I noted there were no programs available for the elite players. There were only recreational programs that offered little opportunity for players to develop to the point they could reasonably compete with the vast body of players in the US.
As such, I enlisted the help of some like minded people and we created an elite, youth, travel team that offered professional coaching and the highest level of competition available on both sides of the border.
We were ultimately rewarded as virtually all players on that original Dawgs team earned college scholarships, several were drafted by Major League Baseball Teams and one even spent several years playing in the big leagues.
How did you hear about Rafflebox? Why did you choose Rafflebox over other similar platforms?
The starting point in answering this question is recognizing the extreme challenges sports franchises faced as a result of Covid-19 and the cancellation of our season in 2020. We continued to have expenses as an organization but none of the revenues on which we rely to operate, namely ticket sales, concessions and sponsorship or advertising revenue.
In view of this, the Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Club (the “Dawgs”) looked for ways to survive these extraordinary challenges. One thing I noted was the initiative of other sports organizations in our region (for example, the Calgary Flames Hockey Club) offering online 50/50 raffles to their fans. I then asked our office staff to explore our options in offering our Dawgs fans an Online 50/50. After enduring significant frustration with one of Rafflebox’s competitors, we settled on Rafflebox as the facilitator of our 50/50 event. The relationship between the Dawgs and Rafflebox from the outset was first rate.
Rafflebox made it simple and had the answers to all of our start up questions. Their advice was always practical and their willingness to service our organization was extraordinary. Honestly, it has been an excellent relationship from the “get go”.
Why is your charity unique? How have the funds raised affected your charity?
The Dawgs are a summer collegiate baseball club whose origins date back to the mid 1990’s. In 2007, with the support of some phenomenal donors (primarily, Don and Doc Seaman) we built Seaman Stadium, one of the finest baseball facilities at any level in the country.
Frankly, it is unheard of to have a facility of the quality of Seaman Stadium that is wholly dedicated to amateur baseball, in particular, the summer collegiate Dawgs and a youth academy consisting of 125 youth players from all over Canada but with a core based in Okotoks and the greater Calgary area. Being driven by passion and the objective of offering youth and college players the opportunity to develop to be the “very best that they can be”, the Dawgs have always operated on a strictly nonprofit basis. Revenues beyond expenses are dedicated back to enhance the facilities and the programming.
The Town of Okotoks, the communities of the Foothills and increasingly, the greater Calgary area, have embraced the purity and passion that is Dawgs Baseball. As such, with average attendance of 4000 fans per game, 100,000 per season, the Dawgs have consistently been ranked in the Top Three in attendance among summer collegiate franchises all over North America.
The fact that all that is Dawgs Baseball: the state of the art facilities, the incredible fan attendance, the youth academy and its unprecedented success in graduating players to elite NCAA, Division 1 colleges and universities or the amateur draft of Major League Baseball, is driven by passion and on a nonprofit basis, not by dollars, make the Dawgs absolutely unique in the baseball universe.
Are there any stories you would like to share about your experience with Rafflebox?
As noted above, the Corona virus directly impacted our nonprofit organization. The Dawgs faced the seemingly insurmountable challenge of continuing to meet year round expenses despite having none of the sources of revenues that we historically rely upon. In a few words: no baseball season; no fans; no revenues. Rafflebox offered a vehicle through the Online 50/50s to help us meet this challenge.
The Dawgs are currently on our second 50/50 raffle. Our first raffle was a complete success. We offered up to $20,000 in 50/50 tickets and we were SOLD OUT with days to spare.
Honestly, this demonstrated the phenomenal fan support that the Dawgs enjoy in Okotoks, the Foothills and the greater Calgary area. Dawgs fans are loyal like no others. They understood the challenges that we faced and they stood behind the club 110%.
Thankfully, Rafflebox made it simple and easy for our fans to access the Online 50/50 and that ease of convenience made it accessible to all of our supporters.
The winner of our first Online 50/50 was Margaret McKerracher who was absolutely thrilled to take home a pot of $10,000. She was contacted by telephone and after going through the gamut of emotions from minor shock to extreme joy, she visited the Dawgs off-season training facility, the Duvernay Fieldhouse, where she posed for photos and shared her excitement!
What are one of the best stories from Okotoks Dawg’s baseball games?
There are a million feel good stories from Okotoks Dawgs games. When asked, I often harken back to our very first weekend in 2007. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Don and Doc Seaman, we had just (barely) completed Seaman Stadium in Okotoks and were looking forward to our very first opening night in the new stadium. How many fans would attend? The support in the community seemed fantastic over the previous winter but we really had no idea.
For fun, each volunteer Dawgs director put their personal guess-timate on the number of fans in a hat to be opened following the game. The guesses ranged from 500 fans to 1000 fans. The capacity at the Stadium at that time was 2000 fans.
Well, like a scene out of the movie, Field of Dreams, the cars just kept coming in, one after another, until the parking lot was overflowing. Similarly, the fans just keep pouring through the stadium entrances. The final count was 3000 fans with people lined up on the unfinished grassy berm that had just been sodded the day before opening night.
That unbelievable opening foreshadowed the incredible fan support that the Dawgs would enjoy over the ensuing 13 years as the Stadium has been consistently SOLD OUT ever since. The Dawgs team rewarded fans that night with a victory and in fact, peeled off back to back to back championships over the ensuing three years.
Would you recommend Rafflebox to other organizations?
Dawgs would strongly recommend Rafflebox to other organizations.
As I have indicated, Rafflebox makes it simple and straightforward. Their enthusiasm is contagious and hopeful in these financially challenging times. The service is always timely, accessible and the advice offered cloaked in expertise.
Check out the Okotoks Dawgs current raffle here : www.dawgs5050.com