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IU Athletics, local nonprofits help each other through concessions sales

Mar 21, 2023

Representatives of Scouts BSA Troops 148 and 1148 from St. Paul United Methodist Church sell concessions during a men's basketball ga... Representatives of Scouts BSA Troops 148 and 1148 from St. Paul United Methodist Church sell concessions during a men's basketball game at IU Bloomington on Feb. 28. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University Indiana University needs an army of volunteers to successfully operate all the concessions stands at sporting events. Fortunately, eager local nonprofits have provided IU with critical help while receiving needed — and record — funding in return.

Nonprofits can earn up to 14% of their sales in commission. Roy Lubovsky, director of athletic dining, said he is forecasting that about $570,000 will be paid to the 25 nonprofits volunteering at football, men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, softball and baseball games this school year. That would be more than double what was paid out last year.

The mutually beneficial relationship between the university and community organizations has produced a lot of good will, trust and enjoyment, and it also has provided many teenagers their first work experience.

“Everyone recognizes the value of it — not just the funding, but for the youth and what they learn,” said Marni Karaffa, the concessions group leader for Scouts BSA Troops 148 and 1148 based at St. Paul United Methodist Church, which has helped IU for at least 25 years.

Scouts and parents from the troops have staffed stands at football and men’s and women’s basketball games this season. The scouts have developed their communication skills by taking orders and working together, Karaffa said, and have learned how to work under pressure and keep track of inventory.

“Working the games can be hard work,” she said. “It’s a challenge but a lot of fun.”

Last year the troops made about $30,000 in commission, she said, and this year they expect to make at least $32,000. A portion of the funding pays for the troops’ equipment, gas money and propane for camping, and the rest is divided between scouts’ accounts based on how many shifts they’ve worked. They can use the money to cover the costs of special trips, uniforms and equipment, for example.

Lubovsky also has tabbed the troops for help with additional events such as Little 500 and graduation, Karaffa said.

“We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity,” she said. “They trust us to help and represent IU as well.”

IU has invited nonprofit organizations to sell concessions for the past 27 years, Lubovsky said. A group is required to be a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit. Civic organizations, churches, youth sports organizations, Scout troops, parent-teacher organizations and animal rescue groups are among the current volunteering groups.

Kate Thies from Bloomington High School North's Best Buddies and Unified track and bowling programs prepares boxes of popcorn during ... Kate Thies from Bloomington High School North's Best Buddies and Unified track and bowling programs prepares boxes of popcorn during an IU men's basketball game on Feb. 28. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University Until three years ago, nonprofits typically had to wait four to six years for an opening to sell concessions because there was little turnover, Lubovsky said. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aging of some groups, the addition of alcohol sales and the success of the women’s basketball team have necessitated more concessions workers, he added.

In fact, the need has been so great that Lubovsky hired Cindy Graham this school year as the nonprofit coordinator for concessions. She oversees recruiting nonprofits, training, scheduling and game-day meetings with nonprofit group leaders.

Graham said there will be a great need for concessions help at football and men’s and women’s basketball games next year.

IU pays for any alcohol permits needed and provides the training, inventory, uniforms and a free meal at games, Lubovsky said. The volunteers just need to bring a good attitude and their willingness to help. Youths who are at least 14 can work at a concession stand, and Lubovsky said that experience has led to him hiring some of the teens over the years.

Nonprofits earn a minimum 10% of sales in commission and can earn 1% bonuses for meeting other standards, such as working both the football and basketball seasons, being on time and having the proper number of volunteers for an entire season. Some groups will make $40,000 to $50,000 this year, Lubovsky said.

“What a way to significantly profit for your organization, and it’s good for a lot of groups to bring the kids in to work so they have ownership of what they are raising money for,” Graham said. “It’s great work experience.”

Brooke Fleener, Bloomington High School North’s Best Buddies adviser and Unified track and bowling coach, said that working IU concession stands has given students with disabilities valuable work experience, and the funding has helped sustain the groups.

“We’re grateful to IU for allowing us to participate,” Fleener said. “It’s not about only the money but also about employability skills and life skills and opportunities for kids who want jobs.”

The students’ experiences selling concessions shows local employers that they are dependable and work hard, Fleener added.

Bloomington North’s Best Buddies and Unified programs expect to make at least $7,200 working all the men’s basketball games this year, Fleener said. Last year they shared a football concession stand with their counterparts at Bloomington High School South.

“We don’t have to worry about money for kids to participate, and they have snacks, T-shirts, uniforms, meals and help with tennis shoes if needed,” Fleener said.

Nonprofits that are interested in volunteering to sell concessions at IU Athletics events should contact Graham at cjmorris@iu.edu or 812-327-6486.

Author

IU Newsroom

Kirk Johannesen

Communications Consultant, Strategic Communications

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