LiftUp Basketball: Part 2 - Behind the Scenes
LiftUp Basketball—co-founding a non-profit to teach kids how to play basketball
For the next 8 weeks, we whipped our starting team into all-star basketball players. We also took advantage of the momentum to design jerseys, develop a website, a social media presence, and crowdfund more than $1000 for the program.
Our DAY-TO-DAY ACTIVITIES
Every Saturday and Sunday morning, we’d walk to each apartment building, pick up our kids, and take them to the park. We'd claim a spot on the basketball court, gather around in a circle, and perform a stretching routine. Then, we’d run through our programming with basketball drills, practice, and one-on-one development. After our session was over, snacks would be distributed while we all talked about what we learned and what we could do better. Finally, we'd end on a positive team cheer!
Every Friday night, we prepared sandwiches and fruits in bulk for the weekend sessions. It was a few hours of prep time but gave Amit and I an opportunity to develop the program. Not to mention, PB&J sandwich leftovers taste delicious!
We developed a safety plan for the kids to help prevent injuries. We kept them well hydrated throughout sessions. We also gave them plenty of snacks. And at the end of a session, we would chaperone our players to and from their homes. We’d report back on their progress and ensure their parents that they were being nourished and treated well.
In terms of logistics, there were many factors to take into account. We kept a database of all the players and their consent forms using Zoho Creator. The mobile app came in handy to refer to the information. I kept a close look at our finances and tracked accordingly. Because of our tight budget, we needed to invest accordingly every step of the way.
Running a tight ship requires having a fantastic co-founder. And I was grateful to have Amit by my side. Our weekly meetings and online collaboration helped everything gel together. And we kept each other in check on how to proceed with the program, every step of the way.
DESIGNING JERSEYS (FEATURING THE KIDS)
To give the kids a voice in their team, we had a contest to pick a team name and a winning jersey design. The kids selected their team name from a pool of their own suggestions. Embracing their fiery spirit, they called themselves Dragons.
Then every kid submitted a drawing for the jersey. They voted on their favorite one. Afterwards, I selected a player as a lead designer to help select the final drawing. We sat together while I live traced the drawing in Illustrator. He provided direction on the color and the finer details.
The final jerseys were printed on Royal Blue fabric. We also silkscreened individual names and numbers of their choice.
It was awesome to nourish their creative talent alongside their sporting talent.
Building A Website
For our website (liftupbasketball.com), Tumblr helped power our story. Its straightforward templating system and dead simple posting system made it super easy. Our content was photo-driven which Tumblr handled really well. And I could point and host the domain for free.
I selected a template called Photo Stack and transformed the design and flow to fit our needs. For the design, I wrote custom HTML and CSS for positioning, typography, and color palette. The theme was already fantastic for showcasing photos:
I developed our content separately in the copy section to save time. All the posting was handled using Tumblr’s backend.
For the fundraising bar, I did a quick mockup in Photoshop to wireframe the look and coded the rest in HTML and CSS. I even completed the job with some tiny emojis. Also, instead of an email form, I took advantage of Tumblr’s built-in Suggestion system to gather public feedback.
For the fundraising effort, rather than using any API, I opted to manually update the values from our Google Spreadsheet into the website every day.
To wrangle together our social media presence, we used HootSuite to manage our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. I developed a content plan with a focus on quality photos that told the story of our program. I also scheduled a content calendar with one post a day. Finally, I regularly maintained the social media accounts, replying to our fan base and tracking analytics for our performance.
Crowdfunding over $1k
As we quickly outgrew our initial funding, we turned to crowdfunding with a target of raising $1000 in 2 weeks. Many of our donors were locals who provided us cash donations. Some people also provided checks, credit cards, Venmo, and Paypal donations. To wrangle together our donations, I decided on rolling our own system using our website as the fundraising counter, Google Sheets for our donation and call sheet tracking, and Gumroad for online payment processing.
I wrote out our selling proposition for our Gumroad page, peppering in my bullet points. I also designed the Gumroad page to follow the aesthetic of the LiftUp Brand. Finally, I wired everything up to a bank account and turned on the donation faucet!
Our coordinated social media posts, reminders to donors, tracking, and analytics were key to our success story.
To get the word out, we used phone calls, Facebook messages, emails, and social media messages. For tracking, I developed a call sheet using Google Sheets. I used it to track all the prospective donors, their donation status, the amount they donated or pledged, method of payment, contact methods, and timing across the board. I also created a quirky poster to market our message on social media.
By raising over $1000, we were able to supply every one of our kids with a basketball, jersey, ample amount of snacks, sports equipment, adequate safety equipment, and fund our award ceremony with trophies, snacks, and print collateral.
Creating superstar basketball players
The transformation, week after week, was incredible. You could see each of the kids go through the motions. The look on the kids faces when they got their first basketball was priceless. From not being able to dribble a basketball to make backboard layups, every kid demonstrated remarkable growth.
The sense of camaraderie and dedication was exciting. We were having a real impact on these kids!