USQ lays out the results of year one outcomes from our strategic plan, and provides updates on all goals.
The strategic plan released on July 15, 2015 laid out USQ’s strategic priorities and goals for the three fiscal years and will guide decision-making, resource allocation, and prioritization of work. The full plan is available here, and the one page overview is available here.
This update document includes information on the status of the year one outcomes after the first full year of the plan (covering the 2015-16 season), as well as an update on the full three-year goals. Click here to view a summary of year one outcomes. Questions about the strategic plan can be directed to USQ Executive Director, Sarah Woolsey, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outcome Completed Outcome In Progress, Will be Completed in Year Two
The Rules Team has worked on the development of the updated primary USQ Rulebook (Rulebook 10), which serves as the basis for the rule adaptations. The website pages for the youth rules have been updated this season, to provide accessible and easy to understand versions of the rules for younger age groups. The goal of the website pages is to provide adaptation information with a clear list of modifications for quick start. The outlines for the youth, high school, and intramural rulebooks are in progress, with a targeted final release date at the start of the fall.
Updating the USQ website with additional information and resources has been a major priority this past season. We added a section of resources pages to make information more accessible, including pages for referees, snitches, coaches, teams, players, and tournament staff. The regional championship subpages were developed to have more information available on the website in a digestible format, with subpages to make it easier for players, volunteers, or spectators to find information. We also made a separate website for the US Quidditch Cup 9 event, focusing on including up-to-date information about the event useful to both players and spectators. We’ve focused on feedback opportunities available on the website, such as referee & snitch evaluations, the event survey, and the contact form. In addition to specific information updates, there has been a focus on ensuring the backend of the website has the capabilities to manage events, team information, and the membership database. These changes allowed for more efficient administration by staff, debuting a new event debrief form and increased integrations with our referee tests.
USQ staff teams held several discussions about creating an additional competitive event and worked on initial plans for expanding the scope of USQ events. The final plan for adding an additional competitive event largely depends on the college/community split and how events change as a result of having two separate divisions.
USQ currently hosts nine events during the season - eight regional championships, and US Quidditch Cup. Our staff has considered different options for adding another competitive event to the USQ season. The potential event may include creating a festival atmosphere in a more open event, as opposed to the competitive qualification structure of US Quidditch Cup. The event may focus on creating opportunities for teams who don’t qualify for nationals to have an end-of-the-year tournament experience. The specific details for the competitive event will adjust based on the outcomes of the college and community divisional split (see below), as well as additional input from the volunteers and community. We will continue to explore opportunities for this event, and develop our plan further for addition to the USQ event season.
This past year, we collected feedback from a variety of types of stakeholders to inform the policies regarding the college/community split. We released a survey to all USQ members, and also solicited feedback from league volunteers, who provided valuable insight into potential timelines for a split.
Based on this data-gathering as well as discussion among league staff and with specific teams of volunteers, we determined that creating a full split for the 2016-2017 season would have a detrimental effect on many teams, especially in areas with lack of team density. To prepare for a future, definitive split, we introduced eligibility requirements for college and community teams, which we hope will spur the creation of additional community teams. With the combination of the eligibility requirements to encourage the formation of new community teams, and the Joint Team Development Program to ensure the continuity of existing college teams, we hope to lay the groundwork for separate college and community championships, as well as separate divisions, in the near future.
USQ grew the number of officials across the board, as well as increased the quality of existing referees through training and feedback opportunities. We implemented the lead assistant referee position at some regional championships and fully utilized LARs at USQC9. We started work on overhauling the snitch runner program this past season. We brought on new volunteers and released a snitch runner compensation plan for US Quidditch Cup 9 that is being expanded for the 2016-17 season. Additionally, the referee tier system was adjusted at the end of the season to promote long-term stability of league officiating programs.
One consistent piece of feedback we have heard from our officials is that increasing payment opportunities for referees and snitches incentivizes becoming an official, and also encourages current officials to develop their skills further. This coming season, we are increasing pay to both our referees and snitches, the former through the continued development of the paid Lead Assistant Referee position, and the latter by paying certified snitches. We are cognizant of the need to balance increased financial incentives for officials with respect for the limited budgets of players and tournament organizers, but we are confident that by incentivizing more officials to join the referee and snitch programs, we will see a marked increase in quality of officiating and overall player satisfaction.
As described in the year one outcome above, development is ongoing for youth rulebook resources. We are continuing to look at how we can further develop youth programming and resources, and support the growth of high school, middle school, and youth teams.
In working to implement this goal, we thought about ways to help non-players identify more with the sport. One of our projects in furtherance of this goal was the Quidditch Turns Ten initiative, which included a coffee table book and a prominent booth at US Quidditch Cup 9. These projects, as well as youth quidditch and a kids’ area at nationals, and increased media outreach at our regional championships, helped contextualize the sport for non-players.
As we continue to investigate the possibility of additional competitive USQ events beyond regional and national championships, we have also encouraged a wide variety of competitive events via our event sanctioning program. We also re-established a marquee competitive opportunity for top-tier players with the selection of our US National Team, which won silver at the IQA World Cup this past summer.
By reducing national championships from 80 teams to 60 teams, we have taken steps to increase the average level of competition (and therefore, generally speaking, interest) in each match. We have also centralized the planning of regional championships, which are all overseen by our Events Director, and which has led to the creation of a standard event template to increase efficiency and organization at these events.
Player safety is USQ’s top priority, and a number of projects this season continued to focus on ensuring that the sport is as safe as possible for all participants. The tackle development project focused on recommendations for player safety and training for safe tackling, including a tackling clinic that helped to further develop these recommendations. Rulebook 9, effective for the 2015-2016 season, made mouthguards mandatory for all players during all official games. Coach certification includes a training webinar on concussion safety, in addition to concussion resources on the USQ website. Under USQ concussion policy, all players at USQ events who sustained any potential concussions were required to undergo mandatory medical checks to be cleared to re-enter play, and coaches and teams were held responsible for helping to ensure that these took place. Additionally, USQ worked with medical staff consultants to ensure sufficient and effective medical coverage at all events, including using repeat ATCs who are familiar with quidditch when possible, to ensure that medical staff at USQ events are as equipped and prepared as possible to treat any potential injuries.
We have continued to develop recruitment of officials by introducing payment opportunities for lead assistant referees and snitches. This coming season, we will also consider the implementation of mandatory referee and snitch reviews to further improve the quality of officiating.
USQ had a general communications plan for the whole season and a separate specific communications plan for US Quidditch Cup 9. We focused on keeping our messages and branding consistent, especially with external media.
We were able to accomplish this goal in the 2015-2016 season. We contacted previous event attendees via email to inform them of upcoming events and USQ announcements (such as the DFTBA Black Friday sale in our store), and also increased our holiday outreach to key spectators and donors.
We have increased our efforts to grow social media reach and engagement, with marked success. Over the past season, our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts have experienced follower growth of 206%, 71%, and 80%, respectively. By better utilizing our social media calendar, we have been able to more strategically time the posting of important league announcements, and our focus on platform-specific media has led to a development in content that is tailored for each specific platform. We also saw increased engagement from followers, particularly on Twitter and Instagram.
This outcome was reshaped after further evaluation. Instead of hosting regular internal employee office hours, we focused on ensuring that all volunteers were meeting with an employee on a regular basis. We also held discussions on how staff can engage with social media effectively, focusing on when and where it is appropriate for staff to get involved online. Outside of staff, we have focused on increasing opportunities for our members and the wider community to be engaged with our programs via posts on our website, social media, and direct outreach.
We have instituted a number of initiatives to further this goal. From more formal programs, to all-staff meetings and conference calls, to focusing on in-person interactions at events and social/recreational activities such as a volunteer Secret Santa program, we have worked this past year on encouraging communication and interaction between our volunteers.
This past season, we have increased our commitment to transparency, as well as to consistency in communications. We have made financial information about the league available in our annual report, as well as in our Form 990. We have also continued to maintain regular communication with our players and volunteers via separate email lists, and we have worked with two leading quidditch media sites, Quidditch Post and The Eighth Man, to disseminate information and to keep the community apprised of the timing of various announcements.
This past season, we have sought to improve volunteer morale and increase identification of volunteers with our league. To that end, we have continued regular all-staff emails and conference calls, and have also placed a greater emphasis on sharing information with our volunteers before that information is released publicly. We understand that our volunteers join USQ because they are passionate about the work our league does, and it will continue to be a priority for our league to express appreciation for that dedication by keeping our volunteers informed of important developments and decisions made within the league by other volunteer teams or by staff.
We have sent regular emails to league members on a monthly basis, in addition to emails sent to team captains about USQ events that they are attending. We have also worked to increase engagement with non-player fans, including by notifying them of new merchandise and sales, and via the Snapchat live story that debuted at US Quidditch Cup 9.
One tactic in meeting this goal has been to respond more promptly and personally to Facebook and Twitter inquiries, which has been a priority this past season. By using USQ official social media accounts to respond to inquiries (as opposed to personal social media accounts), we convey authority in our responses and strengthen identification with the USQ brand. We have also been posting public replies to teams, players, fans, media outlets, and potential new players across all channels. This increased engagement has led directly to new partnerships as well, as our relationship with Athlete Ally developed in part due to social media engagement.
Every USQ board member made a donation this season.
In the 2015-16 season, we increased our donor base by 43%. In December, we ran a targeted fundraising campaign that was focused primarily on key donors and spectators. We also ran donation campaigns around the Quidditch Turns Ten book and US Quidditch Cup 9 ticket sales.
This outcome was reshaped. After looking at it in the fall, we decided that it was more effective for volunteers to help us with projects that would help to tell the story of the sport, our community, and USQ as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, rather than directly soliciting donations. In conjunction with the board, staff had discussions with volunteers on what the sport meant to them and what it meant to give time to USQ. Their contributions helped to shape the annual appeal campaign we ran last December. It also led to the development of the Quidditch Turns Ten exhibit at US Quidditch Cup 9.
We saw a growth in online merchandise sales. Event merchandise sales stayed roughly the same, though we did see an increase in revenue from event merchandise sales due to a decrease in production costs.
We focused this year on soliciting in-kind partnerships and developing those connections. For example, we worked with Guidebook for the app developed for the US Quidditch Cup 9 event, receiving an in-kind donation to help make that possible. Additional examples of donations include our partnership with SISU, KT Tape donating product for players at US Quidditch Cup 9 (as they did for World Cup 8 in 2015 as well), and a donation from Henry Schein of medical supplies for the national championship.
Six of the ten partner organizations with whom we worked this year to produce our regional and national championships were new partners, demonstrating a commitment to seeking additional partnerships while also sustaining many of our existing relationships. Our progress towards this goal was evidenced this year by receiving a SportsTravel Award for Best Collegiate Single-Sport Event for USQ World Cup 8. We have also continued to work with university partners for our events, by hosting regional championships at Texas State University and at the University of California, Los Angeles, and we have continued our successful partnerships with organizations such as the Positive Coaching Alliance, Harry Potter Alliance, Peterson’s Brooms, DFTBA, and Snapchat.
We worked with volunteers and staff to ensure that their responsibilities were clear. All volunteers report directly to an employee supervisor, ensuring direct communication and clear expectations of their role.
We are continuing to develop our fundraising plan and utilizing more traditional nonprofit fundraising techniques. We ran a holiday individual donor appeal campaign, added a donation option to the USQC9 ticket sales purchasing, and applied for grants. Additionally, we developed brochures to distribute at our events that included language about USQ as a 501c3 organization to better communicate our organization’s mission.
This season, we developed new partnerships with Athlete Ally and Transfiguring Adoption. Athlete Ally is a non-profit that provides public awareness campaigns, educational programming and tools and resources to foster inclusive sports communities. We were a part of their #EveryFan campaign and used their materials on inclusivity for US Quidditch Cup 9 as a training guide and resource for our volunteers, officials, and teams. Transfiguring Adoption is a non-profit based out of Tennessee that develops media, resources, and tools that nurture growth in foster and adoptive families. Quidditch is a natural fit for them. We also focused on maintaining our current partnerships, as discussed above in several year one outcomes for this strategic priority.
We continue to clarify position descriptions and create informal and formal staff activities to create a positive, effective, and fun environment for all members of our organization. Additionally, we consistently ask for feedback that we incorporate into the organizational management.
The USQ board executed an organizational review after the staffing transition in December 2015 and looked at both organizational and programmatic sustainability for the interim period. With a new Executive Director in place, the board is working with the ED to focus on an organizational development plan, including goals and metrics for programmatic sustainability.