Leadership / 01.07.20
Two New York Organizations Invite INTIX Conference Attendees to Give Back
Adina Lichtman recalls the very early days of forming her New York-based nonprofit organization, Knock Knock Give a Sock (KKGS). “I was still in college at NYU, and I was really struggling to decide if I was going to run a nonprofit full time after graduation or not. I was scared to take the dive. The best advice I ever got was from my dad, who said, ‘Listen, your toes are in the water. Either jump in, or walk away!’ So, I jumped in.”
And jump in she did. “I was a sophomore and giving out sandwiches to people on the street. One night, a homeless man said to me, ‘Ma’am, it’s so nice you are giving out sandwiches. But one thing we could really use are socks.’ So, I decided to go and knock on every door on my [dormitory] floor — because my socks weren’t going to fit him — and in 15 minutes, I got over 40 pairs. Fast forward to my senior year of college, we had spread to over 20 college campuses and had collected over 50,000 pairs of socks.”
Think about it. Many people donate coats and shirts and old jeans. But, Lichtman says, nine out of every 10 people who have ever donated clothing have never given a pair of socks. Most organizations don’t even accept gently used socks. But KKGS does.
“We now go to different major companies like JPMorgan and WeWork to get them to do sock collections,” Lichtman says. “It’s about more than socks, though. It’s about increasing understanding. If you ask people in these companies, ‘Who here has ever given money, food or clothing to people in need?’, most of them will say, ‘I have!’ But if you ask them, ‘Can you name one person you know who is experiencing homelessness?’, almost no one can. So, our main mission is to turn transactions into interactions. After a company does a sock collection, we then bring their employees to people living in local homeless shelters and have Meet Your Neighbors Dinners so they can have a meal side by side with the people they’ve helped.”
From left: Kyle Wright (Schubert Organization and Conference Co-Chair), Adina Lichtman (Founder, Knock Knock Give a Sock), Danny Frank (Citi and Conference Co-Chair), Matt Zarracina (CEO and Co-Founder, True Tickets)
Attendees of the International Ticketing Association’s (INTIX’s) 41st Annual Conference & Exhibition in New York on January 20-23 will have the chance to meet Lichtman and her staff in person, donate socks and maybe go a bit further. “Obviously, [INTIX attendees] can bring socks,” she says. “But if they also want to take a bag to give socks to people on the street or in need, we’ll also invite that opportunity for them. In addition, if companies want to find out how to get involved and do a sock collection, we’ll talk to them about corporate engagement opportunities like the Meet Your Neighbors Dinners.”
Conference attendees will also have a chance to help out Kids in Seats, a nonprofit organization that promotes achievement in at-risk and/or underprivileged youth by using event experiences as motivational tools to reward positive behavior and academic achievement. Rae Anne McLaughlin is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and she helped Executive Director Ann Lademann and Chairman Benny Doro launch the group in June 2018.
According to McLaughlin, “Ann and I both have a rich history in the nonprofit ticket industry, and we’ve developed some fantastic relationships with season ticket holders and others. We were primarily connected with New York teams: the Yankees, the Mets, the Islanders. Over the past 18 months now, we’ve started to develop a national reach. Since we launched, we’ve placed over 81,000 tickets with a face value of $5 million.”
How does it work? “We receive tickets from donors, which can be season ticket holders, the team or the venue,” McLaughlin says. “Our website serves as the platform for the recipient agencies. We can send out an email letting them know what is available, and then they can log on to our system and claim the tickets. It’s first-come, first-served. Each agency is vetted, so we know their mission is in line with ours which is ‘reward and recognition.’ We want to reward positive behavior. We monitor every ticket that comes in and out. Either Ann or I personally touch every single ticket, and we can tell you where every ticket is and how it is accounted for.”
Kids in Seats recipients at Aladdin.
She continues, “We’ll take any donor’s tickets, whether it’s courtside or 400 level. But, over the years, we’ve really looked to partner with the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citi to get some of the better seats in the venues. We’ve managed a few celebrity tickets, too, so when their boxes are open or their Legends seats at Yankee Stadium are open, they shoot Ann or me an email and let us know they’re available, and we’ll place deserving kids in them. The pictures we get back are unbelievable. This past Saturday, for example, we had a donor who donated courtside tickets at the Knicks game, and one of the recipients sat right next to [filmmaker] Spike Lee! The groups we are working with, they’re all telling us that these are the most motivationally rewarding items they’ve ever had to work with to keep these at-risk kids connected.”
McLaughlin and Lademann are also looking forward to having a presence at INTIX’s January conference, especially with it being in their home market of Gotham. “We’re going to be set up in the conference registration lobby,” McLaughlin says. “We’ll be there to talk about what a relationship with Kids in Seats looks like for the venue, the donor and/or the team. We’ll talk about how they can better their season ticket holders’ experience and how we can fill seats for them at the more difficult games or shows. We’ve started to do a lot of Broadway shows now, too. We’re asking everybody who attends the INTIX conference to, if they can, bring two tickets for an at-risk, underprivileged child to donate to us at the conference. And we’ll have a fundraising push while we’re there, too.”
Kids in Seats recipients at a Major League Baseball game.
Regarding the fundraising, Lademann says, “A lot of times, the event stops for the kid at the seats. We just don’t have the funding yet to provide a meal with every ticket. That is our 2020 initiative. We want them to have the complete, feel-good experience.”
All three women interviewed for this article couldn’t help but talk about the “feel-good” aspect of what they do. Each had their own personal favorite story of helping someone in need. “We’re partners with the Charlotte Hornets,” Lademann says. “And we ask each kid to write a ‘Thank You’ card after they go to their game. We feel that’s a lost thing that kids don’t do nowadays. From the event, I get a text. It was a photo of this little girl, Jasmine, who was 10, on an escalator at the arena, and she had a big smile on her face. And I wrote back to her sister and said, ‘Wow, she must be having a great time at the Hornets game!’ And the sister replied, ‘She is, Miss Ann. But she says this is the best experience ever because this is her first escalator ride!’ Imagine a 10-year-old child who had never been on an escalator! That smile … I can close my eyes and see it right now.”
Lichtman’s memories again take her back to the formative days of Knock Knock Give a Sock. “Early on, I would walk around with my backpack full of socks,” she says. “But then I left the country for six months to do a semester abroad. When I came back, I saw a guy on the street who looked like he wasn’t feeling well. So, I ran over to see if he was OK, and he looked up at me and exclaimed, ‘Oh my God! It’s the Sock Fairy!’ Six months later, he remembered me just from a pair of socks.”
For her part, McLaughlin harkens back to her time as a social worker when she and her colleagues would use donated tickets to get kids to return to their homeless shelter at the end of each day. “There was this 14-year-old boy who was homeless,” she says. “Each time he came to the shelter, we’d give him new shoes, a new coat, new jeans, new shirts. And when he would return, it would all be gone except for this big No. 1 foam finger he got at a Mets game we sent him to. The third or fourth time he came into the shelter, I asked him, ‘Where are the sneakers we gave you? Where’s the coat we gave you?’ And he would tell me, ‘Someone stole it’ or ‘I lost it.’ It just was his reality. So, then I asked him, ‘How do you hold on to this foam finger?’ By that point, it was so tattered from being dragged around in a plastic garbage bag, which these kids call their luggage. And he looked at me and he said, ‘Are you kidding? This was from the greatest day of my life!’ It was at that moment I knew we were onto something with these tickets.”
Knock Knock Give a Sock and Kids in Seats are recipients of the #INTIX2020 True Tickets Community Giveback Program at INTIX. Attendees are encouraged to bring a package of socks to #INTIX2020 with our goal of donating 2,020 pairs of socks to KKGS. United States attendees also are encouraged to bring and donate two to 20 tickets to event(s) at their venue (event date after March 2020) for Kids in Seats.
You May Also Like
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Leadership , INTIX 2020