Name: Riley Voss
Job: Director of Partnerships
Company: Charity Network (Charitybuzz, Prizeo, Global Philanthropy Group)
In 140 characters or less, tell us who you are and how you got to where you are today.
Indiana Hoosier, committed morning person, college sports freak who stumbled upon the cross-section of entertainment, technology and philanthropy.
What’s one trend in media or marketing that you’re buying or selling?
We’re seeing athletes speaking more and more openly, taking a stand in meaningful ways and using their platforms for good. I think this is translating to fan bases, with people feeling connected to their favorite teams and players on a human level. Expectations are shifting and fans, the media, owners, the leagues — we’re looking at athletes and coaches as more relatable and multifaceted. This plays well for the work I do, leveraging those fan bases for causes athletes care about.
How do you define engagement?
For me, and for our business, true engagement is that deeper level of innovation and partnership, working together creatively to forge a new path to success. Working in business development, I am constantly connecting with clients and ushering them through the first step of participation with us — but engagement is about that lightbulb moment when somebody sees our shared vision and gets excited about a big, bold vision for the future. It is encouraging to see so many partners taking advantage of our digital platforms and committing to innovative fundraising strategies.
What’s the project or campaign that you’re proudest of? Why?
For the past three years, I’ve worked with youth development nonprofit The First Tee to host online auctions on Charitybuzz, raising more than $1 million to-date. They’ve brought incredible experiences like access to the world’s most prestigious golf courses, epic travel packages and other items to us, and we’ve connected them with our community of high-net-worth donors for extremely successful auctions.
Over the years, many of First Tee’s chapters have built year-round partnerships with Charitybuzz, taking advantage of our Golf Curates auctions and other marketing efforts, to raise new, unrestricted funds on a consistent basis. This includes quite a few smaller, rural chapters that may not otherwise have access to major fundraising opportunities.
Beyond the numbers, the impact we’re making together is important to me. The First Tee introduces young people to life and leadership skills through the game of golf. First Tee’s 150 chapters are reaching more than 136,000 young people annually at more than 1,200 program locations.
What are you working on right now? Any exciting future plans that you’re able to share?
Our sweepstakes platform Prizeo recently piloted a new in-venue solution for live events through a partnership with the band KISS, and raised more than $200K for Make-A-Wish. With that proof of concept, we’re looking to take our “Prizeo Live!” in-venue product to other markets, like sports, allowing audiences to connect with their live experience on another level and engage in the philanthropic side of entertainment.
As a connected fan, what’s the best piece of sports content that you have recently consumed?
I can’t get enough of Barstool’s Pardon My Take podcast. It has become an integral part of my morning routine every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (I usually hit play before even getting out of bed).
In my opinion, Dan Katz and PFT Commenter are the saviest, most enjoyable journalists covering sports. They bring a perspective that is somehow honest and paradoxical at the same time. That’s a brand that made Comedy Central such a powerful source for news consumption during the Colbert/Stewart era, so it’s no surprise how big PMT’s numbers have been over the last few years.
I get the sense when listening to PMT that these are two people who genuinely love sports as much as their listeners, and that it’s not lost on them that their job is an absolute dream. They are fans before anything and they prioritize that over trying to insert their own takes into the narrative.
What’s been the biggest high and low of working in sports?
I’ve always been crazy about sports. All sports. So the high for me is that my job allows me to spend time in this industry, especially knowing what we’re doing is benefiting not only our non-profit partners, but also the customers receiving these incredible experiences, and the celebrities, athletes and business leaders donating their time. We’re helping monetize this segment of the entertainment industry, creating so much good from something as simple as a game.
One of the reasons we all love sports is the aspect of unpredictability. That’s also happens to be one of the most difficult realities of working in the industry. There’s always a chance our plans will have to shift completely if a player gets injured or traded, and there’s only so much planning ahead we can do when athletes’ and teams’ popularity are constantly changing. Although I’d characterize this as my “low,” the unpredictability does force us to move quickly when opportunities arise, which keeps things interesting and dynamic.
What’s one element of the sports industry that you’d like to see change?
As is the case with most categories of storytelling, the negative always seems to find its way to the top and earn the most coverage. Those are the “clickbait” stories that reel people in and maybe it is the case that they get the most views… But I would still like to see sports media place a higher premium on highlighting all the good that comes from sports. I can’t think of another industry that has the power to inspire and create positive change the way the sports industry can.
Emerging media has paved the way for the diversification of storytelling, and provided a platform for infinite new voices to talk about the world of sports. Like anything, we have to take the good with the bad, but I think this trend has largely been a positive in broadening the narrative around athletes and the industry itself, and I hope storytelling continues to evolve in a way that advances these conversations for the better.
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