youth sports

Homewood Baseball and Softball Leagues (HBSL) brings the magic of baseball, t-ball, and softball to more than 900 kids in Homewood, Illinois, from the ages of four to 18.

The non-profit organization serves the community’s kids and their families by giving them a way to learn the game, grow their skills, and compete.

But coordinating volunteer umpires and concession stand workers has always been a major hurdle for league organizers and families. They’ve relied on a web of back-and-forth communications via email, text, and phone calls, scrambling to confirm assignments and lock in arrivals.

By using Apptoto’s reminder system in a new way, they’ve been able to dramatically reduce the time spent coordinating volunteers and improve their confirmation rate.

Now, volunteers are verifying their assignments for umpire and concession stand duties at a rate of over 85%.

This has allowed them to keep games running smoothly for the kids and their families and saves them hours of work every single week.

Can you briefly describe your organization?

Homewood Baseball & Softball Leagues (HBSL) is a non-profit youth baseball and softball organization founded in 1951 and located in Homewood, IL, a suburb of Chicago.  We are a 100% volunteer operated and self-funded organization. We provide baseball and softball leagues for kids aged 4-18 from Homewood and other surrounding towns. This year we have just over 900 kids in our programs playing on 54 T-ball and baseball teams and 21 softball teams.

What were some common challenges Homewood used to face that have been reduced or eliminated by Apptoto?

Since we are a volunteer operated organization, all of our families are assigned volunteer duties as a condition of registering in our leagues. These duties include both concession stand duties and umpire duties.  In the past, we relied on each team’s “Team Parent” to contact the families on their team prior to each game to remind them of their scheduled concession stand duties. Also, league presidents or game commissioners were required to contact the families assigned umpire duties prior to each game to remind them of their umpire duties.

The process of trying to contact busy families usually consisted of first emailing the family and waiting for a reply, then texting or calling to try and confirm attendance. Many times families would not reply at all so we’d have no idea who was actually going to show up to work their assigned duties.  We had a very high no-show rate. This then required our stand director to scramble to hire teen workers to cover the stand at the last minute, and game commissioners would have to try and get a parent out of the bleachers to volunteer to umpire a game when the parent assigned to ump didn’t show.

How did you discover and decide to use Apptoto? Was there something that set it apart?

I was personally a league president before becoming the league webmaster and as such I knew exactly how much work it was to manually contact each of the parents in my league by email, then text, then call to try and confirm them for duties.

I had begun to receive automated emails and texts from my daughter’s dentist about her appointments, and what was unique was that this particular dentist asked me to reply to confirm, or cancel, or reschedule my appointment.  I thought that this would be an excellent tool to use for confirming our volunteers. The system the dentist was using, however, was totally set up for medical practices.  I began searching the web for other services. I found several, but all of them were either geared 100% to doctors/dentists, or they required us to have our own appointment/booking software to integrate with.

Apptoto was the only one I found that had the ability to request responses, not just send reminders, and that also would allow us to import our scheduled duties directly into their system, without having to have another piece of software or our own booking/calendar system. 

After chatting with reps from Apptoto on their site, who answered all of my questions, I determined that Apptoto was exactly what we were looking for.

How easy was it to implement and get going? Any features you enjoy most?

The implementation process with Apptoto was fantastic!  As soon as I signed up for the free trial, I was contacted and offered a free setup consultation, which I was totally not expecting.  I jumped at the chance and scheduled an hour with Jessica. I explained to Jessica what we wanted to do, and as soon as the consultation started, she began to walk me through the setup showing me all the options, and quickly finding “work arounds” to make the system work for our unique situation.

I understand that our use of their system is NOT typical, but Jessica was able to make the system do exactly what I was envisioning. She really had to do some creative setups for us, but in the end it is working perfectly.

I even requested an additional message setup at about 5pm on a Friday, and she was able to get it set up for us by later that evening even though what I asked for caused her to have to basically re-design our auto replies from the ground up.  She was amazing and very responsive to any and all questions I had.

The features I enjoy the most is the auto-replies, and the ability to send an additional reminder the day a person is scheduled to work a duty. With the auto-replies we are able to reply back when someone confirms they will be working and tell them exactly when to be there, and instruct them to text us directly if anything changes and they can’t attend. The day-of messages have been well received by our families, as a final reminder that they have a duty that day, or that they requested a buyout of their duty and they need to drop off that payment.  Additionally, our directors are loving the daily summary emails that show all their workers for the next day and who is working, who bought out, and who hasn’t replied.  It’s a great double check for them.

How do you use Apptoto specifically in your organization? Do you use both the reminder feature and the online booking feature?

Since our parents are assigned their duties, we only use the reminder feature. All of our duties are loaded via CSV file into the system. We are able to include special fields during the import such as the player, league and team associated with the duty, as well as the field a parent will be umpiring on.  We than use any of these data elements in our reminder messages.

7 days prior to a stand or umpire duty, we send an email, stating the date and time of the duty and asking the parent to reply to confirm they will work, or request that we hire a paid worker for them, which we call a “buyout.” If we do not get a reply from that email, 5 days prior to the duty we will send a text message, again asking for confirm or buyout as the reply. Lastly if we still do not get a reply we will send an automated call 3 days prior to the duty asking for confirm or reply.

On the day a person is scheduled to work they will get a final reminder message. If they confirmed or didn’t reply, we will remind them that they have a duty that day, and the time of the duty.  If they requested a buyout we will remind them that their money for the buyout is due prior to the start of their shift. These day-of messages are the piece that was not a normal use of the system, and Jessica had to do some creative workarounds to make them work with the rest of our messages and auto-replies. They are, however, a key piece in what is making the system so successful for us and are being very well received by our families.

Overall, how has Apptoto helped your organization?

Since we began using Apptoto we are averaging a 99.21% reply rate from our parent umpires, and 83.44% from our stand workers, once all 3 messages have been delivered. 

This is an amazing rate of reply, and is way better than any of us expected, and way better than we ever got previously doing it manually.

Additionally, reports from our umpire and stand directors are that no-shows have virtually been eliminated, and that virtually everyone who has requested a buyout has paid their money on time. While we don’t have hard numbers for no-shows in the past, the problem was rampant, and was putting such a strain on our volunteer directors, team parents, league presidents, and commissioners, that something needed to change drastically for the program to continue.

What is your customer feedback like with Apptoto?

We began explaining the new reminder system to our families at our registration events in January and February. Every parent we talked to absolutely loved the idea. They loved the fact that they would get reminders for their duties, and be able to confirm or buy out right from the email or text.

Now that the system is up and running, we are seeing many replies to the messages thanking us for the reminder, and thanking us for the auto-reply message telling them where to be and when, or where to drop off their buyout money. We have also gotten lots of replies thanking us for the day-of reminders as well. Our parents are busy, and we understand that; this system is just what they needed to provide the appropriate reminders at the right times to make sure they don’t forget about their duties.

Any advice for others in your niche that may be considering reminder software?

I can’t imagine any youth sports organization that relies on volunteers to work duties that wouldn’t benefit from using Apptoto. Our volunteer directors and league presidents put in an inordinate amount of time during our season. Using Apptoto takes a huge job off their plates, making their jobs much easier and allowing them to concentrate on what’s important, which is making sure the 900+ kids in our leagues have the best possible experience playing the games we all love!

Conclusion

Thanks to the time and dedication of the generous community volunteers, HBSL is able to run every game smoothly and keep the love of the game alive for hundreds of kids of all ages. Apptoto is proud to be used by such a great organization to save time and effort.