Roller derby finances: Comparing the top-ranked nonprofit leagues in the nation

We know how Gotham sizes up to Windy City on the flat track, but what about at the bank?

By digging through (publicly available) tax documents, I tried to stack some of the top leagues against each other to see how they match up. (Make your bets now)
Here are some overall observations I had after spending hours weeding through the numbers (which are from 2011 — the last available data. Things may have changed since then.):

-Few leagues are 501c3s
What frustrated me most was how little data is publicly available on this. Only about 50 leagues in the nation have ever filed 990s (nonprofit tax forms). Of those, 28* sound like WFTDA leagues. The others are juniors, renegade and rec leagues. Many of the 28 are leagues you’ve never heard of (Oh hey, Cowboy Capital Rollergirls.) Only about seven division one WFDTA leagues filed these forms in 2011.

-Most of the top leagues are profitable
Start with some good news: Six of the eight leagues I looked at were profitable — some were very profitable, earning 116 percent of what they spent in a year.

-We don’t get grants
Of the leagues I looked at, one of them got a grant and it was for about $4,000. That’s not enough. Together, these same eight leagues brought in about $2.4 million in one year. That means that 0.16% of these nonprofits’ revenues were from grants. That’s embarrassing, frankly. It’s likely because of these leagues, only one had a paid employee (the same league that got the grant). Grant writing is a lot of work for a volunteer, which might be the reason the community got so few in 2011.

-We don’t invest
There were some really cute budget lines of “investments.” One said that a league invested $12 and earned $2 on that investment in 2011 — I have just got to assume that they bought a few extra rolls of tape and that tape prices then went up. But seriously: With assets into the $325,000 range — why is the derby community not investing this money? Most finance-types would tell you that savings account interest doesn’t even keep up with inflation nowadays. We’re losing money by stashing it.

-There is no standard
The goal of this post is to show the derby community how some leagues do it. I chose the top-ranked leagues because, by the nature of it, they are typically older leagues and likely more profitable. What I found is some leagues spend a lot of their funds to support their travel team. Others use it to put on huge bouts for their home teams. Some fundraise a ton, others don’t list any money under “fundraising.” We know this sport is young and growing and I think few leagues would tell you they know the “right” way to support the sport. But I would wager the diversity here is massive. I would suspect if you took eight non-derby nonprofits that were in the same trade, their 990s would look similar to each other. Not so much here. Everyone is doing their own thing.

-Workshops can be fruitful
The best example of this, by far, is Rocky Mountain Rollergirls. Here are their impressive** stats:
-Junior derby programs cost them $4,743 but brought in $12,250 (+$7,507).
-Their bootcamps cost them $4,678 to run and brought in $39,305 (+$34,627!).
Grand total is more than $42,000 of bank. Other leagues also found workshops, rec leagues and other training opportunities lucrative, to lesser extents.

-Gotham doesn’t have the highest rent/mortgage
This surprised me, anyway. Windy and Bay Area pay more, it seems.

-WFTDA is (seemingly***) doing great.
With earnings of more than $400,000 in a year, the WFTDA seems to be healthy. I’m glad it’s now offering me free TV.

A note before we get started: The data I have is limited. For one thing, I can only compare 501c3 nonprofits, so although I hoped to compare the top 12 ranked leagues, some of them are not nonprofits (Oly, Rat, Angel and Minnesota). Also, different leagues fill out the forms in different ways, so some leagues separate every item down to how many t-shirts they sold (Gotham), and some leagues just lump all revenues together (Bay Area). Leagues like Rose keep their junior and rec programs under their one league, but leagues like Texas created separate nonprofits for those programs. Because of all of these huge discrepancies, we can only draw wide inferences from what these numbers mean. But it’s fun. So here it is:

So, who earned the most?
I’d say WFTDA, with $411,032. But, as for leagues:
Rose City Rollers                     $77,490
Windy City Rollers                  $73,857
Texas Rollergirls                     $28,121
Gotham Girls Roller Derby    $2,896
Denver Roller Dolls                 $657
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls           -$3,024****
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls   -$17,060

Who spent the most?
Rose City Rollers                     $490,271
Denver Roller Dolls                 $367,769
Windy City Rollers                  $361,262
Gotham Girls Roller Derby    $341,859
WFTDA                                    $285,653
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls     $246,502
Texas Rollergirls                       $115,871
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls            $29,740

Fattest piggy bank:
WFTDA                                      $415,824
Windy City Rollers                   $326,903
Rose City Rollers                      $205,112
Texas Rollergirls                      $144,771
Gotham Girls Roller Derby     $135,774
Denver Roller Dolls                  $74,794
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls           $53,215
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls    $17,916

Rent:
Windy City Rollers                  $161,898
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls          $137,102
Gotham Girls Roller Derby    $121,640
Rose City Rollers                     $62,690
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls   $61,056
Denver Roller Dolls                 $33,000
Texas Rollergirls                     $18,090

Dues taken in:
Rose City Rollers                          $71,002
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls               $61,233
Denver Roller Dolls                      $53,164
Windy City Rollers                       $43,668
WFTDA                                         $38,750
Gotham Girls Roller Derby        $35,920
Texas Rollergirls                          $11,782

Travel costs:
WFTDA                                            $50,177
Windy City Rollers                         $46,097
Texas Rollergirls                            $38,109
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls                 $35,000 (approximate)
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls          $31,733
Gotham Girls Roller Derby           $23,051
Rose City Rollers                            $20,627

Most volunteers:
WFTDA                                       1,300
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls      150
Rose City Rollers                        150
Gotham Girls Roller Derby       100
Texas Rollergirls                        100
Windy City Rollers                     100

A snip of my spreadsheet.

A snip of my spreadsheet.

*WTF
**Although Rocky Mountain KILLED IT with those workshops, they were in the hole more than anyone that year. I’ve requested an interview with the league and so far they have been busy and need more time to get me the information on why their fundraisers were so successful and how they still ended up in the hole. If/when they reply, I’ll add the info.
***That’s not an ominous “seemingly” I just don’t have last year’s data or this year’s data to confirm.
****Bay Area was in the red because of expensive venue rental for their bouts, according to the league’s finance director.  Also, they were robbed at gun point that year. Bay Area’s accountant filed the league’s 990 a bit differently than other leagues; for instance, their rent is more than $100,000 but they only list their total overall expenses in the $20,000 range.
General note: Sometimes I say I examined seven leagues, sometimes eight because Philly’s data from 2009 was useful, but they haven’t filed 990s since then. I asked them if they are still a 501c3 and they are.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Roller derby finances: Comparing the top-ranked nonprofit leagues in the nation

  1. Danielle Flowers says:

    This line is wrong in your round up of data.
    Travel costs:
    Gotham Girls Roller Derby $58,260
    Gotham paid out 23,051 in 2011. Not sure where you got the other number from.

  2. Well done, Hard Dash — I’ve been waiting for someone to do this analysis. The only caveat I’ll mention is that I think 2011 was an unusual year for WFTDA, because they restructured from a 501(c)6 to a 501(c)3. I’m guessing that most of their “contributions and grants” were actually a transfer of assets from the 501(c)6 organization, so their profit of $411,032 is probably much greater than usual. We’ll know more when their 2012 return is available.

  3. Double H says:

    Philly was just accepted as a 501c3, retro-active through 2010. Whom did you contact?

  4. Boj says:

    Wasatch is both WFTDA and 501 c3, they are in a limited market, (Utah) it would be interesting to see how they compare

  5. Just a FYI: Ann Arbor is WFTDA apprenticed and a 501c3 who filed 990s last tax cycle. Fascinating article! :)

  6. Lady Quebeaum says:

    Readers AND leages should be aware that by law if someone walks into your esablishment and askes to view the 990, you HAVE to provide it. I believe the only exception to this is if you post it on your website, or are otherwise not requierd to file (receipts being below a certain threshold, being a church, etc.) So, if you used Guidestar or some such service and don’t see what you are looking for, ask the league directly.

  7. Missy says:

    Very helpful information, thank you for posting it!

  8. Lady Quebeaum says:

    ‘Scuse the typos.

  9. Excellent food for thought. I need to pass this article on to the Drive-By City Rollers; they (we) are in the process of switching from for-profit to non-profit.

  10. Brodie - NZ. says:

    When you use the term “Dues” is that member fees? Also did you look at Bout profitability? Would be interesting to see how that stacks up against the workshops etc for league funding.

    • hsteeves says:

      Dues are either the “member fee” line or if they itemized “dues” I used that.

      The leagues that posted bout revenues listed these:
      Windy City Rollers $315,823
      Gotham Girls Roller Derby $169,784
      Texas Rollergirls $125,611
      Rocky Mountain Rollergirls $115,985
      Denver Roller Dolls $46,169*

      Those numbers vary a lot, as you see. So some leagues might be accounting for everything involved in bout day, some might only be including ticket sales, etc etc. (For instance, Denver listed $46,169 from bouts, but also $211,784 from ticket sales…)

  11. jimelam1 says:

    Since the “spreadsheet” that you show on this page is actually a (partial) GIF, some of the columns of your data are not included.

  12. Hell Vetica says:

    Holy cow our (Rose City) volunteer numbers have changed! We have over 700 people now (in varying levels of activity). I totally remember the 150 days and being so proud then… I’d be curious to see how other leagues were doing in that vein, as such I’m having a junior skater help me track down regional volunteer coordinators! This is super interesting, Dash!

  13. Lill says:

    I’m working on starting a new league/team now, and I’m hunting for grants to help get started, but not having much luck. Most of the grants out there for sports are for youth sports. I’m going to keep looking, since reviewing grants for a university is my full-time job, but I’m open to suggestions about where to look that I might not have thought of!

  14. Roger H. says:

    When you mention the “piggy bank,” are you talking about how much liquid cash each organization has, or their total assets including cash and physical like sport court and video equipment, etc.?

  15. amywhited says:

    This is amazing information you’ve pulled together here! Thank you!

  16. amywhited says:

    Reblogged this on Here is the New There and commented:
    This Is amazing information!

  17. Pingback: One year in, what’s coming to HardDash.com | The Dashboard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s