Vineman, Inc. manages two major events each year. The first, Ironman 70.3, is the go-to race for folks looking to qualify for the Ironman World Championship 70.3 at Lake Las Vegas. This race usually sells out in three hours, and in 2011 saw 2300 participants. Along with age-group participants, the 70.3 is where you’ll find professional triathlon competitors. These are top-caliber athletes, and Vineman’s 70.3 had one of the best fields in the series last year.
Vineman’s second event (two weeks later) is actually four events: an Ironman distance triathlon, called Full Vineman; an all-women’s Half Ironman distance triathlon, called Barb’s Race; and two Aquabike events – a full and a 1⁄2 Vineman that consist of a swim and bike portion only. About 2200 athletes compete on that day. These two weekends keep Vineman, Inc. busy year round, according to Amy Latourette, the organization’s registration coordinator, who was kind enough to spend some time with us recently to discuss their work and how ACTIVE Network has helped.
Q&A with Amy Latourette, Registration Coordinator of Vineman, Inc
How many people does it take to organize all those events?
We have four full-time employees. I handle registration, work with the pros, manage the website, organize onsite packet pickup, etc. Shelly Lydon handles volunteer coordination and follow-up for the next year’s races, while Tracy Pugh focuses on sponsorships, the expo, and more. We also have about 20 seasonal employees who come in to help in the office, set up the transition areas, race course and finish line area, clean equipment, etc. Our owner oversees it all.
“My experience with ACTIVE’s team has been awesome."
How did Vineman get involved with ACTIVE Network?
Vineman was already using ACTIVE Network for registration when I came on board in 2006. I’d been a volunteer before then and helped a lot with registration. It was around this time that the races really began to grow. The volume of paperwork had become a bit cumbersome - it simply wouldn’t have been manageable without online registration. ACTIVE Network really was the first option. They offer an easy system and you get comfortable with it quickly. When ACTIVE Network updated to ACTIVE Works®, there was a relatively short learning curve, though there were some things in old the platform I missed. The great thing about ACTIVE is that you can give them that kind of feedback and they are really responsive to your needs. My experience with ACTIVE’s team has been awesome. They’ve made changes based on my feedback to help me get some things I wanted.
Do you incorporate fundraising with these events?
Our primary fundraising is with Barb’s Race. It all started when Barb Recchia was diagnosed with cancer and to make a long story short, Barb’s Race was born out of this and from this we would raise funds for local cancer related groups. We’re in our 12th year of Barb’s Race and we’ve raised over $500,000 to date. Barb chooses the local organizations who will be the recipients of this money. By keeping it in the local community we get to see the results of the money we (and the athletes) have raised. Half of all entry fees for Barb’s Race go to the charity grants along with participant fundraising and donations.
Have you seen an increase in online registration?
We have definitely seen online registration increase, especially for the 70.3 because it sells out so fast—in three hours. There’s no option for offline with that kind of a time crunch. But overall, more and more are signing up online compared to mail-in entries. In 2006 there’d be stacks of envelopes on my desk with checks. Now I get maybe a quarter of that.
How does ACTIVE Works help you communicate with participants?
The email tool in ACTIVE Works is a great improvement, because now you can create a specific template with a header and picture or logo so it has a distinctive look. We’ve used this design for a lot of the communications with our athletes.
What are the top features you rely on in ACTIVE Works?
Well, online registration is the most crucial. But we also love the volunteer module, which has been really great. We previously used ACTIVE Giving as our fundraising platform, which was a good fit for our charity program, and we’re working on how to use ACTIVE Works for promoting our charities going forward. All of these online tools allow for better time management, which is key during our crunch time of June and July.
How has ACTIVE Works improved your registration process?
We get a lot of international participants in our races. Refunding their credit cards is simple now as I can do it from my end—I used to have to call ACTIVE Network to process the refund. Finding participants and making changes has become easier. Because ACTIVE Works lets me search information across multiple events, I can look up an athlete and find them in the system—even if I don’t know what race they’re registered for—and make the requested changes.
What reporting features do you use the most?
We use a lot of the reporting features. We pull merchandise reports, registration reports (of course), reports to collect data for various emails that we may want to send to a specific demographic. We use reports to get our competitor t-shirt numbers, to get statistics for race day facts...the list goes on. ACTIVE Works makes it really easy.
What has your experience been like with customer support?
Over the years it’s been great. We’ve had a few different reps (having been with ACTIVE for so long). Our current person is just incredible. Anytime I had a question about the new platform, she would send a response with an actual screenshot of how to do what I needed. At one point she was on vacation but she called in to make sure everything was okay. Who does that? And the website team (ACTIVE Network hosts our website) gets back to us very quickly for anything we need.
What else has ACTIVE Works made easier?
To add your name to our wait list, participants would mail in paper registration forms with checks (the last year we did this was 2009 and we had 600 paper entries!) Now the ACTIVE Works system lets potential participants register online for the wait list and when their name clears the wait list we simply contact them via email and they register online. This makes it less time consuming on both ends.
How do you follow up and communicate with participants, volunteers and donors to keep them coming back to your events?
We send a thank you after every race to our volunteers and athletes and provide them with next year’s dates. We also send an email prior to registration opening. We download everyone who has participated from the last three years so we reach as many people as possible.
In what way does ACTIVE Works help you with these efforts?
Just having the ability to email via the database is such a time saver and makes it so easy. If people have done the race multiple years it deletes the duplicate email addresses. I can pull whatever information we need and can reach thousands of people in about five minutes.
Have you noticed an increase in social sharing about your event?
It’s really cool that when people sign up for a race and click the ‘Like’ button, it tells their friends they’ve signed up. It’s a great way to get the word out. Going forward we’d like to increase our social media visibility. We’re starting a new event—a mud run—and we’d like to experiment with this.
Would you recommend ACTIVE to others?
“The great thing about ACTIVE is that you can give them feedback and they are really responsive to your needs.”
Registration Coordinator, Vineman, Inc