Charities: Online Registrar Owes Us Money

January 5, 2009       Michele Donohue      

The Las Costa Youth Organization (LCYO) in Carlsbad, Calif., used Count Me In, a league software management company, to collect registration fees for its baseball and softball leagues. Now the nonprofit organization is owed nearly $180,000 from the Bellevue, Wash.-based company with no answer about when LCYO will receive that money.

Phil Urbina, president of LCYO, said the organization was “shocked and disappointed” about not receiving the money so far. The organization quickly moved into “action mode,” according to Urbina, trying to react for the league’s nearly 1,600 children.

“We’ve been reacting and doing a great job – I feel really good about what we’re doing”, he said, including creating a key support team to take care of registration problems. Urbina and other members of LYCO keep updating parents about the situation on the organization’s blog and Web site, including information about disputing Count Me In credit card charges.

Some youth sports leagues around the country are out thousands of dollars after Count Me In said it can’t pay out the registration fees it has gathered. More than 20 nonprofits have filed official complaints with the Washington state Attorney General Consumer Protection Division against Count Me In and its parent company, Arena Group. The company provides online registration for sports leagues, collecting credit card payments and registrant information for about $3 fee per registration plus credit card handling fees. Count Me In was supposed to pass on registrant information and money to the leagues. Some complaints say the company stopped paying as early as September, leaving the organizations scrambling to find funds so the kids could still hit the fields.

The Teaneck Baseball Organization (TBO), in Teaneck, N.J., started using the company in October and is still waiting to receive more than $75,000 since the company stopped sending checks for the more than 800 registered children, according to Sue Feuerstein, TBO’s operations director. TBO informed parents of the situation in early December and told them to dispute the charges made to Count Me In with their individual credit card companies. Parents were told they would not be charged a second registration fee from TBO if the credit card companies refused a refund.

Feuerstein said TBO would have to dip into the organization’s savings to cover the missing money. “We only have this reserve because of what we hoped to do a big project in the future,” said Feuerstein. “So any league that doesn’t have this certainly would have a hard time coming up with it.” Count Me In provided TBO with the registration list and has continued software service, according to Feuerstein. Count Me In CEO J. Terrence Drayton said the company’s cash flow was unpredictable and he was trying to focus on corporate fundraising to ameliorate the financial situation in an email to one nonprofit. In another email to the Washington State Attorney General’s office, a company spokesperson wrote that it could not create a payment plan for a New Jersey nonprofit soccer league because “the timing and amount of future funding is uncertain” and the company was “apologetic.”

Count Me In did not respond to interview requests made by The NonProfit Times.

Complaints to the Washington Consumer Protection Division have been filed by nonprofits in California, New Jersey, Michigan, Alaska, Washington, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada and New York, with outstanding money to individual organizations ranging from less than $5,000 to nearly $190,000.

 

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This article is from NPT Weekly, a publication of The NonProfit Times.

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