When Gulf War veteran Michael Focareto went to the 2008 Super Bowl XLII at the University of Phoenix Stadium with a friend, there was an empty seat next to them throughout the entire game.
And though Focareto had a military friend who performed in the color guard before the game began — who could have filled the empty seat — the color guard was escorted off the field after their performance, and Focareto’s friend never got to see the game.
“It really pissed us off,” Focareto said. “It’s like the organizers were thinking, ‘Hey, we’re being patriotic, but (the color guard military members) can’t stay and watch the game.'”
Then a light bulb went off in Focareto’s head: What if someone created an organization where people could get a tax write-off for donating tickets to veterans?
The epiphany led Focareto to create the Veteran Ticket Foundation that same year, which partners with vendors and donors across the country to give tickets to veterans and military families to sporting and entertainment events.
Focareto knew there were plenty of other veteran organizations and businesses that provided tickets to veterans, but the ticket service was a side project of those organizations. Focareto wanted an organization that exclusively focused on providing veterans and military families with free entertainment.
Focareto said he went into the business blind, but thanks to his background — specifically his Navy service as a nuclear engineer, his ASU business degree in computer information systems and his masters in information management — he was able to create a sustainable service.
Focareto’s military and academic experience was enough to give him the sense to keep his physical operations small. Only 3 percent of Vet Tix’s revenue goes to administrative costs, compared to the usual 10 percent for nonprofits.
“We decided we would only have one hub in Phoenix, and keep it minimal on brick-and-mortar,” Focareto said. “No money spent on a huge staff, no wasted money on administrative spending.”
Focareto’s plan to keep operations to a minimal paid off. Vet Tix has grown from serving the Phoenix area to all 50 states including Washington D.C., and has established partnerships with the MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA, PGA, NCAA, WNBA, MLS, NASCAR, ballet theaters, concert venues, circuses and more.
It took from 2008 to 2014 for Vet Tix to serve a million tickets, but now the organization may surpass that number in one year alone.
This past year alone, Vet Tix has already served about 500,000 tickets. In total, the nonprofit has given away about $60 million worth of tickets. Vet Tix has almost 300,000 registered members, and Focareto said they are growing by the hundreds each day.
While this exponential growth may surprise some, Focareto saw it coming.
“I thought exactly what had happened would happen,” Focareto said.
“An empty seat doesn’t do anyone any good,” Focareto said.
About Veteran Tickets Foundation
Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation supporting our military community. Vet Tix has provided over 1.6 million free event tickets to currently serving military, veterans and family members of those killed in action to sporting events, concerts, performing arts and family activities. Our military and veterans experience many difficult transitions as they reintegrate into their families, communities, and eventually, into civilian life. Attending events improves morale, strengthens family bonds through shared interests and encourages service members to stay engaged with local communities and American life. In gratitude for their service and to support their reintegration, Vet Tix is dedicated to giving back to those who gave us so much. Donations are eligible for tax deductions. Please visit our web site at www.VetTix.org Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.