Archive for the ‘Annual Giving Practices’ Category

The new MBB seating chart at the Thunderdome

The new MBB seating chart at the Thunderdome

This year UC Santa Barbara is taking an active approach to combating the economy and its potential affects on their athletics program. The department has taken steps to make sure their basketball facility is full throughout the season, lowering men’s basketball prices to $125 for season tickets and women’s basketball to $100. Additionally, a family pack of two adult and three youth tickets for both basketball teams is currently being sold at $400, or $2.66 per game.

It is also important to note the changes UCSB has made in their donor system. Before, donors would give to a certain sport program under a special fundraising arm (ex.- Fastbreakers for women’s basketball) to recieve tickets in a certain area. Now, donors, regardless of where they give, become a part of the “One Donation is Gold” system, which enables their donation to count for all sports, not just one program. This system could serve as an excellent example on how to transition donors from giving to one individual sport to supporting the whole program.

Under the new rules, a donor who gave a certain amount to obtain seating at a women’s basketball game can actually donate less this year to obtain the same seats. These savings will help in retaining donors and helping them maintain their seating requirements throughout the year. An example can be found in the press release.

Additionally, to uphold a level of satisfaction from giving to certain sport, the Gaucho Fund has made it clear in numerous publications that giving can still be earmarked towards a specific sport program. All this will help in easing their donors into a new system and invigorating a fan base with a packed arena and boisterous atmosphere for the upcoming basketball season.


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On many athletics department websites, it is possible to find some type of individual recognition for their athletics donors. Usually in the form of a large list showing which supporters qualified at each level of giving, this type of recognition is simple and likely appreciated. At some universities, however, donor recognition is taken one step further.

At Arizona State University, the ASU Foundation website has a special section reserved for “Donor Stories.” These stories describe the unique giving experiences and lives of some of ASU’s largest donors. In addition to recognizing their gifts, the donor stories offer a personal touch and a detailed account of how a gift can be the result of complete chance or lifelong devotion to the University.

At the University of Tennessee, the “Donor Spotlight” feature on their website is written in a similar fashion to how a “Student-Athlete Spotlight” might be show on the home page. Using an interview format with brief questions and answers, Tennessee’s donors are brought to life, rather than just listed with their dollar amount.

In each of these cases, the university is taking donor recognition to the next level. Showcasing donors in this way not only humanizes their support, but it provides a name and a face to donor prospects that are considering a gift to the university. Imagine if a prospect was considering a gift, reads the donor spotlight, and then recieves a phone call from the donor who was recognized…encouraging the prospect to give. I believe this would be an effective tool of not only encouraging participation amongst donors, but soliciting new gifts. Universities considering making the extra effort to add a personal recognition of donors should look no further for examples than the two institutions listed here.

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su logoAt Syracuse University, a strong relationship between the Syracuse Football Club (SFC, football alumni booster club) and the Athletics Department is leading to large donations and an energized fan base. This year, the SFC is helping Syracuse football in all-new ways, and it started with their first home football game this year.

In the season opener against Minnesota, the SFC contributed to the Orange with several initiatives. For the game, the SFC pledged $1 to Syracuse Football for every ticket sold. With an announced attendance over 48,000, the gift was quite substantial. In addition, the SFC sold Orange t-shirts ($3 or $5 for two) before the game in an effort to fill the Carrier Dome with Orange pride.

The SFC also runs a 50/50 raffle for each game, also with a portion of proceeds benefiting Orange football. In all, the football alumni group supports the program through monetary support and building pride among current students and other fans of Syracuse Athletics.

In this instance, there is a clear example of how a non-university fundraising group can work in conjunction with an athletics department to support student-athletes. In an era where athletics departments and external booster clubs are occasionally at odds, the SFC and Syracuse University seem to have an outstanding relationship. Check out the SFC website for their mission, other initiatives, and special programs that they run on the behalf of Syracuse Athletics.

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cougsAt the University of Houston, the Cougar Athletics Department recently released a new website dedicated completely to the branding of Cougar athletics. The site, PulseofthePride.com, has content dedicated to their student support group, alumni group, links to their facebook and twitter pages, ticket information, and other links all associated with building Cougar awareness.

This unique step in building the brand of an athletics department is a somewhat new tactic. It is hard to find a site dedicated simply to brand-building, especially among non-BCS-conference universities. Perhaps recognizing the potential that their athletics department has in areas like sponsorship and alumni support, this portal will be a key in creating excitement and awareness of Houston Athletics.

This branding effort, ultimately, should also positively impact giving at the University of Houston. Their scholarship fund, called Cougar Pride, is a prominent piece of the new site, and encourages fans to support the education of their 300+ student athletes

Athletics departments who are looking for a new and unique campaign to stimulate giving, support, and sponsorships may consider a directive similar to that of the University of Houston. The new website is only part one of their efforts, but clearly a key aspect in their branding efforts.

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blue turfDevelopment departments looking for innovative ways to boost their scholarship funds should look no further than the “Building the Blue” mechanism at Boise State. The Bronco Athletics Department, in an effort to support their summer school scholarship costs, have launched the program aimed to collect donations as little as $10. Here’s how it works:

The blue turf at Boise State has long been an identifying mark for the football program, and the “Building the Blue” fundraiser builds off that. In an online experience, the blue color of the turf at Bronco stadium has “faded” and fans are being asked to help return the field to it’s “natural” color. For every $10 donated, one square yard of Boise State’s football field will return to blue. All the proceeds go to help the Summer School Scholarship Program. The webpage which the program is built upon shows the progress donors are making towards the final goal. Of course, just like other donations, gifts are all tax deductible.

A program doesn’t need to have the blue turf launch a program like this, however. Similar ideas like “Fill the Stadium/Arena,” “Flood the Pool,” or “Grow the Grass” could be done at schools without iconic landmarks like the blue turf at Boise State. Summer school scholarships or other small goals are perfect for such a program.

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Throughout the country, one of the biggest questions faced on a daily basis is how to get the graduates who received diplomas in May to donate to athletics within the next twelve months. While this segment may not represent the most wealthy, engaging the recent graduates early will enable involvement for a longer period of time, which will eventually lead to more gifts. ADF has posted on this topic before, and has sought out more examples from around the nation due to reader interest.

north-carolina-state-logoNorth Carolina State University, one of the most successful annual giving arms in the nation with over 20,000 members, offers a unique way for young alumni to build up in their giving efforts. Giving increases from complimentary the first year, to $30 the second, $60 the third and $90 the fourth, all while gaining priority points at the lowest level, which will benefit the donor down the road. Additionally, the young alums are given a window decal, a monthly newsletter, and invitations to events. To read more about this program, click here.

Indiana University has a similar model, giving young alumni their first year of membership for free. Upon receipt of their registration, the Varsity Club sends out a donor package that consists of a welcome letter, a window decal, membership card and a license plate with the Varsity Club logo. Perhaps the most interesting part of this deal is the license plate, which if placed on a vehicle, has the ability to increase the club’s branding and awareness among young alums.

Elon University
Image via Wikipedia

In addition to these successful athletics programs, there are also many non-athletics young alumni giving programs. Duke University has over 3,300 young alumni who graduated between the years 1998-2008. Their unique solicitation methods include Young Alumni Development Councils, reunions, and young alumni peer networks. Elon University recently launched a new program to host regional networking opportunities for members of their annual fund.

Many of the young alumni programs from around the fundraising industry all include a few basic tenants: reduced rates, complimentary gifts and networking opportunities.

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nsulogoAmidst the economic struggles that gave university annual funds fits during the past year, one university experienced record setting success. In northwest Louisiana, the Victory Fund at Northwestern State University showed improvements in nearly every measurable category during the 2009-2009 fiscal year. This success begs the question: what did they do to defeat the poor economy?

According to their recent press release, the Victory Fund at Northwestern State recorded record numbers in total funding secured, Victory Fund gifts, membership, gifts-in-kind, and Board of Directors fundraising. They cited several key reasons for these drastic increases.

First, the department increased efforts to educate their donor base about the contribution levels available and benefits related. In addition, they increased their public relations efforts among their new and established donors. Powerful information initiatives certainly played a part in the increased personal and business donations to the Victory Fund.

The second important piece to the puzzle for Northwestern State was the effort by their board of directors. At the beginning of the year, board members were challenged to raise $100,000 for the department, but exceeded that total by reaching $186,300. The 21 volunteer board members were lead by the university president, Donald Horton.

The final piece to the success of the Victory Fund was the increased marketing and rebranding/logo redesign that the department went through during the year. A new website and improved football and basketball season ticket efforts were essential to the effort.

Northwestern State has shown that a defined strategy and hard work by all parties involved can help development departments succeed (and even set records) in the difficult economic state.

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