Archive for the ‘Engaging Former Student Athletes’ Category

UALRThe University of Arkansas at Little Rock recently held their inaugural SpectacUALR event, a silent auction and awards ceremony to benefit UALR Athletics. The event (held in their newly constructed Jack Stephens Center) featured two main objectives, recognize alumnus Annette Fisher as the SpectacUALR Honoree and raise money for UALR Athletics.

Both objectives were met in tremendous fashion during the event which saw over 500 attendees and $180,000 raised to support the athletic department and their honored guest. The funds were raised in a variety of ways as the event promoted ticket sales, corporate partnerships, and a silent auctions. Surprisingly, $100,000 of the revenue generated was from the former two, and not silent auctions (as most benefit banquets do).

ULAR’s new approach to a banquet event shows that auction items are not the only revenue generator for athletics departments looking for big event results. Corporate partners and the ticket office can cash in on the goodwill created by a large benefit event. With UALR hosting the event in their own facility, the costs were certainly kept at a minimum. Their event shows that successful banquets and auctions should not be exclusively for donors, but for corporate sponsors and ticket holders as well.



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Wisconsin BadgersThe University of Wisonsin-Madison dedicated the newly created Thomas Zimmer Cross Country Course on Saturday, October 3. The course is the first dedicated cross country course the UW cross country team has competed on in decades. The course was spearheaded by gifts from Thomas Zimmer, a long-time supporter of Badger athletics and collegiate runner at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and Chuck LaBahn, a former Badger swimmer and recently retired CEO of Orion Corporation.

Zimmer cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony prior to the course’s debut at the inaugural Wisconsin adidas Invitational. The course was put in Zimmer’s name to honor his many years of service and support to the Badger Fund. The course runs adjacent to the University Ridge golf course and allows the nationally ranked men’s and women’s cross country teams, 13th and 28th respectively in the most recent U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association National Rankings, a top of the line home course.

This gift is a great example of engaging aid from donors for non-revenue sports. With the two major donors having competed as student-athletes for non-revenue sports, they saw the rare opportunity to show support to sports often over looked by athletic development funds. Cross country courses also present a unique way to improve the competitive environment for a large number of student-athletes while not requiring constructing a brand new facility.

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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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williamsAt the University of Illinois, two famous alumni athletes are making the trip back to Champaign to help with fundraising efforts at their alma-mater. Deron Williams and Steve Stricker will each give back to the university in the form of their appearances at major fundraising events this fall.

Williams will host the Illini Hoop Legends for Charity Dinner and Auction as well as a golf tournament the next day. Both events will feature well-known Illini basketball alumni with the focus of the event being on the 1989 team that advanced to the Final Four. With so many basketball legends in attendance, Illinois is certainly aiming to draw high-capacity donors to the events. Proceeds from the events will be split between the basketball program at Illinois and Williams’ local charities.

Stricker, in similar fashion, is working with his alma-mater to host the annual Stricker Illini Golf Classic. Like Williams, Stricker’s event will include a gala reception and auction in conjunction with the event in order to maximize the fundraising efforts. The tournament, which is so popular that it will certainly sell out, will have two waves of tee times, again offering many donors the opportunity to participate. All proceeds from Sticker’s event will benefit the Illini golf program.

Both of these events follow a successful formula: bring high-profile alumni back to campus, provide donors with first class experiences, combine the event with a dinner/auction, and make the event an annual staple in fundraising efforts.

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Ryan Diem play on the field and actions off it led him to being named 2008 Outstanding Young Alumnus at NIU.

Ryan Diem play on the field and actions off it led him to being named 2008 Outstanding Young Alumnus at NIU.

Typically a sore spot for most development offices, former student-athlete giving has historically been poor at most schools. This occurs for many reasons. Perhaps the student-athlete did not have the exprience they felt they deserved, perhaps their coach is no longer at the school, or perhaps they haven’t been as successful as they hoped. Yet for most, it comes down to their experience at the university and how they view their time spent on campus.

Recently some headway has been made in former student-athlete gifts. Julius Peppers made a six-figure donation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill earlier this year, earmarking his donation to the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

During this past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Ohio State’s campus and listening to various athletics department staff members speak to the my MSA class and answer questions. Pat Chun, Deputy Senior Associate Athletics Director of External Relations, offered some advice on the subject of student-athlete giving:

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Mark Mulder attended MSU's first pitch event.

Mark Mulder attended MSU's first pitch event.

While March typically signifies the heating up of basketball action across the country, it also marks the beginning of the NCAA baseball season. With the familiar ping of aluminum bats being heard across the country, several programs are seeking to take advantage of rising popularity of the sport.

There are several departments from around the country that are creating “First Pitch” events and dinner for fans, staff and donors. These events typically include a highlight of former players, which in the case of Michigan State included legends such as Steve Garvey and Mark Mulder, a dinner and awards ceremony. The dinner is where the funds are primarily raised, with money being charged per plate in addition to silent auctions of baseball gear and trip opportunities.

These events serve as a direct way to connect with former baseball alumni and raise funds for the program. Typically held in early February to enable professional players a chance to come back to campus, the money raised here almost always will be restricted to the baseball program. However, this is a vital way raise awareness and build a solid connection with alumni and fans.

Other examples of baseball first pitch events were held at Virginia Tech, Utah, and Temple just to name a few.

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