Who doesn’t want to be a part of the winning team? We know how much fun it can be to cheer for the winners of the Rose Bowl or your team in March-Madness Final Four. Thousands of fans are putting their money where their pom poms are and supporting their winning teams with winning donations!
The biggest athletic programs have revenue coming in from mega ticket sales and from merchandise sales. Dozens of schools make over $100M in their athletic programs, however, the smaller programs rely on donor support to keep their teams competitive and at the forefront of the minds of their supporters. Several schools have a giving requirement in order to gain eligibility to purchase season tickets. Ohio State is even allowing President’s Club level donors to their Annual Fund to apply to purchase season football tickets.
The majority of schools don’t have the kind of demand that supports “applications” to purchase season tickets, let alone the requirement of a donation before purchasing those seats. However, there is good news for the rest of us, you don’t have to have a Division 1 athletic program to get supporters from your school’s athletic program!
1. Make your Athletic Director your development partner.
Yes, Development will do the heavy-lifting of prospect research, donor cultivation, and event coordination – but let your potential donors be the “guest” of the Athletic Director so that they can share stories and build a trust with one another.
The big D1 schools are expecting their head coaches to play this part. Your Athletic Director can certainly be a valuable asset in aligning people with passions and projects.
2. Allow your donor contributions to be siloed.
Some of the D1’s have stopped concerning themselves with which fund a donor is supporting. Let your donors support what is most meaningful to them. Maybe it will be one of your athletic programs, maybe it will be the general annual fund, it might be a specific academic area. One way or another, see that your donors get similar donor recognition benefits based on the amount and frequency of their contributions, regardless of the area that they direct their support to.
3. Cheering with friends is fun – so is giving with friends!
Your athletes have a network and following that your institution may not have, so does their family and your alumni athletes. Crowdfunding is a great revenue resource in the athletics realm.
Short, focused campaigns allow athletes, alumni, and friends of the sports program to utilize their social networks to gain gifts from new donors that want to be part of their victory. Smaller D1 College, Holy Cross was recognized for their successful 43-hour crowdfunding campaign that largely focused on their athletics program.
4. Let your athletes live in infamy
Athletic’s Hall of Fame isn’t just an honor-ceremony. It’s a revenue booster! These regularly scheduled events can draw in crowds that might typically find themselves back on campus. The awardees typically become more engaged and likely to support their alma maters. If your school is recognizing an athlete with a recognizable public image, there is positive publicity that comes along with their recognition. Donors who are already supporting your school may be inclined to make more generous gifts if they are excited about your hall-of-fame inductees.
5. Remember that people love to help people more than programs
Sure, you may have a winning season that you want to promote to donors, but that winning season may not be back next year – despite the best efforts of your coaches and athletes. You will have outstanding student-athletes next year, and the year after that. Continue to highlight athletes in your athletic programs more than the athletics programs themselves when you are cultivating supporters. Let those athletes be a part of your school´s thank you messages when sending out to your donors after the campaigns are over.
Long Lasting Pride
Athletics are a common bond between so many alumni at most colleges. Athletes tend to stay close to one another long after graduation. Non-athletes tend to carry memories they shared from athletic events with them for years. Your alumni already have fond affiliations with your athletic program, leverage that affinity to earn a victory for your advancement campaigns.
Sources & Additional Reading:
 The 27 schools that make at least $100 million in college sports, Businessinsider.com
 The Ohio State, OSU.edu
 Holy Cross’ Give Purple Challenge Highlighted for its Success, News.holycross.edu