Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wereallnumberone #1: Athletic Fundraising

So, my day job (and, all too often, my night and weekend job!) is athletic fundraising. I work for Northwestern State Athletics, and more specifically, I work for 300 young men and women who compete as student-athletes for the Demons (www.nsudemons.com). I take great umbrage with folks who decry the arms race in college athletics --at least the ones who are drinkin hella haterade about it -- even while I often sympathize with the thrust of their message. Would that there were more people and companies who cut big fat checks for the naming rights to Chemistry buildings and campus pavilions the way they do for naming rights to football stadiums and athletic fieldhouses. Of course, I say that, but large research universities garner plenty of support from industries in the private sector, from philantrhopic foundations, and many donors to college athletics are also the most generous donors to higher education. College athletics can inspire incredible feelings of amity, spirit, and pride in one's alma mater -- not to mention unity and excitement on campus and in the community. When its done right (and I know, its all too often done all wrong ... big ups Vince Dooley, SMU, Coach Tarkanian!) college athletics adds so much to the college experience (he said, as Sperber, Zimbalist, and the Knight Foundation swirl in his mind ...)

Anyhow, we compete as fundraisers off the field the way student-athletes compete on the field. We want to secure funding in order to provide the very best experience for them, to help coaches recruit the finest young men and women to represent the U, to win more games, so we can raise more money. That's the drill.

This past year? #1 year for NSU Athletics in # of Athletic Endowment commitments (8 new ones), #1 year in Gift-in-Kind commitments (~$350,000), highest total of contributors to the scholarship fund in the last 3 years, and completion of the first facility capital campaign in campus history (a three-quarter $mil project).

Until next year. Being #1 is 366/25/8.

Ok ... now a little bit about the lighter side of athletic fundraising ...

A report came through on cfaa-elite clips, basically like a Reuters for college athletic administration news, on donor profiles and annual giving levels at the University of Cincinnati. In "Cin" city, for those of you who don't know, basketball is king, though football has had some good years in there, and the program is a respected D-I competitor in the Big East conference. Sure, its been tough going in Bearcat land since Bob Huggins left town (no, not the Bob Huggins of Dorset Coast Forum fame, though you are a nerd-virgin hero for jumping to that http://www.dorsetcoast.com/media/images/e/j/DrBobHuggins.jpg .... this Bob Huggins http://www2.jsonline.com/sports/marq/image/2002/hug222.jpg, you carbuncular freak), and the former perennial stalwart in basketball has seen better days, but all in all, a respectable program with strong regional buy in (tough state, Ohio is ... they got OSU to compete with and, in my opinion, two of the most awesome mascots in college athletics, the Zips of Akron http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGIH_enUS211US211&q=%22what+the+eff+is+a+zip%3f%22 and the Flashes of Kent State) and good national recognition.

Their fundraising/development area brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to support the growth and maintenance of their athletic department and Bearcat teams. Now I know that amount seems egregious, in the face of state and federal budgets being cut at public universities, and I know it seems silly that rabid and irrational fans would give their hard earned money to athletic departments when academic units can barely afford to pay their professors and adjunct labor is, as a result, overused to fill classes with teachers even though those teachers dont get paid enough or get benefits while the athletic department swims in cash and the administration supports the proliferation of athletics because it is often self-sustaining (even though, read the reports, they often aren't, thats just what they tell you, many athletic departments are in the red!!! its called an arms race and Ollie North is a peon compared to Bobby Purcell, you better believe it) ...

Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh yeah, fact of the matter is, athletic departments do important things for the Academy that many people don't realize. Their success elevates local, regional, and often national recognition for their respective universities. They provide their host universities, often, with great PR and give them an opportunity to break into markets across the nation. My university, Northwestern State, used to be known as that school in the town where they filmed Steel Magnolias.
"Hey what's your mascot? The Northwestern State Gritty Performances by Olympia Dukakis"? http://www.imdb.com/gallery/granitz/5169/Events/5169/OlympiaDuk_Pimen_10312008_400.jpg.html?hint=group

Now we're known as the guys who beat Iowa and got their coach fired. Much cooler. No offense Olympia, youre still in my top ten "Women whose names sound like they could be a terrible presidential candidate's mom." Number one on that list? Barbara Bush. Two times. Take that take that ...

Anyhoo ... Athletic departments inspire donors, not just ones who give to athletics, but ones who help endow professorships and research positions. And AD's provide scholarships to a segment of students that universities often overlook -- young people of color, many from underserved neighborhoods. And before you say an effin word about their merit, check the legacy list at the Ivy League schools and see how many mouth breathers get into Dartmouth, Brown, and Princeton every year and then shut yourself the eff up.

Wait, what was I talking about ...

Oh yeah, there's good and bad about athletic departments raising money. How you like my freshman comp thesis statement there? Here's another:

"Since the beginning of time, there was athletics ..."
Brilliant! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWqGLVaITsk

Ok, so Cincinnati releases a statement this morning that explains, informally, what a person who donates to their department should expect to receive for the amount donated. Examples include:

$10,000-$25,000 PER YEAR - You've paid enough money to get access to the team - the players, coaches and athletic administration. If you want to, you'll get to know them, and they'll get to know you. You might be offered the opportunity to fly on the team charter or to dine with the coach. And of course, you'll get great parking spots on game day.

$25,000-$50,000 PER YEAR OR SINGLE GIFTS FROM $100,000-$500,000 - Don't worry about getting to know the coaches. They'll get to know you. Tickets for the NCAA Tournament or bowl game? Don't worry. You're at the top of an elite list. How involved do you want to be? If you want to know what's going on with the program, such as who the team's recruiting or who the university might hire, all you've got to do is ask.

$50,000-PLUS PER YEAR OR SINGLE GIFTS OF MORE THAN $500,000 - The coaches and athletic directors know your home address and are more than happy to visit for dinner. Heck, the university president probably has you on speed dial. A private golf outing with the coach? You name the tee time.

So that got me thinking ... what about the little guys (and gals) out there who love Bearcat athletics but cant pony up a hundy hundy sticks? So, for all of the Bearcat! fans out there, the bottom ten donor levels in the UCATS Foundation.

$100 and below - Autographed picture of head coach. Autograph says "Thanks alot, you just paid for a helmet decal, douchebag. Send that chump change to Toledo or something. Who we look like? Akron Technical College up in this bitch?" I know, it seems labor intensive ...

$101-$250 - Autographed picture and chapbook explaining the genus and species of a BearCat entitled "Berenstain Bones BattleCat." The magic happens here http://www.berenstainbearstreehouse.com/index.php.

$251-$400 - U of Cincinnati Pen Set. Will only sign your name on check or money order. Uses invisible ink everywhere else.

$401-$500 - Phonecall from girl on the volleyball team. And autographed picture from basketball coach that says "If you were buying air time, your commercial would be this lo ..."

$501-$1,000 - Football team will beat up any person who hassles you. Wait, thats the Bengals. http://www.myfantasyball.com/team_marks/CIN-mark-1-cl.gif (those stripes aren't part of the design. Thats just a regular ass "B" behind jail bars).

$1,001-$1,046 - Who donates $1,037? Thanks Rain Man.

$1,047-$1,500 - BearCat Towel set. Striped in Red and Black, so buttfloss the night away.

$1,501-$2,000 - Really cool BearCat Poster autographed by your favorite BearCat team. Hand delivered by offshoot UC mascot Pinky the PossumLizard. Just think of a really hairy gecko.

$2,001-$2,500 - Season tickets to all sporting events (excluding Men's Hip Hop Gyrating and Women's Lamaze).

$2,501-$4,999 - Foot massage, yoga class, and exfoliating facial courtesy of a real binturong bearcat. Band-aids sold separately. And how. Happy ending at your own risk http://gobearcats.cstv.com/genrel/081706aae.html.

So there you have it, your hometown UC Bearcats go on to victory thanks to your generous support, and you get all these great benefits in exchange. Only in America. Oh, and at McGill and St. Mary's, but that about it.

Back to work ... we ain't gonna beat Iowa again next year with me sitting here on my ass. And last I heard, Olympia Dukakis almost choked on a Meat Pie her last time through ... so no Steel Magnolias II: The Wrath of Connie.


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