A Conversation With Big 12 Development Directors: Approaches to Fundraising
Fundraising and donors are critical in collegiate athletics, especially in funding capital projects. I’ve seen how great facilities positively shape the brand of a program, university, community, state and region for years and years after doors open. They’re a primary point of engagement between teams, fans, donors and the school. But they’re an investment, sometimes a big one.
The ability to raise funds and complete these projects falls directly on the shoulders of senior athletics administrators leading development and fundraising efforts for athletics departments across the country. And now changes coming to collegiate athletics—a new autonomy structure for Power 5 conferences, the recent implementation of full cost of attendance and potential changes to tax rules for charitable giving—have placed an even bigger emphasis on athletics giving.
DLR Group’s sports team took full advantage of the 2015 Big 12 Men’s basketball tournament, an event that gathered Big 12 athletic leaders in Kansas City for the madness of postseason college basketball. Our designers sat down with development directors from several Big 12 schools to hear how they are raising money for athletics departments. They had a wealth of great thinking to share, and here are the highlights from those conversations:
- Creating additional giving levels, societies and leadership circles with exclusive benefits tied to giving at those levels. This not only increases membership and dollars contributed on an annual basis but also strengthens loyalty to a department’s brand as donors feel a deeper connection through membership.
- Connecting with the “next generation” of donors by getting students and young alumni involved in the giving process earlier. Some examples include providing full donor benefits for either free or a reduced costs and providing discounted ticket offers. While these dollars may not be significant today, creating a culture of giving now can prove to be beneficial as students and young alums achieve success in the future.
- Forming a strong collaboration with senior administrators and coaches to create a series of donor and public events can lead to long term growth in membership and annual giving. Taking coaches on a “state tour” is essential in connecting an athletics brand to the fan base. These events have shown great return for departments that can execute a collaborative approach and reach fans in their hometown communities.
- Getting creative in naming opportunities for donors. Some member schools have already tied donor benefits to naming entry gates, club lounges and plazas, meeting rooms, sports offices coaching positions and administrative titles.
- Creating new premium areas within a venue, developing fair and equitable donor seating (and re-seating) models for all venues, and tying additional seating benefits to those that give additional construction gifts to capital projects are great opportunities to generate revenue. Incremental revenue can be generated to pay off debt of the project and soon be used to assist with other rising costs facing departments today.
These are really great thoughts from some exceptional leaders. They build on much of what we’ve also learned over the years from working with our clients, connections in the industry, and leaders in collegiate athletic departments. As designers, have ideas of how design can elevate collegiate fundraising opportunities. Give us a call to discuss what is possible for your next athletic project.