row2k Features
Collegiate Coaches Corner
Program Fundraising
April 20, 2021
Erik Dresser, row2k.com

Following the cancellation of the 2020 spring racing season, row2k solicited the collegiate coaching community to engage in a variety of high-level topics within the profession. We submitted over sixty questions across a dozen topics and thank the coaches and staffs that found time to contribute their thoughts during this stressful time.

We wrap up the Coaches Corner this week on the topic of Fundraising with the following questions:

TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU NEED TO FUNDRAISE TO SUPPORT YOUR PROGRAM?

KATIE THURSTIN - STETSON WOMEN
Fundraising is critical to our program. Stetson Rowing was established as a club team in 1988. As a result, we don’t have a large alumni base so we rely on the support of friends and family, in addition to our dedicated alumnus. I firmly believe that rowing is a team sport and if an athlete is willing to wake up, do the work, give their best, and support their teammates, they should have the opportunity to compete. I do not have a big enough budget to travel all of my athletes so, to stay true to my core value as a coach, I fundraise.


BRIAN PERKINS – TEMPLE MEN
We have a decent budget, but need to fundraise to supplement everything (travel, equipment, etc). Our sport – spoiler alert – is a very expensive sport with a lot of “big ticket” items.


BRIAN DAWE – TUFTS
We would not be able to run our program without raising funds. Perhaps 70% of our budget comes from these funds. New equipment, trips, regattas, maintenance – almost all of these are covered by fundraising.


JENN LANGZETTEL - DUQUESNE WOMEN
We do not need to do too much fundraising, but we do work to ensure that we are helping to support our department through small fundraising events.


CAMPBELL WOODS – MARIST MEN
I don’t think a program exists that wouldn’t benefit from fund raising and we certainly set out each season with the goal of improving our platform. In the last 4 years at Marist we have been successful in increasing our yearly fund raising to essentially cover 100% of our shells and oars which has enabled us to use more of our operating budget in other areas. With a healthy fleet turnover established, additional funding in the future can start to benefit the program in other areas.


BOB BRADY – FRANKLIN & MARSHALL
At F&M, we actually fundraise a significant portion of our budget for the year in order to cover transit to and from the boathouse, to regattas, for equipment and repairs, and more. And each donation we are incredibly thankful for because everyone we receive is important to supporting the team.


ERIC GEHRKE – GEORGE WASHINGTON MEN
Fundraising is integral to continued success for any level of program; scholastic, high school club, and collegiate. When I coached scholastically, fundraising supported almost 100% of our program because of how little schools are able to provide across all their sports teams. When I started a club program, fundraising was integral to supporting the capital needs and winter training assets, but operations were supported by dues and fees. Collegiately fundraising is invaluable to supporting capital needs and endowing aspects of the program but is significantly less valuable to our athletic day-to-day operations.


KEVIN HARRIS – TULSA WOMEN
At The University of Tulsa fundraising supports all of our equipment and capital purchases (boats, erg, launches, computers, etc.), facilities other than general maintenance (Boathouse and Zink Indoor Rowing Tank), and any extra budgetary travel (Head of the Charles, Women’s Henley, etc.), and any lapses in the regular operating budget. One measure of this is that all of the actual racing equipment (8’s, 4+’s, 4x’s, 2’s, 1x’s) has been purchased through donation. Our boathouse, indoor rowing facility, launches, oars, ergs, and most of our supporting equipment have been purchased with donated funds. I would say that a good estimate would be that we fundraise for a minimum of 25-35% of the amount needed to annually run our program. Without those donations, we would not be competitive within NCAA Division I.


BART THOMPSON – ADRIAN
We have to fundraise each year to pay for our spring break training trip, as well as other costs not covered in our budget. These can vary depending on the year: certain gear or equipment, like team backpacks or more ergs, for example.

WHAT FUNDRAISING TACTICS HAVE YOU FOUND MOST EFFECTIVE?

MADELINE DAVIS TULLY - BOSTON UNIVERSITY WOMEN
I found the most effective tactic for increasing both fundraising and general alumni engagement is finding ways to connect individual people. This is true for both the head coach and the current student-athletes. People want to support people. When our alums and donors have the opportunity to meet the women on the team, they can form a connection and understand who exactly their donation is helping.


ERIC GEHRKE – GEORGE WASHINGTON MEN
I find building genuine relationships over meals, coffee, considerate communication, and friendship before then working up the courage to make the ask to be the most effective fundraising strategy. On top of that, continuing to update about how their donation was used and effective. Share successes with your donors and give them access to feel like they were first-hand contributors to your speed or community. When you can build the relationship, make the ask for their time/treasure/talent, and then continue engaging them in how they were helpful, and you are more likely to have lifetime donors which changes everything.


BRIAN PERKINS – TEMPLE MEN
We have tried to target different groups once a year. Donor fatigue is a real thing! So, we have one for younger alumni, one targeting parents and friends of the program, and one for older alumni. It adds up to three or four fund raisers per year, one for each academic season. Some people come to all of them; others just make the one. But it conditions our alumni to expect to support us when they can.


BOB BRADY – FRANKLIN & MARSHALL
I don't know if I would say this is a tactic per se, but constant contact with alumni, parents and friends of the program is important. And this doesn't mean we are constantly asking for donations, but rather trying to get information, race updates, event info, videos and pictures, and so on, in front of them. This can be done through emails, newsletters, Instagram, Facebook or other social media.

And of course, we like to host a series of events for our rowing family. These events could be alumni rows at regattas, gatherings and rows at our boathouse over summer, special banquets to kick-off or wrap up our season. In addition, we also host an erg-a-thon on campus and participate in two phone-a-thons where rowers and coxswains call alums, parents and past donors.

Through F&M we also host an athletic department wide event called "Raise Our Game" in the month of March. Each team can do it differently, but we set a goal of 50 donors this March, and through various outreach efforts like those mentioned, we actually collected donations from 65 donors. It was incredible to see the great support for the team.


JENN LANGZETTEL - DUQUESNE WOMEN
The Day of Giving is our main event for reaching out to alumni and we are working each year to improve our alumni outreach to increase our proceeds on that day.


KEVIN HARRIS – TULSA WOMEN
We have three main sources of fundraising: major donors who annually support the program for capital purchases, alumnae and family giving from Tulsa related sources, and general mail solicited donations through “erg-a-thon” type fund raisers.

Our major donors helped start the program and it is through their stewardship that Tulsa has been able to consistently sustain itself over its 25 years of existence. The team has been blessed by a group of donors who believe in the mission of the team and the athletes who dedicate themselves to Tulsa. Our team works hard to honor those donors as often as possible and recognize their contributions. Many of our athletes continue their relationship with them even after they graduate.

If there is a tactic it is simply to have the athletes say, “thank you”. We work hard on not having a sense of entitlement in our program. We all know, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” I think our donors appreciate that Tulsa ethic and support the student-athletes who have dedicated their 4 years to making this team better. We want to make sure our donors realize how important they are in the program and also to the education and development of our athletes. We allow our donors to be integral in our processes. Whether it’s the naming of shells or attendance at practice and regattas, we want our donors to be there for as much as they want because they play a part in making it happen. But truly, the most important thing is for the athletes to appreciate the donors and no one can say, “thank you,” too much.

Examples:
-A donor who donates at least half the cost of a shell has the privilege of naming it.
-A donor who names a shell has an oar blade painted in Tulsa colors with the name of the donated shell and is asked to sign it. When the boat is retired from the fleet, the oar blade then becomes the donors
-Donors, alumnae, and family are always invited to practices. That way they can see what their donations are accomplishing in an up front and personal way
-Donors, alumnae, and family are always welcome at our regattas and wherever the trailer may be during events
-Depending on the racing schedule, we have a team dinner for donors at the boathouse with the team so that they can sign their oars


BART THOMPSON – ADRIAN
We have a template letter that we give to our rowers that has space for them to discuss how the rowing team has impacted their experience here. We utilize those personal stories when speaking with potential donors.


BRIAN DAWE – TUFTS
The direct approach – just ask people for money. The big donations bring about the smaller ones, not the other way around.


CAMPBELL WOODS – MARIST MEN
By far the most important part of fund raising for rowing is engagement with your audience. The vast majority of your donors are either former athletes or families. These groups had the opportunity to experience the energy and excitement of being part of a rowing team or at least being around one. These groups need to be reminded of how important this sport was to them and there is no better way to do that than to share the excitement and enthusiasm of the current team.

Our alumni get a substantial amount of emailed information that includes monthly updates in the off season, an introduction to our new recruits over the summer, season previews, weekly race previews and post-race analysis as well as a yearly state of the program address. I actually really enjoy writing some of these as the communication is mostly internal to the team which enables us to use slang and rowing language and provide more insider information that we wouldn’t normally share with the general public. We don’t always use these emails to push fund raising; in-fact only about 25% of them even contain fund raising information but the engagement is the number one key component to creating long term relationships with donors. In addition to these email efforts we now have a yearly celebration when the alumni gather. This event serves to re-engage these people with their old teammates and we center much of our yearly giving around this event.

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR TIME DO YOU SPEND RAISING MONEY AND INTERACTING WITH ALUMNI TO SUPPORT THE PROGRAM?

JENN LANGZETTEL - DUQUESNE WOMEN
Not enough honestly. This is an area I have identified that needs to improve. We have many alumni from our program and we have not worked hard enough to continue to keep in touch with them over the years and form a relationship that gives them an avenue to give back to the program. In the fall of 2019 we had just begun an event to help with this and of course fall of 2020 did not allow for the event to happen. We hope to put this event back in place to get our alumni to campus and to the boathouse to see how far we have come as a program.


BRIAN DAWE – TUFTS
It’s a small number. The thing is to maintain continuity by reaching out on a regular basis. Most donors love the program and want to help. Our friends have been extremely engaged recently and the attention they bring leads to other positive relationships. We recently have been blessed with an angel willing to help over a number of years. Nurture relationships.


CAMPBELL WOODS – MARIST MEN
I have definitely found that by doing a little bit each week or each month it can help to keep the workload down, but this is important stuff for any program, and we take it seriously. Probably about 10%-15% of my total workload is focused on these relationships.


BRIAN PERKINS – TEMPLE MEN
Hard to say. It needs to be constant gentle pressure, communication with alumni and donors, and communicating need as well as accountability: it is good to show where the donated dollars are going!


BART THOMPSON – ADRIAN
A very small percentage, probably less than 5%. There are only a few times a year where we have certain events that cause that percentage to increase to a more-substantial number.


BOB BRADY – FRANKLIN & MARSHALL
I would estimate that 20 to 30% of my time is geared towards fundraising and alumni relations. This ranged from running newsletters, emails, social media, phone calls, meetings, and putting together a variety of events.


ERIC GEHRKE – GEORGE WASHINGTON MEN
I try to spend at least 2-4 hours a week focused on fundraising and alumni/donor engagement.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC FUNDRAISING EVENTS THAT ARE CONSISTENT MONEY MAKERS FOR THE PROGRAM AND WHY DO YOU THINK SOME ARE MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN OTHERS?

BRIAN PERKINS – TEMPLE MEN
We run an erg-a-thon in December that has been a consistent positive for us. We set a goal and task the members of the squad with raising a certain mutually agreed upon amount. We then track the percentage of teammates that hit their goal or exceed their goal. It really is a microcosm for cooperating in a shell.


BOB BRADY – FRANKLIN & MARSHALL
Events in which we, as in the rowers and coaches, actually interact and engage with alumni, parents and friends of the team are ones that generate the best results for F&M Rowing. Those events include our phone-a-thon, erg-a-thon, and alumni specific events. I think it's important to actually spend time engaging with donors and not just asking for donations - this can be hard sometimes if events are spread throughout the year, but getting alums to feel like they are still connected to the team and the team's success is important, because they are. For us, without donor support, we wouldn't be able to do what we do.


MADELINE DAVIS TULLY - BOSTON UNIVERSITY WOMEN
At BU, this is the Head Of The Charles. Every year (well, almost every year), a huge number of alums, family members, and supporters come to DeWolfe Boathouse to watch racing and catch up with old friends. This creates a natural and impactful opportunity to raise money for the program and re-engage friends of the program.


BRIAN DAWE – TUFTS
Most of the opportunities on campus have already gone to teams of longer standing. Grubbing around for a few dollars here and there isn’t the way to go anyway. Time constraints on college students means we have to free them up to study, row, sleep, and have some friends. The direct approach to big donors is best.


JENN LANGZETTEL - DUQUESNE WOMEN
Our main fundraiser is a Golf Outing that solely benefits our program each year and we are incredibly grateful for the individual that hosts the event and all those that are involved each year. The success of this event us purely the consistency of the event each year and the friends and family of the host that so graciously participate to support our program.


KEVIN HARRIS – TULSA WOMEN
This has changed over time. We used to be every effective with mail solicitation and our “erg-a-thon” type campaigns. However, that has declined precipitously through the years. Our best tactic has been a direct solicitation from coaches and athletes for specific reasons.

The goal would be encouraging a larger culture of giving within the alumnae, but this takes working with University Relations so as not to overlap priorities. Our university fundraising arms have been very involved in all of our fundraising and stewardship and have been incredibly helpful in opening fundraising pathways for us. I think having a good relationship with university donor offices is key.


ERIC GEHRKE - GEORGE WASHINGTON MEN
For scholastic programs I coached for, our best fundraising events were annual active fundraising by providing services to the community asking in return for a small payment. For the club programs I have worked with our best fundraisers were annual passive-fundraising community celebration events where we could just gather and enjoy each-others company and celebrate our successes. Collegiately, I am still learning, but it seems celebrating around a race weekend with pomp and circumstance seems to draw a lot of interest.


BART THOMPSON – ADRIAN
I don’t know if I can speak on that broadly. For our program, a lot of it comes down to buy-in from the rowers themselves. If they aren’t promoting an event with friends and family, it’s unlikely to be successful.

During these unprecendented times, row2k is working hard to keep rowing coming to you; please help us keeping it coming by supporting our work!


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