A.D. Report -- Oct. 6, 2009
Oct. 6, 2009
Corvallis, Ore. -
October 6, 2009
As part of our ongoing effort to communicate most effectively with our donors, ticket holders and fans, the Oregon State University Athletic Department recently completed a process to hear what’s important to these key stakeholders. We wanted to learn more about what’s in the hearts and minds of our constituents when they think about OSU Athletics.
The process, which took place last spring, involved seven focus groups to gather input from donors, ticket holders, alumni, faculty, staff and students. These meetings took place in the Corvallis area, Portland and the Bay Area. Participants shared many diverse opinions and were generous with their time and willingness to speak candidly about their views of OSU Athletics.
For the past year, I have been writing about the challenges—specifically the financial challenges—we face here in the OSU Athletic Department. Although the amount our donors contribute has increased dramatically during the past decade, our number of donors has not. We used these focus groups to dive deeply into what motivates people to donate to our program and how we can expand philanthropic support.
In June I shared the results of our annual fund-raising drive and the state of our season ticket sales for the 2009 football season. You’ll recall that the Beaver Athletic Student Fund (BASF) drive was down 9 percent, and our ticket sales were off nearly 12 percent. Fortunately we had some strong ticket sales over the summer and ended up down just 3.8 percent. But it’s a different story with BASF results. We’re down approximately 10 percent, or $1 million, and urgently need help from Beaver Nation.. Because gifts and season ticket sales make up 40 percent of our annual $47 million athletic department budget, learning how to appeal to our fan base most effectively is key to our future success.
Not surprisingly, we learned that all groups—donors and non-donors, season ticket holders and non-season ticket holders, alums and non-alums—care deeply about the success of our football program. They also have a lot of pride in the integrity and character of our student-athletes and coaches. And they believe that success on the field pays dividends to the university in terms of its reputation, visibility and resources.
However, opinions diverged when questions about philanthropy and providing educational opportunities for student-athletes were asked. Some donors and ticket holders were highly motivated to support educational and life-enhancing opportunities. But this motivation did not resonate with all donors and ticket holders, and it definitely was not understood by non-donors or casual fans who don’t buy season tickets.
Additionally, motivations differed geographically. Portland-area participants primarily are interested in a winning football program. Participants in the Willamette Valley and Bay Area groups want to have a competitive football program, but also care about providing educational opportunities. Their responses were more typical of those associated with people who care about various causes.
As a result of this project, we learned that current donors are motivated by what OSU Athletics currently stands for and its goals. Non-donors do not appear to understand how competitive our programs are or how truly fundamental providing opportunities and developing students is to OSU Athletics and our department’s goals.
This is a mindset that we will actively work to change. We want to shift the dialogue from being transactional—money for tickets and a parking space—to philanthropic. In reality, donated dollars represent much more than prime stadium seating and parking spaces. These contributions fund scholarships and result in educational opportunities for our student-athletes.
We learned many helpful and interesting things throughout this process, which will undoubtedly lead to better communications with all the different groups that make up Beaver Nation. You’ll start to see this messaging roll out this fall when we kick off the BASF annual fund-raising drive in November.
Before signing off, I want to take this opportunity to close the loop on the financial update I shared in my April A.D. Report. After much thought and consultation, I’ve made the executive decision that expanding our donor base has much more of an upside than potential cutbacks to our sports programs. When you consider our growth potential, the numbers speak for themselves. Right now, we have roughly 6,300 BASF members. But we have approximately 14,000 OSU Alumni Association members and 145,000 living alumni. Of those living alums, about 17,000 live in California, but only 150 are BASF donors. So as you can see, there’s a lot of growth potential and a huge upside to expanding our donor base.
If you’re not already a part of our effort to roughly double our donor base--“Expanding Beaver Nation—12,000 Strong by 2012”—give serious consideration to joining our team. And if you’re already a donor, help us reach our goal by recruiting one new $100-a-year donor. If we all did this, we’d have no problem meeting our 2012 goal. Remember, every dollar helps our student-athletes by providing a college education and life opportunities.
Please contact the BASF office for more information by following this link or at 1-800-Go-BEAVS.
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