The term student-athlete puts it into perspective that the young adults competing on the playing surfaces are not just athletes, they are also students. This is a crucial message for development offices to communicate, since donors do not often realize their monetary impact via the educational side of the story.
Partnering with academic units can be a mutually beneficial tactic to show contributors that athletics values education. The academic unit will benefit from an enhanced involvement in the experience of intercollegiate athletics. Athletics will benefit from the exposure to a new niche of school supporters and from the positive example in favor of its academic mission.
The most logical academic partner is the library. Although no student-athlete will graduate with a degree from this university unit, this is a building that all student-athletes utilize. Building a creative campaign with your university’s library can go a long way to delivering your athletic department’s message about academics.
A recent example of a library-athletics partnership is the University of Florida. Florida created the Academic Sports Challenge to support their library by pledging for every touchdown scored during the football season. The University of Oklahoma is another example of this type of partnership. Oklahoma created a $500,000 endowment for their library.
Other examples of schools donating ticket revenues academic initiatives are Duke University and the University of Tennessee. In 2011, Duke started donating $1 from each ticket sold to home events to their library. In 2009, Tennessee began charging $5 for admission to their spring football game generating approximately $150,000. Athletics used it to support academic initiatives for the university.
While the funds donated by an athletics department as a part of this type of partnership may not count toward the totals for your annual fund or most major gifts campaign, it will send an important message to current and potential donors. It is a communications tactic that heavily emphasizes the student in student-athlete.