Reconceptualizing the Fundraising Responsibilities of Head Coaches

The donor cultivation opportunities presented by athletics are so extensive that fundraising responsibilities should not be limited to development staff or the athletics director.  Every senior staff member and full-time head coach should be responsible for donor cultivation and “friend-raising”.  The Director of Athletics is responsible for creating an athletic department culture and job responsibilities to include donor cultivation expectations among all full-time employees.  The following cultivation activities should be a part of the annual development action plan:

1.    Friend-Raising Using Away Contests.  Each full-time head coach should be responsible for engaging at least 10 alumni donor prospects annually in conjunction with away athletics events, 40% of whom should be major donor prospects.   The athletics director, development director and head coach should jointly decide who these targets should be.  Such head coach “engagement” would translate into the following responsibilities: 

  • Send a personal letter (approved by development staff) advising the prospect that the team will be in the area and inviting the prospect to be a “guest coach” at the game;
  • For donors who accept the invitation:
    • Meet the donor at the event, giving a personal scouting report prior to the game, arranging for seating at the event, inviting the donor to join the team for pre-game, half-time and post-game locker room meetings
    • In the locker room or at an appropriate time prior to the game, have each team member introduce himself or herself (year, hometown, major, position)
    • Invite the donor to the post-game meal if one is being arranged
    • Assign a staff or player to chaperone the “guest coach” during the event
    • Follow up after the event with a thank you card signed by the team and maybe the gift of an athletic department t-shirt

2.    Reexamine Existing Fundraising Events.  Donors should continue to be engaged at home athletics events through cultivation opportunities appropriate to each sport.  These home contest must take place anyway and do not require the addition of a new event.  Fundraising events consume considerable staff resources.  Therefore, it is essential to reexamine each existing fundraising event with regard to cost/benefit and contrast them with other event possibilities that offer more revenues at lower cost and effort.   Smaller, more sophisticated private high wealth donor hosted events in private homes, where a friend of the program takes on the invitation and hosting responsibility and all that is required from the athletics department is the presence of the athletic director, head coach and one or two athletes is much more cost effective than mobilizing significant athletics resources to put on a new event.   Limits should be placed on the number of annual events that should be offered with attention to event quality and staff workloads.  There should be minimum criteria established for the offering of such events such as the following:

  • Requires 12 week lead time for event execution
  • Host/Committee Members to define and deliver fundraising goal of the following:
    • Private reception - minimum goal of $__,000 (above expenses) secured on site and/or define and deliver fundraising goal of $__,000 delivered within one year of event by people attending event
    • Regional and/or Public event – minimum goal of $__,000 above expenses from the event or delivered within one year of event by those attending the event
  • Size of function determined by development staff
  • Host/Committee members making two or more of the following commitments:
    • Contribute personal list and commitment to make personal calls to follow up
    • Personal contribution to offset expenses (see below)
    • Personal commitment to purchase table/tickets to event
    • Deliver one or more significant “friends” to the event capable of making a major contribution (corporate, foundation, personal) in the future
  • The Host/Committee deliver resources of the following with quality and details to be approved by athletics development staff:
    • Catering services where needed
    • A-V services
    • Payment of travel for AD, coaches and athletes
    • Design and Production costs for print materials
    • Management of invite list and RSVP responses
    • Photographer
    • Public Relations support for pre-event and on site execution where applicable
  • The Athletics Department to provide:
    • Leadership to speak at event
    • Athletes to appear and speak at event (mutually agreed upon number and names of athletes prior to event commitment)
    • Mailing list to supplement host/committee list
    • Assistance with creation of invitations and print materials
    • Applicable educational and visual resources on site
    • Follow up for event attendees including, for instance, photos for event attendees
    • Ongoing consultation with host/committee members
    • Public Relations and web support to communicate and support promotions, messaging and media relations

3.    Guest Coach Program.  Each full-time head coach should be responsible for conducting a guest coach program at each home event (see 1 above for description of activities) with the senior staff administrator assigned to cover that event being responsible for duties related to chaperoning donors.  When initially implementing these events, care should be taken to establish operational criteria that result in the donor having a quality experience.  Attention to detail is essential.  Quality execution becomes simple once the coach and supervising staff get one or two of these experiences “under their belts”.

4.    Parent Contact.  Each coach should be required to write a personal letter to the parent of each student-athlete in that sport at the beginning of the season, thanking them for supporting the attendance of their daughter or son, inviting them to be a guest coach if they haven’t done this before and attending games.  A report to the development staff on the coach’s estimate of the parent’s ability to make a donation should be required.

5.    Summer Campers.  Each coach should be required to write a personal letter to the parents of all campers who attended the coach’s summer camp that year, inviting them to attend regular season games to have their children meet the players before or after the game.  Parents should be asked to sign their children up to become members of the athletic department booster club and the parent should be invited to make a donation to the program.

6.    Customer Training.  Coaches, administrative/clerical, ticket office and all employees with public interface responsibilities should receive customer satisfaction and relationship building training.  Annual evaluations and merit awards should include an assessment of contributions to revenue generation and development activities.

--by Donna A. Lopiano, President, Sports Management Resources