Leveraging Intercollegiate Athletics to Support Academic Giving at NCAA Division I Institutions

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Department or Administrative Unit


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On average, National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Bowl Division (top-level of U.S. Intercollegiate athletics) schools raise 15% of their athletic budget from private fundraising. Key questions remain as to how increased emphasis on athletic fundraising influences academic giving. Some authors claim symbiotic effects while others assert that athletic gifts “crowd out” academic giving. The current study analyzes the largest single-institution set of individual donor data available to date. First time donors were more than twice as likely to give to athletics as academics. Fifty-one percent of donors making gifts to both athletics and academics (SPLIT donors) made their initial gift to athletics. Problematically, the conversion rate of athletic-only to split donors has fallen to less than 1%. On three different retention measures split donors have higher retention rates than athletic-only donors, who have higher retention rates than academic-only donors. Among split donors, 41.67% give their largest gift to support an academic program. Rather than competing, development officers would be better advised to systematically cultivating donors to support both athletics and academics.


This article was originally published in Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing


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