April 13, 2015 This is the third article in a three-part series focusing on the All In For Excellence fundraising initiative. Click here to read the first installment: Full Cost of Attendance to Benefit UVa Student-Athletes and here to read the second installment: Endowment Key Component of All In for Excellence.
By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — It wasn’t long after Virginia’s baseball team reached the College World Series for the first time in 2009 that head coach Brian O’Connor and the athletic administration realized additional fundraising would be needed for the program to build on its success.
The program had the full allotment of scholarships allowed by the NCAA, but O’Connor and department officials wanted to enhance the fan experience at Davenport Field, keep the coaching staff intact, and ensure UVa was able to take advantage of developments in equipment and technology to maximize player development.
“The concept behind it was to get a small group of individuals to commit themselves to our baseball program on an annual basis to do things that are above and beyond the allocation in our operational budget,” O’Connor said. “We can’t sit still. We’ve got to continue to press forward with what we’re doing at Davenport Field, not only for our fan experience, but also for player development.”
The program’s annual operational budget, which covers travel expenses (both team and recruiting), equipment, and supplies, was not enough to fund these initiatives. And so the “Coaches 10” program was born.
Under the Coaches 10 program, 10 donors give $10,000 each annually to a specific UVa sport — above their current level of Virginia Athletics Foundation giving — for three years. It’s been successful for several teams at Virginia, including baseball.
“Brian O’Connor has done a great job connecting with donors and developing relationships with them,” said Craig Littlepage, Virginia’s director of athletics. “The Coaches 10 program for baseball has been successful because Brian has been able to articulate the financial needs of the program to them and describe his vision for how additional support will help Virginia baseball continue to be able to compete for championships.”
In February, Virginia athletics launched the first phase of its All In For Excellence fundraising initiative. The $22.5 million goal for 2015 includes an increase of $1 million in operational support. This amount for operational support is in addition to the $1.5 million that was raised last year through Coaches 10 and the $2.5 million that was raised in 2014 from another sport-specific fundraising effort, the “Friends Of” program.
The Friends Of program allows VAF donors to allocate their annual gifts to specific sports. In 2003, the athletics department and the VAF reorganized the program to include all sports other than football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. The goal, according to Dirk Katstra, executive director of VAF, was to “provide additional operational support in sports’ budgets. And so we made a commitment that we would go out and raise money, and we’d budget it by sport, to enhance the individual sports’ annual operating budgets.
“Over time it’s been a really good program. It’s attracted former athletes, parents of current student-athletes, people that got behind a particular program.”
Donors in the Friends Of program may direct annual fund gifts of any amount to a specific sport. Coaches 10 gifts must be made in addition to annual giving, with a minimum commitment of $10,000 per year over three years.
Since its inception, the Coaches 10 program for baseball has funded upgrades at Davenport Field, helped with the retention of coaches and support staff, and paid for the team’s trip to Panama and Costa Rica last December. The program has since grown to include other sports at UVa, and more than $2.7 million has been raised in all. Donors participating in the program receive VAF Lifetime Priority Points.
Coaches 10 gifts helped pay for the women’s soccer team’s August training camp in Michigan and for the swimming and diving teams’ training trip to Florida in January. The program also has allowed the men’s tennis team to train in Orlando, Fla., during preseason and for several men’s tennis student-athletes to accelerate their development by competing in tournaments outside of the team’s scheduled matches.
“If you can get 10 donors to participate in the Coaches 10 program, you have an extra $100,000 a year to enhance the experience of the student-athlete and become more competitive,” head men’s tennis coach Brian Boland said. “So many things come up throughout the year, and we all know in coaching that adjusting, adapting and re-adjusting is really important. We are committed to operating our program responsibly, so having these funds allows us to do that and be flexible at the same time.”
“While every dollar is important for our program, Coaches 10 has been incredibly impactful,” Boland added. “It has given us an edge over the last few years and enabled us to stay among the top few teams in the country.”