Nov. 8, 2011
PULLMAN, Wash. - The Cougar Athletic Fund (CAF) continues its transformation into a more streamlined fundraising unit this week with the unveiling of a new website dedicated to annual giving. Membership in the CAF, an unrestricted gift account which goes directly to student-athlete support, primarily through scholarships, is the most important way that Cougar supporters can "Wave the Flag" for the department.
This new website continues a string of new initiatives and changes that have taken place in the last six months within the CAF. To explain what changes have occurred, and why they were needed, as well as what more to expect, the following Q&A is presented as an educational opportunity to the Cougar fan base:
1. When did the WSU Athletic Foundation change its name, and why?
The Washington State University Athletic Foundation announced a name change to the Cougar Athletic Fund (CAF) on July 1, 2011, at the start of the current fiscal year. The goal of this name change was to clarify the organization's purpose within the WSU Foundation structure. The Cougar Athletic Fund will not be confused with any other entities on campus which use the term "Foundation," and with that, there is clarity of purpose. All committed Cougar fans need to become members of the CAF for WSU Athletics teams to compete for championships on a level playing field. And for current CAF members, the challenge is to bring new Cougar supporters into the fold. If even HALF of our current membership brought a new CAF member on board, WSU would move into the top-half of the Pac-12 in terms of overall contributors.
Total number of donors who made an unrestricted annual donation to student-athlete support
2. What is the mission of the newly named Cougar Athletic Fund?
The CAF has a primary mission of raising funds to offset the expenses of student-athletic scholarships at WSU. Bill Moos has pledged to "always have a shovel in the ground" in terms of building the facilities to compete in the Pac-12, and those projects will require capital gifts from our most committed and capable donors. However, these capital projects cannot divert the attention of the fan base as a whole from our primary need, where every Cougar can be involved, and that's annual gifts to student-athlete support.
3. What is behind this new emphasis on annual giving to student-athlete support?
In the last fiscal year, the WSU Athletic Department spent approximately $7.1 million on athletic scholarships. At nearly every other Pac-12 school, those expenses would be covered by private philanthropic support, based on data provided by those schools. Unfortunately, at WSU, we generated only $2.6 million in private support during that same time period. This means that $4.5 million in general operating funds must be diverted from areas that could be making the Cougs more competitive, just to cover the costs associated with putting our student-athletes through school on an annual basis.
The new Pac-12 television contract will mean tens of millions of dollars to each of the conference schools. However, while other schools can utilize ALL of those newfound millions to improve their programs, WSU will not be able to realize the full impact of those new dollars, as millions will be diverted to areas that are covered by philanthropic support at other schools.
Total dollars raised from unrestricted annual donations to student-athlete support
|Arizona Sate||$ 5,400,677|
|Oregon State||$ 10,678,259|
|Washington State||$ 2,587,915|
4. How has the CAF made it easier to become a member of the CAF?
In an effort to make annual membership in the CAF as convenient as possible, a WSUCougars.com. This new site, in partnership with Paciolan, the same Irvine-based company which has helped bring innovation to the WSU Athletic Ticketing operations, will allow recurring credit card gifts to be set up online. This feature will allow our fans to spread out their giving over quarterly or monthly credit card payments, eliminating the need for one lump-sum gift that might be difficult for some.
Especially for our young alums, this becomes a tremendous selling point, as a $4.17 monthly credit card charge will add up to a cumulative $50 annual gift, the minimum CAF membership level. For recent graduates who are just starting to earn incomes, a $4.17 credit card charge is likely feasible, and the pride of knowing they are a contributing member of the Cougar Athletic Fund makes that a worthwhile commitment.
5. Has anything been done to reach out to Cougs across the state?
The CAF has fundraising teams based out of WSU West in Seattle, as well as WSU Spokane. The staffs in both regional sites have been augmented by new hires, and the Pullman staff has added two positions. The staffing additions have been partly made possible through a strategic partnership with IMG College, the Cougars' outsourced marketing rights partner.
With this added staff, the entire state of Washington, as well as nearby hubs like Coeur d'Alene and Portland, has been broken down into Cougar Club regions, with one CAF staff member accountable for the activities in each region. These staff members work closely with our Cougar Club Presidents in each region, attending monthly Board meetings and spending a minimum of 3-4 days a month in each community making personal visits, in addition to regular phone and email communications. No corner of the state is left unaccounted for in terms of staffing through the CAF. To confirm your regional representative and get contact information, please call Michelle Snyder, Assistant Director of Annual Giving, at 509-335-0218.
6. Why have there been such dramatic changes made to the Ticket Priority System (TPS)?
The Cougar Athletic Fund unveiled an updated donor ranking system in an effort to reward the contributions that truly make the greatest impact on the Athletic Department. The ranking changes are designed to assign the greatest value to unrestricted student-athlete support gifts to the CAF and season ticket purchases in football and men's basketball. The goal is also to reward consistency of investment on an annual basis. These changes bring WSU much more in line with industry standards across the country.
The CAF will also be conducting three rankings of our donor base annually, as opposed to just one annual ranking as had been done previously. This will give fans multiple opportunities to improve their position with donations as important deadlines approach. The first ranking of the new system will take place next Tuesday, November 15, and will be conducted annually in November, ahead of bowl game ticket ordering deadlines. There will also be a re-ranking in February, ahead of postseason basketball and football season ticket renewal deadlines, and at the close of the fiscal year (June 30).
All activity since January 1, 2011 will be rewarded according to the values in the chart below when the first ranking takes place next Tuesday (November 15):
|TPS Category||Point Equivalents|
|1. Current year unrestricted athletic scholarship, endowment, and/or capital giving||4 pts./dollar|
|2. Current year "other" athletic giving (non-cash, sport specific)||1 pt/dollar|
|3. Previous cumulative giving to Athletics||2 pt./dollar|
|4. Number of consecutive years of CAF membership||100 pts./year of consecutive membership|
|5. 2011 Football season tickets purchased & 2011-12 Men's Basketball season tickets purchased||1,000 pts./FB & MBK season ticket account|
7. With all these changes, are there going to be any changes to benefits?
In conjunction with the new TPS system, a new benefit structure for CAF members was unveiled today at wsucougars.com, focusing on visible ways that CAF members can be identified in their community. There was an effort to create synergy between the new benefits and the "Wave The Flag" and "Undefeated Fans" initiatives previously rolled out through the WSU Athletic Marketing office.
All of last year's CAF donors at the $50 level were recently mailed a "Wave the Flag" lapel pin, and $500 donors were mailed license plate frames, as an early rollout of the new benefits structure and a special Thank You for their previous support.
Please note that football parking benefits are changing dramatically with the added need for premium parking areas brought on by the Cougar Football Project, which includes 2,100 premium seating opportunities on the south side of Martin Stadium (pending Board of Regents approval later this month). The new parking maps for 2012 WSU Football will be unveiled at wsucougars.com prior to the season ticket renewal applications being sent out.
8. What future changes can be expected from the CAF?
In partnership with Paciolan, and the new database packaging that they provide for the CAF, Cougar fans can look for an online Ticket Priority System account at wsucougars.com in the near future. This will provide customer data pertaining to annual gifts and season ticket purchases, and will allow customers to make projections of their TPS ranking based on potential gifts and season ticket purchases. It will also allow them to confirm that accurate data has been used to compile their TPS ranking.
9. How do I get involved with the CAF?
There are countless way that volunteers can become involved in their Cougar Club regions. The Volunteer Fund Drive is the most important initiative that is being undertaken in each region, and provides all Cougs an opportunity to make a financial impact with simply their time and energy. To be connected with your regional representative and get contact information, please call any of the following contacts:
Columbia River - Dan Meyer, 509-335-0236
King County - Michael Clark, 206-770-6065 or Todd Thrasher, 206-448-1335
Moses Lake - Lori Olson, 509-358-7541
North Sound - Chris Malme, 206-219-2406
Palouse - Michelle Snyder, 509-335-0218
Pierce County - Michael Clark, 206-770-6065
South Sound - Michael Clark, 206-770-6065
Spokane - Justin Felker, 509-368-6729
Tri Cities - Chris Walker, 509-335-8786
Walla Walla - Casey Fox, 509-335-0266
Wenatchee - Chris Malme, 206-219-2406
Yakima - Todd Thrasher, 206-448-1335