We’re deep into fall at this point. Here in New England, where you’ll find EverTrue HQ, that means a lot of leaves underfoot, a healthy dose of flannel and a full slate of football games every weekend.
Alright we’ll admit that we don’t exactly live in a college football hotbed. But it’s not that hard to find a decent tailgate each and every Saturday around here. They might pale in comparison to what you’ll find in the South, the Midwest and beyond, but we’ll take what we can get.
While our little corner of the country can’t match the national championship potential of other regions, it’s right there with them in terms of alumni who are congregated together, engaged, excited and potentially ready to give.
Of course, football isn’t for everyone in the EverCrew, just like it’s not for all of your alums. The excitement around football is awesome. And we’re always happy to hear how our friends in athletics take advantage of this unique time of year. It’s an extremely lucrative part of the calendar for them, with a whole bunch of action packed into a few months.
But lately we’ve started wondering…why should athletics fundraisers have all the fun? Why can’t academics fundraisers get into the action?
We’re not talking about walking through a tailgate, trying to drum up interest for science research. Probably not the right audience or the right time. (Though, we’re that a cross section exists, so knock yourself out.)
We mean finding the academic equivalent of a football game. Something that brings people together, gets them excited and puts them in the mood to give.
Every school is going to have their own unique calendar of events depending on what your various departments and organizations are getting up to during the year. If you’re looking for your football equivalent, here are a few qualities to look for.
Something that brings people together
A football game on campus brings people together and gets them to congregate in one area. People love going to football games because they’re fun and a great way to spend the day. But there are plenty of other ways to get people to come out and enjoy spending a day on campus. How can you create a similar experience, even if it’s on a smaller scale.
Something to try: A 5K. Or any road race through campus, really. Tons of people like to run. It gets people together and, quite literally, gets the juices flowing. Don’t skip the post-race festivities, either. Tough to chat people up while they’re crushing a new PR. Easier when they’re enjoying a post-race snack.
Something that gets people excited
Have you heard people in the stands after a big moment in the game? They’re going nuts! People might not paint their bare chests outside of football stadiums (and, some would argue, they shouldn’t do it in stadiums either), but an event that stirs up that kind of excitement is just what you’re looking for.
Football isn’t the only thing that inspires passion in people that runs deep and creates a sense of belonging and community. What else other activities or groups do you have on campus that creates a community people are eager to support?
Something to try: Every campus has a weird tradition or two everyone loves. But after you graduate, that part of the fun is done. Create a special, alumni-only version of the tradition and invite people back to campus to participate. It’ll give them a chance to relive their days as a student and get them excited to participate on campus again.
Something that’s got some reach
When you break down the demographics of a crowd at a football game, there are all sorts of audiences. The beauty of it is, those groups go well beyond people directly affiliated with the program. Any football crowd is going to have a limited number of former players, coaches and staff who are there purely to support a program they once had direct involvement with.
If you’re trying to raise money for an international student center, for example, what kind of event would bring in people who aren’t just former international students? Or if you need to fund a new building for the business school, how can you attract people who didn’t graduate with a business degree?
Football is great at this and certainly unique in many ways. But if you don’t try to emulate it exactly, there are plenty of lessons to learn from its broad appeal.
Something to try: Online events. You’ll never get better reach than when the only thing people have to do is reach into their pocket and tune in on their phone. You’ll trade some of that in-person excitement for a potentially bigger audience, but done right, you’ll never have a more peoples’ attention. Try crowdsourcing ideas or a livestream of a lecture or concert.
Something people can tailgate
OK, that’d just be an added bonus. It’s not even remotely necessary. But people DO love a good tailgate, so there is that to consider.
If you’ve found an event as an academic fundraiser that equates a football game, even in some minor way, tell us about it in the comments!