The Easterner

Eagle Athletic Fund expected to grow

By Riley Baker, staff writer

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The Eagle Athletic Fund (EAF) plays a big role in the athletic department’s internal revenue, and it is expecting the fund to double, if not triple, in the not-so-distant future.

The prior booster system, the Eagle Athletic Association (EAA), was formed in 1983 and was the main booster system in place. The only drawback was there was no room for expansion; the EAA simply took donations and did not give any benefits in return.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Eagle Athletic Fund began to be implemented.

“We embarked on a journey with several folks here in the athletic department to basically start the question that if we were to start over from scratch and build a brand new booster club today, how would we want it to look,” said Deputy Athletic Director Ken Halpin. “We defined how we need it to look if we’re ever going to have a chance to grow should the stadium expand, should we continue going to more NCAA tournaments. We need a really strong system in place that makes it easy to get in the fray, start supporting, start giving and start experiencing Eastern athletics as a donor.”

Nearing its 30th year of existence in 2013, the EAA self-elected to eventually dissolve itself and be replaced by the EAF in February 2015.

“What we did with that was create a priority points-based model where as you donate you receive points for your donation,” said Halpin. “And then benefits come into play: good seats, access to hospitality, the Eagle Club, new seats, tailgating, really good parking spots. As those things come available to people, now we can prioritize who gets them based on the order of their point total. Based on in the past, whoever called first got the new seats or whatever, and you never really got benefitted for what you were donating.”

With the new system in place, the athletic department’s fundraising revenue about doubled from $200,000 to $400,000.

“We’ve already cleared the $400,000 hurdle,” said Halpin. “We want to get closer to $1 million over five years. It’s a lot of work, and getting to $1 million is hard for any school without more seats. When you look at schools like Montana and Montana State, they’ve got large annual funds. A large portion of those donations to athletics are tied to benefits for seating and parking.”

The next step for the EAF and the budget would be expanding the seating area of Roos Field in order to increase amounts of benefits fans receive from donating.

“It’s a tricky conversation from a donor experience,” said Halpin. “We’ve created a system where we can grow to those levels. The next glass ceiling is to kind of add seating, and then the seating part of it is really where we can start dealing with seven-figure annual fundraising totals on a consistent basis.”

The EAF is a huge step forward for the athletic department’s budget, and it is comparable to other schools in the Big Sky Conference.

“Ours is one of the most well-defined and efficient,” said Halpin. “I’ve been told by many folks that that’s the kind of stuff you’d see at an Oregon or Washington … From a functionality perspective I’d say it’s incredibly efficient. You go to Montana or Montana State, they’ve got four people running their annual fund … we do all of that with really about one and a half people.”

The other big thing for the program is pledges. People would commit to pay a certain amount of money, then collect their benefits and just stop paying. Now they have a very clear-cut timeline of what is due when in order for them to receive their benefits. If they do not pay by the deadline their benefits get cut.

“We feel we compete extremely well and have been commended by several folks in the industry for how well we’ve put this together,” Halpin said.

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Eagle Athletic Fund expected to grow