Sponsored by the Drive for 25: The Hokie Club’s Drive for 25 campaign is a paid sponsor of TechSideline.com. As part of that sponsorship, we’ll be bringing you monthly updates and articles about the Hokie Club and the Drive for 25. To learn more about the Drive for 25, click here.
If you’ve heard of the Hokie Club’s Drive for 25 — and most of you who read TSL have — then you know that it’s the Hokie Club’s effort to increase membership to 25,000 members. That’s a pretty stout goal, given that the historical all-time high for Hokie Club membership was around 12,000, back in the post-Michael-Vick heyday of the early 2000s.
By late 2016, Hokie Club membership had fallen from that all-time high. The Drive for 25 was announced last December, and on the day of the announcement, membership was pegged at precisely 10,609 people. Since then, two spikes in membership have helped to drive the count up to 13,600 as of June 21, 2017.
I’ve been keeping records on a more-or-less monthly basis since the Drive for 25 was announced, using the Drivefor25.com progress tracker, and here are the membership totals each month:
- Dec. 14, 2016: 10,609
- Jan. 17, 2017: 10,920 (+311)
- Feb. 8, 2017: 10,981 (+61)
- Mar. 1, 2017: 11,089 (+108)
- Apr. 5, 2017: 13,170 (+2,081)
- May 3, 2017: 13,340 (+170)
- June 7, 2017: 13,410 (+70)
The first month of the program provided a nice bump (+311) via simple awareness and promotion of the Drive for 25, and the huge increase from March to April (+2,081) was driven by the March deadlines for donating in the current Hokie Club fiscal year and for buying season tickets under Virginia Tech’s new Hokie Scholarship Fund per-seat minimums program.
Other than that, monthly membership increases have been somewhat tepid. The other four months have averaged just 104 new members per month.
As a sidenote, 190 new members have been added since I recorded that June 7 number. Last week, I talked to Bill Lansden, Executive Director of the Hokie Club, and Lansden told me, “A lot of those who came in this past week were those who had signed up to purchase tickets, but weren’t donors. So when they went in to select their seats, and they picked seats in donor sections, they had to make a donation. So we picked up a lot last week.”
The Hokie Club also picked up a lot more money — without picking up new members — during the seat selection process that recently completed. Lansden said that during seat selection, about 350 Hokie Scholarship Fund Donors upgraded right there on the spot to move into sections that required a larger donation level. Lansden told us in our last update that this would happen.
He was right, telling us last week, “I was looking at that with Carly Northrup, who handles that for us, and about 350 accounts upgraded. You’re looking at a good six-figure, $350k-$500k increase.” Those figures will be applied to the 2017 donation numbers. “That’s one of the advantages of our new system; we can backdate things.”
The Drive for 25 Marathon
The on-the-spot upgrades that occurred made for a nice boost in donations and members, but this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. If the Hokie Club adds 100 members per month, it will take 114 months to reach 25,000 members, or 9.5 years.
But it’s early in the process, and for the last six months, the Hokie Club has been focusing on bringing season ticket holders into the Hokie Scholarship Fund, and on seat selection and the aftermath of the March deadlines. They haven’t been specifically focusing on the Drive for 25 itself.
The Hokie Club has also been hamstrung by the fact that they announced their Drive for 25 program in December, and many Hokie fans disconnect after the bowl game and don’t pay attention to Virginia Tech sports again until August. The 2017 football season will bring with it many opportunities to promote the Drive for 25 to parts of the fan base that have been absent for the last few months.
Now that the Hokie Scholarship Fund rollout and Lane Stadium seat selection are over, Hokie Club staff can get started on initiatives focused solely on promoting the Drive for 25 and building Hokie Club membership.
“The Drive for 25, trying to keep it top of mind and create some buzz, we have some plans for late August, early September, that we think are extremely creative, but we’re not ready to announce them yet,” Lansden said.
“In the month of July we’re traveling to Dallas and San Francisco,” he told us, and indeed, the Hokie Club announced the Dallas event on their Twitter feed Thursday.
— Hokie Club (@HokieClub) June 22, 2017
“We’re taking Coach Beamer and Whit with us to host events, strictly about Drive for 25. The objective is to get a nice crowd of alumni who probably aren’t participating. Frank is the draw. The hope is to get a room full of a hundred or two hundred people, Frank makes the pitch, we talk about Drive for 25, and then we want to sign them up … right then.
“It’s kind of a test run for us. We thought about having about ten of these events around the country, but then we thought it’s probably more prudent financially to do one or two and see how it works. If it works, then we’ll do more.”
A Minor Bit of Good News
I joked with Lansden that with regards to the Hokie Scholarship Fund, he was probably glad to see the news in April that Virginia Tech’s tuition increase for 2017-18 was the smallest since 2001-02.
Lansden admitted that he hadn’t run the numbers yet on what each percentage point of tuition increase means in scholarship costs, but he remembers what it meant when he was at Memphis.
“We knew at Memphis that every percentage point increase [in tuition] meant another $65,000 [in scholarship costs]. Back then, they were going up 6, 7, 8 percent a year. At a school like Memphis, another half a million dollars in revenue? That’s difficult.”
Next month, we’ll update you again on total Hokie Club numbers and break things down state by state.