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Recently, while looking through some Virginia Tech Board of Visitor (BOV) minutes from their March 31 – April 1 meeting, I encountered some information that Athletic Director Whit Babcock had presented to the BOV. It showed some interesting trends in ACC donor levels.
Increasing the number of Virginia Tech alumni and fans that donate is one of the main topics of discussion with regards to the Hokie Club. When the Hokie Scholarship Fund was announced back in May of 2016, Virginia Tech released some figures comparing Hokie Club donation numbers to their fellow ACC schools. It showed that Virginia Tech’s participation level, particularly in percentage of living alumni who donate, was low.
Here’s the graph they provided at the time, with 2014 figures, sorted by percent of living alumni who donate.
The (very informative) Hokie Scholarship Fund web site is still up and running and being updated, including a new version of that graphic. Here’s the 2018 (four years later) version, which is sorted by total number of donors.
The first thing I noticed is that the number of living alumni figures haven’t been updated from 2014 to 2018, despite each school in the ACC sending four more graduating classes out into the world. I think that’s just a failure to update the graphic. If, for example, you calculate Clemson’s 19% figure based on 28,204 donors, you get 148,442 living alumni, not 132,198. That’s fine; the error doesn’t really affect the overall discussion.
I crunched the two graphics together for a side by side comparison — sorry it’s so crude, but it’s interesting.
Put another way, in table format, and sorted by number of 2018 donors:
|---------------- 2014 ----------------||---------------- 2018 ----------------||---- Change, 2014-2018 ----|
|School||# Donors||% Donors||# Donors||% Donors||# Donors||% Donors|
|Data Source: Virginia Tech Athletics presentation to the BOV, March 31-April 1, 2019|
Some comments on the numbers and tables:
1. Donation figures can vary widely from year to year, and definitely from one five-year span to another. How different fundraising clubs and athletic departments count the number of donors can vary, as well as student participation and how it’s counted. (The Hokie Club didn’t start counting student members until switching student membership to a paid model recently, as we detailed in our December article about the Hokie Club.)
2. As we reported in December, and as Whit Babcock informed the BOV in late March/early April, Hokie Club membership is projected to be 16,000 for 2018-19, when the finally tally is determined at the end of June 2019. Go back and look at the table … a membership count of 16,000 would make the Hokie Club a clear No. 4 in terms of number of members, and would make them the fastest growing fundraising group with an increase of 5,842 members since 2014. It would put their donor participation at approximately 6.4% of living alumni, about fifth in the ACC.
3. Comments on other schools in the table: Winning is working for Clemson. Whatever Florida State is doing isn’t working for them, but look for their numbers to increase in the coming years, due to their announced $100 million Unconquered campaign, as well as their new $60 million football facility scheduled for 2021. Virginia has announced a $180 million athletics master plan that should boost their numbers, as well.
Other Hokie Club Notes from the BOV Presentation
One piece of data that has always been hard to track down is the history of Hokie Club donor numbers, but within Whit Babcock’s BOV presentation, he included the following chart.
Prior to the Michael Vick era, Hokie Club membership was well below 10,000, but the run to the national championship game in 1999 led to a boom in Hokie Club membership, and the count remained above 10,000 until 2012-13. Essentially, Lane Stadium sellouts and Hokie Club membership of 10,000+ tracked each other. Both streaks ended in 2012.
It’s clear when the Drive for 25 campaign was announced: during the 2016-17 academic year, specifically in December of 2016. You can see the spike in membership that year.
Whit Babcock also included a slide showing the donor numbers that were included above.
Again, you can see from the graph a Hokie Club membership number of 16,000 would boost Virginia Tech into a clear fourth place in terms of overall number of donors.
There’s a lot of work yet to do, but in the last five years, the changes to fundraising at Virginia Tech have already yielded important results.
We’ll be back tomorrow with our annual Virginia Tech Athletics financial report by Randy Jones, which will detail how the Hokies ran in the black in 2017-18, for the first time in three years.