by Matt Kupec
March 16, 2019
It is the time of the year – March Madness – when the NCAA Men’s Tournament takes over the sports scene and dominates our time and attention with a dazzling display of collegiate basketball games with the focus on getting to the NCAA Final Four.
Last week I had the privilege of attending my first Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament. The MVC is one of the “mid-major” conferences, not quite considered at the level of the Power 5 Conferences (ACC, SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, and Big Ten.), but conferences that play outstanding basketball. Often a “cinderella” team emerges from one of the mid-major conferences and earns a trip to the Final Four.
Last year, Loyola of Chicago had the magical ride to the Final Four. Other mid-major teams that have gone to the Final Four in the last fifteen years include Butler (2010, 2011), Virginia Commonwealth University (2011), Wichita State (2013 as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference), Memphis (2008) and George Mason (2006).
It is widely believed that NCAA Basketball Success and a trip to the Final Four leads to significant increases in enrollment, fundraising and new national branding opportunities as the national media brings unprecedented marketing and publicity opportunities for these mid-major schools.
In this blog post I have researched whether these schools did experience significant fundraising success after a Final Four run. There are some good studies that have concluded to differing degrees what this March Madness success had done for these major schools in terms of enrollment and merchandising but I am looking solely at the fundraising performance.
In looking at the fundraising results we have not researched other factors that could influence fundraising such as the quality of the development office and the University’s investment in its development shop but we report on the fundraising numbers alone.
The chart below shows the schools and their fundraising performance as indicated by dollars raised as self-reported to Voluntary Support of Education (VSE):
Fundraising Results for Mid-Major Schools who Reached the Final Four
|George Mason||Memphis||Butler||VCU||Wichita St.||Loyola (Chi.)|
- There is no clear evidence that a mid-major Final Four success will lead to substantial fundraising increases in the years following the magical basketball ride:
- George Mason has enjoyed a study increase since their Final Four run in 2006 but there was no huge bump in the immediate couple of years after their run.
- The University of Memphis has stayed relatively flat showing just an incremental increase over 12 years since their Final Four run. Memphis even had a couple of years where giving went down compared to the base year.
- Butler had a couple of very good fundraising years shortly after their two consecutive Final Four runs but giving has tailed off in the more recent years.
- VCU has shown the most dramatic increases, jumping from $47M to $104M in the year following their Final Four run. But that huge increase may have been the result on one singular transformational gift that year much like they had in 2008 three years prior to getting to the Final Four.
- Loyola’s magical run last year is too early to tell as the fiscal year 2019 results will not be done until June of this year.
- Wichita State had a nice bump – 18% in the year immediately after their Final Four run but they have not reported their fundraising numbers in the last three years to determine if they were able to build on the momentum gained from the Final Four Success
- Instant fundraising success and then building on that success has not been found at these mid-major schools. The ongoing fundraising success at George Mason and VCU seems to have been more the continued good work of the development office and the school’s senior leadership team.
Although the studies are inclusive about the fundraising impact of a mid-major Final Four run, one would think that the publicity, the additional and radio time for these Universities have a positive impact on their fundraising, admissions and simply increasing overall school pride.