Since its inaugural push in 2015, an annual campaign to increase funds in the athletics department has doubled its earnings and nearly tripled its donor participation.
Almost 850 current seniors, parents and alumni participated in the Buff and Blue Fund Challenge this year to raise more than $166,000, up from the $80,000 that more than 300 donors raised in 2015. Alumni giving rates have gradually increased over the past three years, jumping from 15 percent in 2016 to nearly 30 percent this year.
Gil Cisneros, a Class of 1994 graduate, launched the challenge in 2015 and pledged $10,000 for every 100 donations in its first year.
Michelle Rubin, a Class of 1991 graduate and the chair of the GW Athletics Advisory Council, took over the challenge in 2016. She contributed $15,000 in 2016, $20,000 in 2017 and $25,000 in 2018 and 2019 will be split between the top two teams with the most alumni participation and the squads with the most improved alumni participation rates.
During the month-long challenge, baseball and men’s water polo finished first, raking in about 30 and 89 percent alumni giving rates, respectively. Gymnastics and men’s rowing followed, garnering alumni participation rates of about 84 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Women’s basketball and men’s cross country and track and field earned most improved honors.
Men’s water polo’s top finish marks the third year the program has won the challenge. The team has grown alumni participation every year since the challenge’s start, receiving about 14 percent in 2016, 85 percent in 2017, 88 percent in 2018 and 89 percent this year.
Gymnastics consistently appears at the forefront of the challenge. In 2016, the team took first overall with nearly 46 percent of alumni involvement. In 2017, the program’s alumni upped their giving to about 72 percent but trailed behind men’s water polo. A 5 percent increase in 2018 and a nearly 7 percent increase in 2019 allowed the team to nab second place three years in a row.
Some programs have seen alumni participation decline over the years. Women’s rowing earned both first place and most improved in 2018 with a 31 percent alumni giving rate, but the rate fell to 23 percent this year. Lacrosse and women’s soccer decreased funds by about 15 and 18 percent, respectively, since they claimed top finishes in 2016.
The first place teams plan to revamp its facilities and training. Baseball pledged to use its cash for new audio and visual equipment in the locker room and clubhouse. Men’s water polo plans to use its funding for training and deep water pool time.
The second place squads prioritized finding new equipment and gear. Gymnastics intends to purchase new training equipment and men’s rowing will put its new funding toward its endowment and recovery gear.
The most improved teams focused on travel, facilities and training and recovery resources. Women’s basketball wants to use its money for locker dedications, charter flights and new practice equipment. Men’s cross country and track and field hope to bring in massage therapists.