The following article appears in the October issue of CUTigers The Magazine. Learn more about subscribing to the largest independent magazine covering the Clemson Tigers, by clicking here.
This is no ordinary Monday afternoon.
It is the Monday before the first home game of the season against Wake Forest, and there is an utter chaos that is somehow being managed ably by the staff in the IPTAY offices. These offices at Memorial Stadium are absolutely jammed with Clemson students scrambling to pay their IPTAY dues in time to get tickets for the Wake Forest game, and the tickets are almost sold out.
Bill D'Andrea welcomes me into his office almost obliviously to the craziness that surrounds the reception area. "It's game week. This place can get crazy on game week. Especially right before the home opener."
It has been over 6 months since IPTAY has increased the dues across the board, and D'Andrea (Clemson's newly appointed Senior Associate Athletic Director of External Affairs) seems satisfied that the transition has been as smooth as possible.
"I think the staff has done a great job of articulating and orchestrating the reasons why increased dues were made across the board," said D'Andrea.
"Any time that you have change, you are going to have a small group of people that are against it. But I would say that 95% of the reaction has been positive. It has gone as good as we could have expected it. It demonstrates the strength of our IPTAY organization and the strong commitment we have for a successful athletic program."
The increases, in some cases, have not been small. But the increases that were implemented earlier this year still has Clemson asking for less than other comparable universities across the southeast.
This, of course, begs the question: are more increases on the way in the near future?
D'Andrea doesn't want folks to presume anything in that regard, although he leaves the door open that more change may be on the way. "We have a committee that is reviewing proactive strategies to evaluate and assess what changes will be necessary in the future. I would not say that an increase is forthcoming next year. But, we can't wait another 16 years if we want to stay competitive with regards to donor levels."
While increases may be in the offering in the next few years, the desire by IPTAY is to get the folks that give at the lower levels to understand why it would be advantageous for them to step it up a notch.
"We are looking at several options to examine rewards for giving above the minimum $140 level. We are looking at several rewards in addition to possibly limiting some of the amenities the $140 level would get. By doing this, we are benchmarking other institutions to see what they do. We want to make it as attractive as possible for folks to give more than they currently do. We want them to want to change instead of us requiring it," said D'Andrea.
It is obvious, however, that things cannot simply stay the same.
Very little, if any, significant changes in IPTAY's donor structure were made over the last 16 years. And Clemson needs to examine prudent business practices in the future to ensure a forward thinking fundraising organization.
"What we can't do is wait another 16 years like we did between the last two hikes in membership dues. We have to get the Clemson people to understand that there are simply things that we have to do, from an IPTAY standpoint, to keep a competitive program in this day and age," D'Andrea said.
"Our primary mission is to support Annual Scholarships for our student athletes. The cost of those scholarships, along with everything else in our athletic arena, has dramatically gone up over the past 20 years. This is an opportunity for us to examine good business practices for the future in fundraising."
D'Andrea also understands that he is walking a tight rope. Change is never an easy thing, and when you are talking changes in donations you are really playing with fire.
"There is a delicate balance. We have a tremendous sensitivity to those that give at the minimum level. These people have been loyal, and are still buying tickets and coming to the games. They are spending money in the concessions. And they are pumping money into our local economy. We don't want to do anything to exclude these people from IPTAY."
"But we also want to get all of our folks to step up their giving levels to help us achieve the goals that we have for this organization. Our organization is about scholarships and opportunities for student athletes. Not necessarily for parking passes and seat locations for fans. We have to do a better job of informing our donors in adhering to the mission of scholarships. We want our fans to make a difference, not just be a donor."
One of the new ideas that has been implemented is the bowl point system. This system came under intense scrutiny in the wake of the Peach Bowl ticket allocation. The point policy, according to D'Andrea, was not the problem.
"We have a bowl policy on ticket distribution that we did not follow this past year at the Peach Bowl. We were all caught up in the excitement of the way the season ended and the great opponent that we drew for the Peach Bowl. We made some decisions that we probably would not have made in hindsight."
D'Andrea went on to say that one of the things that will be looked at in the future is a ticket amount that donors are allowed to purchase for bowl games. This year at the Peach Bowl, qualified donors with enough points could order up to 10 tickets, thus leaving out a great deal of folks from being able to purchase tickets at all.
"That being said, we are working on creating and updating our Bowl Ticket Policy as well as developing a BCS Bowl Ticket Policy. In the future, we will use those policies for ticket distribution to bowl games," D'Andrea said.
D'andrea is also determined to increase the demographic of the traditional IPTAY donor.
"IPTAY is on a solid foundation that was created by a group of people that wanted to make a difference at this University. Most schools in the country have modeled their fundraising program around our original approach. We have a lot of long term commitments from some really great people.
"What we have to do better is cultivate the younger working folks into our system. We need to obtain more diversity among female members and minority members. We need to reach out to those people that traditionally have not been members and find ways to bring them onboard."
Also at the forefront of IPTAY and the Athletic Department is the current West Endzone project, scheduled to break ground following the South Carolina game this year. Some fans are concerned that there could be some elimination of seating for the 2005 season. D'Andrea admitted that is a possibility, but he felt assured that things would be operational in time for the opener in 2005 in the West Endzone regular seating area.
"For the 2005 season, most of the lower seats in the renovated West Endzone regular seating area should be available. There may be some reductions in seating capacity if some of those seats are not available because of safety concerns. For instance, a portion may have to be closed off for a game because of beams overhead that are not secured or there may be debris from the construction. But the goal is to have those lower seats in the regular area of the west stands in use for 2005.
"Also in 2005, the locker rooms, training rooms, and coaches offices will be up and running. We should have all that in use by the start of the 2005 season," D'Andrea noted.
By the 2006 season, the first phase of West Endzone premium seating will be operational.
"By 2006, the West Endzone seats will be available. We offered those seats to those folks that are $1,000 donors or higher and we sold out all those seats in the first phase," D'Andrea proudly states.
"We are in the midst of major changes. Changes for the better. And we are trying our best to make this transition as smooth as possible," D'Andrea concluded.
So as I walked out of a still bustling IPTAY office area, I realized the task at hand is greater than many of us can imagine. People like D'Andrea are trying to balance student athletes; students who do not play athletics, coaches, young IPTAY donors, and IPTAY donors that have been around since the inception of IPTAY in the Frank Howard days.
And while the task is certainly daunting, the vision of D'Andrea and IPTAY is outstanding.
And you, as donors, will have to learn to adapt to those changing winds.
October Sneak Peek: IPTAY in Full Motion
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