In less than four hours, $114,297 had been raised for the Chucky Mullins Scholarship Fund and all powder blue helmets worn by the Ole Miss football team in its win over Memphis – a reward for giving at least $1,000 – were gone.
For Thompson, who holds the title of senior associate athletics director/communications and marketing for Ole Miss, and staff, the crowdfunding effort continued the momentum generated on Tuesday, when the school set up a special site, RebelGiving.com, to raise money to replace the goal posts ($11,000) and fans rushing the field (a $50,000 fine by the SEC) following the Rebels’ 23-17 win over then-No. 1 Alabama.
Ole Miss easily cleared $100,000.
“As soon as donations for goalposts started coming in on Sunday, we were in a meeting the next day for, basically, a training session on how to create the project for this. The goal posts became the first project,” Thompson said.
“I think we knew that we would get there. I don’t think that any of us that it would happen that fast. It was really, really fast. Part of that is the technology itself and being part of something that’s pseudo-viral or whatever; hitting that point and seeing the number go up by your donation is pretty cool. And I think also, there’s so much transparency to it. We’re saying what we want to do with this and we need your help. We were going to pay it anyway, but people wanted to help. We gave them a way to do it.”
Thompson said the crowd-funding model came about in meetings for a newly-formed committee put together to reach the “new” donor. How do you create a millennial donor? How do you take a current student and, upon graduation, make a meaningful connection that encourages them to give back?
Research was done. Focus groups were formed.
And Thompson, in two days, appears to have found his answer.
“That transparency word kept coming up,” Thompson said. “The ability to give to something that is fairly tangible. There’s a need right here. This is the need. Help us get there. You’re a part of it. There’s a lot of ownership in that. There’s a feeling of empowerment in being directly involved with those kinds of projects.
“That’s kind of the fundraising of the future for a variety of things. It’s not going to replace annual funds by any means. But it can be a really powerful tool. We’ve been talking about that for 10 months.”
The question now, at least from fans, is whether Ole Miss can use such fundraising measures to aid in the ongoing construction of the new basketball arena, “The Pavilion at Ole Miss,” as well as a potential renovation of the north end zone.
“It’s a very, very flexible tool,” he said. “It’s very versatile; you can do a lot of things with it. In theory, you can take an entire annual fund and do it this way. There are different levels and different perks with each one, but it creates that viral aspect that’s a little bit different. What you don’t have in the annual fund that you do have in situations like this is the urgency. A clock’s ticking; we’ve got to get this done in days or whatever, whereas an annual fund is an all-year type thing.
“But there’s still ways to do it. The Forward Together Campaign, there could be some very interesting things that come out of that, and I’m just brainstorming now, while it may not be the building, what if it’s an amenity that wasn’t scoped? What if it’s something in the plaza like bricks? Whatever it is. It gives you a tool to really harness that momentum and really let fans and let donors help spread the word. It’s the ultimate spreading-the-word-virally tool.”
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