Interview with Brian Crockett
In late August, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the Executive Director of the Scarlet R - Brian Crockett. Brian is a former standout Rutgers football player, who starred at the tight end position for Rutgers during the early 80's. Earlier this year, Brian was recognized as NAADD Fund Raiser of the Year.
Since this is an open week, I wanted to take the opportunity to inform the Rutgers fans, supporters, and alumni about the Scarlet R. A lot of the information is quite interesting. Please take the time to read the interview, visit the Scarlet R website, and support the Rutgers Athletic Department through donations to the Scarlet R.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: As a former Rutgers football player, can you tell me how special it is to be a part of Rutgers University in such an integral role?
Brian Crockett: It is really clear that if I did not go to Rutgers, I do not think you can fake the love that you have working for the university. I surely would not have left the corporate world where I had a good thing going to comeback to university life. But I am really very focused on getting back into athletics and I have always enjoyed the sales side of it, getting out in front of the people who are supportive of the program.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: How is it being named Fundraiser of the Year and what does it mean to Rutgers?
Brian Crockett: Being Fundraiser of the Year gives great pride to my family. Just to receive any type of recognition on a national basis, it is special. However, what it actually means for Rutgers is the school does not have one good fundraiser but an excellent staff of fundraisers. You do not get these kind of awards without having an excellent staff, an excellent group of people to work with in the (Rutgers) foundation, all of the coaches being involved, and all of the people in the athletic department involved in the (financial) support of the athletic program. We even solicit our own staff to participate in our Scarlet R club.
But one of the things that have contributed to our success is the fact that Rutgers is perceived as an excellent university nationally. I just happened to be a representation of the university.
I have always when to various meetings and obtain ideas to improve the fund raising activities at Rutgers. Those ideas have been well perceived on a national basis. In the future, I hope that as we have success on the court and the playing fields that those programs that we have in place will turn into more financial rewards for our student-athletes and the athletic program.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: It is my understanding that athletic success does not always correlate with greater gifts by alumni, is this true?
Brian Crockett: It is true. There is no question that if you have winning teams you have a huge positive impact on the attitudes and enthusiasm of the people that are attending the events or hearing of the success. Winning teams will attain more season ticket holders. Winning teams will influence all of your former athletes to get involved with the university and the program.
However, large endowments make up a big part of the funds that are raise for any foundation. For example, we received a huge bequest of over $2.6 millions from the Seiloff family. Mr. Seiloff was a big supporter of the football and basketball programs. We received a huge amount of his giving after his death.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: As far as fundraising and endowment, how did Rutgers rank among universities like Michigan, Princeton, and Stanford?
Brian Crockett: If you are comparing Rutgers to Princeton, it is really a comparison of taking what the Ivy League has done in a long tradition of fundraising. In fact, many of them get their students involved in understanding the perimeters of giving back at a much earlier age. We are tiring to do the same at Rutgers.
Regarding Michigan, they have tremendous amounts of people turning out for alumni events, they have an excellent athletic program and it is a major university that has a great reputation. It would be hard to compare with the number of season tickets that they sell and their long affiliation with the Big Ten Conference. So the direction that we are headed in is to move up in our own conference, while realizing that each of our conference members are performing on a higher level.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: How do we rank in the conference?
Brian Crockett: Rutgers is in the middle of the pack. You have schools that are clearly on the high end such as Miami and most recently Virginia Tech. Most of this is a result of the participation of their season ticket holders and depending on who is in a capital campaign. Rutgers is in their third year of their capital campaign. The athletic department will have a significant impact as we get into the Rutgers football Complex expansion, as well as our plans for underwriting more scholarships from private support.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Can you define what you mean by a capital campaign?
Brian Crockett: A capital campaign is a period of time that a university counts all gifts to the university. What is does is it gives you the chance, at the front end, to get some large gifts and then have a campaign kickoff, which we had this past spring. Once the campaign is kicked off, we asked everyone to participate. The athletic program, under the leadership of Bob Mulcahy, is still defining what its needs are for the Football Expansion, which is under the leadership of Coach Greg Schiano. Coach Schiano has some strong needs in the football complex, so we can continue to have the finest facility and compare with our counterparts.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What kind of roles does the fund raising organizations at Rutgers play in projects such as the Football Complex Expansion?
Brian Crockett: Once the needs are established for the project, then they work with the area of operations to develop the plan. Once the plans are developed, we get a chance to work with the athletic department to establish what the naming opportunities are. All the time we are cultivating relationships so when we have a final plan of the naming opportunities we can contact all of the Scarlet R supporters and ask them to make an individual commitment to this effort.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: It has been stated that Rutgers has the second most living alumni in the country. This can be viewed as a great resource. Has this been the case?
Brian Crockett: We draw on this in two ways. Through our research department in the Foundation, each month they are able to locate alumni who had excellent achievements in their careers. They are then put on a list, so we can provide them with ways to get them involved with the university. One of the ways is to get them back to visit the campus. We can then show them that Rutgers is has and still provide an excellent forum for education and educational opportunities.
The other side of it is, we have continued to develop the athletic market place. We use to ship the Rah publication to just the Scarlet R members, whose membership is up to 5200. We now ship the Rah publication to all of the letterwinners, all members of the Scarlet R, all members of the touchdown club, all members of the Court club, all of the cager's club and all season ticket holders. We can not ask people to make a commitment without getting them excited about the program and provide them with good information. So our entire market now is about 18,000. Under the leadership of Bob Mulcahy, the athletic department annual report was shipped out to over 18,000 people. The annual report has provided a huge impact on the programs because we focus on the achievements of the teams and the department. Unfortunately in the past, this was never done. The athletic achievement tied to the academic achievement has certainly made a difference.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Can you provide us with some of the major statistics such as how we rank in the Big East in spending per team, etc?
Brian Crockett: Our ability to produce a publication of the achievements of our student-athletes and being able to mail it out to our constituency I hope has provide much more data. The ability to access the Scarlet R via the Internet. We now have a travel program, where we are committed to go to every away football game. We have four alumni sessions, where we visit alumni throughout the country. We work very closely with the alumni office. As a result, at three of the alumni events, Greg Schiano spoke at Somerset, Coach Water spoke at Monmoth, and Coach Water will be speaking again in the Princeton area. This gives us the forum to get out to more people.
Last year, I was fortunate to be the MC at the young alumni reception that was held at the United Nations in NYC. So I think the focus of our organization is exposure. Every home football game, we are out in the parking lot and through the stands making contact. During the week, we are following up to make sure that we get more people on board.
Each week we provide an inexpensive luncheon at the Hale Center, where Coach Schiano is the guest speaker. Anyone can walk in the door, pay $12, and hear directly from our head football coach. Anyone who calls and says that they do not like the direction of our football program is invited to this forum. It gives them a chance to ask a question.
We also are committed to meeting with our Olympic sport coaches and providing a fund raising program. Our hope is that each Olympic sports program have their own alumni gathering so they can get their constituency base and their letterwinners back.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What are some of your biggest challenges as the head of the Scarlet R?
Brian Crockett: The biggest challenge is how to do more with less. The budget cuts and limited resources to fundraise for all 30 programs have provided a real challenge. We are challenged to be more efficient yet being focused on the larger opportunities.
The most important thing is that we underwrite the existing scholarship program by private support. In the future, this will allow Rutgers to have a program that we can be proud of. We must also be able to expand, renovated, and improved the existing facilities.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What is your goal for next year and the next five years?
Brian Crockett: My goal for next year has started because our fiscal year starts July 1st. So our first goal is to take what ever annual giving number from last year and just get to the $4 million annual giving number.
Our five-year goal, we are working with the Scarlet R advisory committee to underwrite more of the scholarships for our programs. We are finding out in several of our programs what it would take to fully fund the scholarships from private support. If we can achieve our five-year goal of underwriting scholarships at Rutgers from private support, it would make a great statement, not only for Rutgers but nationally. There are only a few programs in the country that really fund 30 intercollegiate athletic programs with private support.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: How can a typical alumnus assist Rutgers in achieving their goals?
Brian Crockett: First, ask them and their families to participate in our events.
Secondly, on an annual basis, they can make some kind of financial commitment to give back to the university. This would enable us to have an athletic program that we can all be happy with.
Finally, to bring others or new people into the fold. What I mean is to bring them as your guest to the game and introduce them to my staff or myself. Make sure that they have a good experience and invite them back. What we have found is that people that we have invited back, we entertained, and brought into the fold are here forever.
Donald "Big Dog"
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