WSU has ambitious goals for CAF this year

THE COUGAR ATHLETIC FUND membership has been high-centered for a long time at around 6,000 members, even though the minimum fee to join was reduced to $50. But as he approaches his one-year anniversary at Washington State, Uri Farkas has a multi-faceted plan in place to grow the CAF in a substantial way in the coming year.

Farkas, the assistant athletic director for annual giving, is revamping the communication structure for existing and new CAF members alike.

"Our goal at the end of the fiscal year is we want to be over 7,000 members," said Farkas. "We're confident we have a team in place and a communication strategy in place that we can hit that number.

"This next year Cougar fans can look forward to communication with the CAF in a variety of formats - and a lot of that through social media. And then allowing folks to do some simple giving through their mobile device or desktop as well... The campaign has been in the planning stages and our goal is to make giving easier through multiple channels, utilizing a wider variety of mediums to attract new members."

Farkas says WSU has done a great job in attracting new members, but the retention of CAF members has been a challenge.

"We took a hard look at the way we thank and steward our members," said Farkas. "We've developed a new membership packet people will receive in the mail - it's glossy, it's cool, it contains some great Cougar swag... Our plan focuses on increased benefits and stewardship to our current CAF members. Beginning with the upgraded membership packets and a membership card including Cougar Connections discounts, we want our member to feel appreciated and thanked. As always, CAF members can look forward to discounts to CAF events including A Night with Cougar Football."

Farkas says the question has never been about how much people love the Cougs.

"The question is, Are you in? ... We know people love the Cougs. Now we just need them to take this program to the next level, take that next step and join the Cougar Athletic Fund," said Farkas.

FARKAS CAME TO Washington State after major fundraising roles at both Cal and Oregon. The challenge at WSU remains in galvanizing the crimson masses.

"We understand this is Washington State Athletics and this isn't going to be one or two, or a small group of donors, that are going to get us over the hump," said Farkas. "Sometimes at Cal different sports would cannibalize from others but here at Washington State under Bill Moos, everyone is rowing in the same direction... Oregon has certainly had a tremendous amount of success but that blueprint was developed by Bill Moos with their Duck Athletic Fund...Our Cougar Athletic Fund is somewhat modeled in the same way."

Covering the cost of scholarships is the No. 1 goal of the CAF. In the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, the CAF had 6,012 members who gave $5.1 million. The cost of scholarships was $10.4 million.

The CAF membership numbers remain on par with FY 2014 with giving slightly down ($5.4 million in FY 2014). In 2012, there were 4,084 CAF members who contributed $2.6 million -- although it should be noted the jump in 2013 was almost all due to new premium seating requirements. Still, it's growth.

"I would be remiss if I didn't say there's been pretty tremendous growth after Bill Moos and Mike Marlow got here. The last few years it has flatlined around 6,000 members. We need to inject enthusiasm and communicate differently to our fans and donors to be able to move the needle," said Farkas.

The goal of climbing above 7,000 members in the coming year, an increase of around 17 percent in CAF membership, is an aggressive one. But Farkas is confident.

"I look forward to some big numbers this year, and a much different conversation that you and I will have next year," said Farkas.

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