Wichita State Wants ‘Angry’ Donors

While Wichita State University (WSU) will be looking to “Play Angry” tomorrow against top-seeded Louisville in the men’s college basketball Final Four, its alumni association is asking donors to “Give Angry.”

The Wichita State Alumni Association sent an email solicitation yesterday, ahead of Saturday’s national semifinal against the Cardinals, employing head coach Gregg Marshall’s mantra, “Play Angry,” and asking donors to “Give Angry.”

Another upset win would pit the team in Monday’s national championship game. The ninth-seeded Shockers already have surprised the basketball world by even making the Final Four, having to go through a number-one seed, Gonzaga, in the second round. That upset put Wichita State into the Sweet 16 – which means national exposure, especially for an unexpected “Cinderella” school.

“Where we have seen an immediate uptick is in our annual fund campaign,” Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the Wichita State University Foundation, said before traveling to Atlanta on Thursday for the Final Four. She estimated an increase of 50 percent in annual fund donations compared to the same week last year.

“You can’t buy 15,000 mentions of our university in the last few weeks in the popular press,” said King.

The timing for Wichita State is fortuitous, with a new president who joined this past summer and starting the early stages of planning a capital campaign. Wichita State last year raised about $18 million.

The Shockers last made the men’s Final Four in 1964, so they don’t have the name recognition or cachet of their Final Four co-participants, like Syracuse, Louisville or Michigan. Syracuse made the Final Four 10 years ago and Michigan made the national semifinals multiple times in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“We’re learning on the fly, between our alumni association and athletics,” King said. “I think the platform of this international exposure for our university will truly help as we move forward,” she said.

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) isn’t in the Final Four, however, no one expected their squad to advance at all, much less become the first 15th-seeded team to make it into the Sweet 16.

FGCU’s development office used that opportunity to send 2,500 donors an email just before the 3rd round matchup against the University of Florida. The Sweet 16 solicitation, with ask strings of 16: $16, $160, $1,600, and $16,000, had raised $12,000 as of April 4. There also was a solicitation on the FGCU Foundation’s home page. Another $80,000 in pledges was made by current and prospective donors contacted by athletics fundraising staff, according to Susan Evans, vice president and chief of staff. FGCU raised $19 million in its most recent fiscal year, ending June 2012.

Web traffic and merchandise sales for FGCU are off the charts. Web traffic doubled and tripled in the days after the team upset Georgetown in the opening round while merchandise sales are up tenfold at the FGCU Bookstore.

Sales of women’s apparel was up 822 percent, an increase of almost $62,000, and men’s approval was almost $455,000 — up 2,270 percent compared to last March. That doesn’t include royalties received on sales made by outside vendors licensed to sell FGCU merchandise. Those numbers are expected sometime in May.