WVU: MAC annual giving could top 2012’s total
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Matt Borman's office has all the furniture, all the electronics and all the stationary he needs to do his job as the leader of the main fundraiser for West Virginia University's athletic department.
It also has one personal touch that's guided him through his first full year as the Executive Director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club. It's a simple framed print of Rudyard Kipling's famed poem "If."
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you," it begins.
And so begins another day for Borman.
"We haven't had a lot of good things to talk to donors about this year," said Borman, who's been at WVU since 2008 and who was promoted full-time to his current position in August.
Still, Borman said that in this final week of the 2012-13 fiscal year, the MAC is set to again break a record for the annual giving fund, which is basically the donations that go toward purchasing season tickets and parking and makes up most of the MAC's final number for the full year.
He hopes the annual giving number checks in around $15.5 million, which would be about $1 million more than last year's figure.
There are about 800 fewer donors to that fund this year, which is not unusual when the year that follows the bump from a BCS bowl or a Final Four appearance doesn't match that success. Borman said about 5,200 people gave to the annual fund and that that's about normal.
The variables don't matter to Borman and his staff. Regardless of wins and losses, celebrations or controversy, a fundraiser's job is the same. He has to keep his head.
"Everything around us is changing, so we've got to stay the same and be the voice of reason for everybody," Borman said. "Fans are passionate. We want them to be passionate, but with passion come ups and downs. We're going to be there to be with them for the excitement that comes with a BCS bowl win and we're going to be there for them when they feel like the sky is falling."
The approach apparently works as the rapport with fewer donors is generating record income. The expected figure would continue the upward trend that's seen the annual fund produce $10.2 million in 2008 and then have between $400,000 and $1 million surges every year since then.
When the MAC's complete number for all funds raised in 2012-13 is finalized next month, Borman said it will finish a little off last year's $23.5 million. That figure had a pair of gifts that totaled $5.5 million that this year's campaign will not have.
"We're proud of our work," Borman said, "but I think the annual fund is the number we're most proud of at this point."
Borman said this year presented developments that led to some difficult conversations with donors. The football team started 5-0 and was in the top five for the first time since the 2007 season, but then lost five straight games and was blown out in the Pinstripe Bowl. The basketball team stumbled early, lost to a 20-loss team in the Big 12 Tournament and finished 13-19.
Football and men's basketball make up the core of the annual giving fund.
"We get out to see donors face-to-face," Borman said. "When they call, we answer the call and we talk to them about whatever they want to talk about. We address any situation they want to talk about. We have to take those things head on to build those relationships. Yes, there are difficult conversations, but that doesn't mean we don't have them.
"It doesn't matter which conversation it is. It matters that they have a steady voice to talk to in the MAC. That's the goal and I think that's why we have those relationships that keep our core donors and why we're able to maintain that 5,200 number every year."
Down seasons, missed or undesirable postseason opportunities and the like are common to fundraisers. Borman said what happened to the teams at WVU this past year were things the Mountaineers had been able to avoid for a while.
Borman and his staff can manage that. Donors can understand that these things happen. They can be directed to worse seasons and longer postseason droughts at other schools and be assured the Mountaineers are on their way to figuring out the Big 12 and getting back to where they once were.
WVU has faced other obstacles this year, though. There has been bad publicity about finances, expenses, debt, salaries, raises and alleged actions about how employees and associates have done business related to the athletic department.
Last week, West Virginia Radio Corp. filed a lawsuit against 10 defendants, including the WVU Foundation, the WVU Board of Governors and Chairperson Drew Payne, WVU President Jim Clements and WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck. It focuses on the re-bid multimedia rights contract, but also alleges questionable actions by the Foundation and the BOG.
These problems aren't as easy to massage. Financial concerns aren't unique, but they can worry people who are asked to donate. Conduct is another issue that can be hard to explain or to make others understand, especially in the absence of defenses.
"I think the best way I can address that is to say we have gone through some challenges in the past few months with some questions our donors might have had for us in regard to some things going on publicly," Borman said. "The way we addressed them on a daily basis - and we have addressed them on a daily basis - is to be honest and to communicate with the donors as much as we can.
"They have questions about what's going on and we do not dodge them. We answer them, but we trust what the individual leadership positions at this university are doing and we're making sure our donors trust them. And that's based on the relationships we've built with them."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.