Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Role of Involvement and Income in Predicting Large and Small Donations to College Athletics

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Role of Involvement and Income in Predicting Large and Small Donations to College Athletics

Article excerpt


The purpose of the study was to classify donors who make large donations and those who make small donations to athletics programmes. In particular, the study investigated the degree to which involvement with the athletics programme, income and donor type discriminate individuals who make large donations from those who make small donations, in an effort to predict donation level of prospect donors. The hypothesis that the three variables (involvement with the athletics programme, income and donor type) would classify athletics donors of small donations from athletics donors of larger donations was confirmed. The findings of the study provide theoretical and practical implications in predicting donation size, determining donor cultivation strategies and increasing fundraising effectiveness.



In today's competitive economic environment, sports organisations (private and public, amateur and professional) are struggling to raise funds to secure their existence and continuing operation. The main sources of income are ticket sales, sponsorships, broadcasting rights and merchandising. However, another source of revenue that is important, particularly to non-profit sports organisations, is fundraising through donations.

Fundraising has become an essential activity for college athletics because it helps address financial problems. Today, traditional sources of revenue--gate receipts, student fees and alumni donations--are becoming secondary to the 'big business' approach of marketing college athletics. Educational institutions have used intercollegiate athletics as a means for raising money from alumni and friends that helps pay for deficits or budget cuts.

Marciani (1991) has reported that 90% of the administrators surveyed believed that fundraising would be "the most probable source for increasing athletics revenue in the next decade" (p. 52). The first step in successful fundraising is to realise that fundraising, like selling, is big business (Kern, 1983). The second step is to know as much as possible about the potential donors (Webb, 1989)--who they are, what they think and how they behave.


One of the most frequently studied variables in fundraising literature is the role demographics play on giving. Income seems to influence contributions, though findings are contradictory (Spaeth & Greely, 1970; Brakeley, 1974; Duke, 1982; Sanders, 1985; Webb, 1989). Most report that income is a predictor of giving behaviour and/or amount of contribution (Brittingham & Pezzullo, 1990).

Income has been used as a positive measure factor of donor's capacity to give (Paton 1986; Mosser, 1993). However, the financial capability to give might not on its own be cause enough for an individual to make a donation; an individual may be motivated to give but lack the ability to do so. When an individual is capable and motivated to give, then a donation should be expected. The capacity to give and motivation to give interact with each other, and capacity may either facilitate or inhibit the effect of motivation (Paton, 1986). Mosser (1993) reported that personal income and household income were strong predictors of capacity to give (loadings of .93 and .89 respectively).


Involvement has been defined as "the degree of pertinence and relevance of the cause to the individual" (Engel, 1987, p. 48). To explain donor behaviour, Engel (1987) used the active and passive reasoning theory of involvement (borrowed from marketing theory). This states that when a donor is highly involved with a cause, there is high awareness that leads to careful evaluations of various alternatives. The donor makes a decision to contribute to a certain cause or causes. This decision is consistent with other underlying factors (motives) and is perceived as offering personal benefit. Duke (1982) found that donors have better knowledge about the educational institution they fund than non-donors. …

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