NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Emphasize Academic Standards To Encourage Alumni Giving

August 1, 2000

Supporters of college athletic programs have long argued that fielding a winning team is the way to open the wallets of a school's alumni and encourage them to donate to their alma mater.

But economists Thomas A. Rhoads of Maryland's Towson University and Shelby Gerking of the University of Wyoming studied the issue and found that sports victories only temporarily boost donations. High academic standards are the real key, they found, to unlocking long-term giving.

In their study of data from 87 universities from 1986 to 1996, they discovered that:

  • Winning a football bowl game boosted alumni gifts per student by about 7.3 percent on average in the victory year.
  • Having a basketball team placed on probation, on the other hand, lowered such gifts by 13.6 percent.
  • But these effects didn't persist in later years -- and there was no impact on non-alumni giving.
  • The researchers found that measures reflecting the quality of faculty and students were the most significant factors generating substantial gifts over the years.

This sends a message to university administrators hoping for strong continuing support to keep their eyes on their educational goals.

Source: Gene Koretz, "What Winning Is Worth," Business Week, August 7, 2000.


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