Photo by Cassandra Bauer | Photo Editor
BY ELLEN KOESTER
With all the students, alumni, athletes, Iowans and more flocking to the famed blue oval, some can think the increase in national interest can lead to an increase in donations for the school.
John Amato, Drake’s director of development liaison, doesn’t see specific increases in donations around the event, but believes the Relays has an effect of overall giving.
“All the goodwill and excitement around Relays affects other giving to everything (at Drake),” Amato said.
From the time solicitations start going out in January to the weeks after Relays concludes, there is an increased interest in Drake, which, according to Amato, can translate to a long period of increased donations.
Those donations are important not only to the school, but to the Relays itself.
It is against university policy to share financial information on costs and donations. However, with so many moving gears, it is an expensive affair. The university must cover the cost of the whole event, including everything from heightened security to track maintenance.
It’s why the university established the Baton Club in 1984. A Relays-specific fund that takes a chunk out of the overall costs of the event, the Baton Club is a way for donors to help cover the at least part of Relays’ full price tag. More than 150 individuals and associations contribute to the fund.
Like the Baton Club, donors can give to other specialized athletic funds, such as the 3-Point Club, which gives to the women’s basketball program, or the Blue Oval Club, which is only for Drake Track and Field and Cross-Country.
“Donors today, more so than 20 years ago, are not as restricted as they used to be,” Amato said. “Donors want to know what their gift is going to impact and want (Drake) to be held accountable.”
Now, donors can work with major gift officers to tag their gifts for specific uses. Donors have given specifically to a favorite sport or event or to bring a certain athlete to the Relays.
Jarad Bernstein, the university’s director of public relations and media management, remembered being naive of what athletics-specific donations funded.
“When I was a student, not at Drake, I thought part of our tuition was going to basketball scholarships,” Bernstein said. “But that’s not the case. It’s not causing other students to pay more.”
It would be a strain on the university to produce the necessary funds to attract talented student-athletes with scholarships. That, on top of the Relays, would heighten expenses.
“Unfortunately, if we only charged admission (to the university) to cover our costs, you’d be paying a lot more as a student,” Amato said.
With these funds, the university is able to entice better student-athletes to participate on Drake teams, which can lead to seasons such as the recent women’s basketball’s 22 game winning streak.
Relays itself may not have grown to be the internationally recognized event it is today without these contributions.
“People donate because they love the Relays and they love Drake,” Amato said. “They want to see (Drake) thrive and want to see it grow.”