The “Three Legged Stool” of Fundraising



A New Year ushers in a time of optimism, hope and rebirth, providing a chance to reflect on the previous year and set goals and initiatives for the year to come. It is also a time to re-establish fundamentals and the basics of our business. When I think about fundamentals I think about my good friend and mentor Charlie Patterson. Charlie was hired by Gene Hooks in 1984 to spearhead the fundraising for the Wake Forest portion of the Joel Coliseum. Charlie implemented the super seat program and other successful initiatives that laid the groundwork for the continued success of the Deacon Club and athletic fundraising at Wake Forest.

Charlie moved from Wake Forest to Guilford College in 1998, filling the position of Vice President for Advancement. Now a fundraising consultant in his own firm, Charlie has remained an avid fan of Wake Forest as a season ticket holder for football and basketball. Charlie has generously agreed to speak to our development staff on several occasions and educate them on the fundamentals of fundraising. An analogy he uses that has always stuck with me regarding the fundamentals of any good program is the “three legged stool”. As you know, a stool must have at least three legs in order to stand or it will topple over. The three legs of Charlie’s “three legged stool” are Annual, Capital and Endowment Support – the three “pillars” which illustrate the areas of giving needed from our donor base to have a strong program.


“Leg” One: The Annual Fund
The first leg of the stool is the Annual Fund. It will always be the top priority of the Deacon Club office. The Annual Scholarship Fund is the Deacon Club. It is the largest funding source for our Athletic Scholarships and is a gift that is given annually, hence the term Annual Fund. It is a sustaining gift that should come from operating funds within an individual’s budget. We have emphasized the need to raise additional dollars in our annual fund through the 110% initiative. Right now we have roughly 4,000 members who make up our annual fund. Our long term goal through the 2017 fiscal year is to increase giving to this area from the current $6,000,000 level to approximately $7,500,000 over the course of the next 5 years and raise our donor base to 5,500 members.


“Leg” Two: Endowment
The second leg of the stool for an individual to consider supporting is Endowment. This also helps support our student-athlete scholarship fund, but the difference is that it serves a role similar to most retirement accounts. The assets contributed are invested and Wake Forest uses a portion of the interest to reinvest into the endowment account and a portion to distribute to support scholarships. Wake Forest Athletics has approximately 144 named Endowment Funds representing about $25 million in total assets. I always tell donors that at some point it would be a great goal to establish an endowment fund during one’s lifetime; establishing a fund takes a $100,000 donation. Many funds have been established as family funds, and many honor a coach, individual or administrator that has been an instrumental person in the donor’s life. After establishing a scholarship, a family or individual will be forever connected to the University through a special relationship with the student-athlete that receives the scholarship each year. After establishing a scholarship during one’s lifetime it is great to consider taking that scholarship to the next level of support through a planned gift or major investment through one’s estate.


“Leg” Three: Capital Gifts
The third leg of the stool that is critical to our progress is Capital Gifts. There is no shortage of capital needs withinan athletic department. We have recently completed some monumental steps in transforming our football stadium with the construction of Deacon Tower and the Video Board. Future project plans continue our commitment to investing in our flagship programs with improvements to our football and basketball venues. In addition, our Olympic Sports such as golf, baseball, field hockey, soccer and volleyball all have active projects. I always tell people to find a sport they feel a connection with and believe in and get connected through a capital project. This enables donors to get more involved with the progress of a particular sport and understand more in depth the capital needs that will propel a sport to the next level.

By considering all three of these “legs” in your giving, you are helping Wake Forest provide a strong foundation of support for our student-athletes by funding scholarships and providing the finest facilities for our student-athletes to train and compete in.

Whether you have completed your “three legged stool,” have committed to doing so, or are just getting started, as you plan your donations to the Deacon Club keep in mind Charlie Patterson. And if you see him at a football or basketball game, be sure to thank him for his invaluable service to Wake Forest Athletics.


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