Stotlar, David K.

Committee Member

Gray, Dianna

Committee Member

Heiny, Robert

Committee Member

Iyer, Vish


Sport & Exercise Science


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





139 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Division I athletics has become very big business with skyrocketing revenue from television deals, conference realignment dollars and revenue derived from third party media rights holders - not to mention gate sales, concessions and sponsorship income. The truth of today's Division I athletic landscape, however, tells a much different story of economic health as very few athletic programs actually make any money. Most operate in a deficit scenario and state funding allocated to higher education continues to decline. Fundraising and donor cultivation within intercollegiate athletics is more important than ever to help close the growing financial gap between revenues and expenses of higher education. It is critical to understand the many varied factors that affect not only donor motivations but what unique motivations are present within this very exclusive donor segment of multi-million dollar major intercollegiate athletic donors. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the motivations of major gift donors at the $1,000,000+ level within Division I intercollegiate athletics. Overall, seven themes of major gift donor motivations emerged from the interview data analysis: 1) history of family philanthropy, 2) thankful for the ability to give, 3) appreciation and gratitude towards the institution, 4) lasting and sustainable giving, 5) inside knowledge of fundraising needs, 6) relationships, benefits and recognition, and finally, 7) winning and prestige. This qualitative study sought to explore the motivational factors of $100,000+ donors to intercollegiate athletics. Based on date from participant interviews, seven themes of major gift donor motivation emerged from the data analysis. These themes provide insight into how major gift donors at the $1,000,000+ level perceive their motivations to give to Division I intercollegiate athletics. An overview of findings revealed that many donors in this elite category have a history of philanthropy, that motivations are almost exclusively intrinsically based, that elements of sustainable giving are important and that prestige of the athletic department/institution is equally connected to winning as key motivations to make $1,000,000+ gifts. These perceptions result in a very complicated and individualistic set of motives that in some ways, share motivational elements of smaller gift donors (alumni giving) and in others, are unique to $1,000,000+ donors (sustainable giving needs). Specific recommendations for practice are provided for development officers, athletic directors and university presidents with the goal of understanding this elite donor segment within intercollegiate athletics which would ultimately result in increased fundraising efforts and contributions to Division I intercollegiate athletic programs.

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