By Grace Potts
Shortly after announcing its transition to Division I athletics, Bellarmine University launched Knights Athletic Club.
In a booklet promoting the club, Bellarmine president Dr. Susan Donovan said, “I am excited to share with you, our biggest fans, a new giving society that will allow you to enhance our student-athlete experience even further: the Knights Athletic Club.”
According to Donovan’s comments in the brochure, “The Knights Athletic Club will function the same way as the Annual Fund, but with gifts earmarked for athletics. Your tax-deductible gifts of $50 or more will be used for things such as facility upgrades, scholarships, uniforms, travel enhancement and other program expenses.”
Director of Athletics Scott Wiegandt said the club was created to garner more support for the athletic department and programs.
Wiegandt said, Bellarmine has had similar programs in the past, just on a smaller scale. “I mean there was a booster club here when I was a student athlete. It’s more or less the same thing,” he said.
Knights Athletic Club was made to help raise funds for Bellarmine’s sports programs.
Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Development Devanny Boisvert said, “The Knights Athletic Club was created to help raise funds for our athletic department specifically geared to unrestricted athletic dollars.”
Boisvert said, “Most universities implement an athletic club that includes benefits to help supplement the athletic department.”
Wiegandt also said other universities have similar programs, “This is not foreign to college athletics at all,” he said.
Bellarmine recently created another program that would help support its transfer to D-I: reserved parking spaces for home games. According to Wiegandt, the two are unrelated and were not created at the same time.
Bellarmine has multiple fundraising programs and Knights Athletic Club is similar to those.
Boisvert said: “The Knights Athletic Club works similar to the university’s annual fund. Every gift that comes in, goes either to the general athletic account or 70% to the general athletic account and 30% restricted specifically to a sports program.”
Weigandt said the program has thus far been successful. “I’m very pleased with the number of people that are interested in joining, because we launched in October and I’m more than pleasantly surprised at the number of people that are getting involved,” he said.
Boisvert said the club has brought in new donors. “The Knights Athletic Club has been successful since its launch with drawing in new donors that have not given to the university before,” she said. “We are excited to keep drawing in those new donors and getting them reconnected with their sports team and athletic department.”
The Knights Athletic Club booklet contains a benefits chart, showing what members receive based on their level of donation. According to the chart, the benefits range from a tax deduction to an opportunity to purchase a private post-season travel trip. The donation levels range from $50 to $99 to $25,000 and up.
“People can designate their gifts, to certain sports or athletics in general. Anybody that gives can typically designate to any organization. That’s pretty normal operating,” Wiegandt said.
Wiegandt said, people have been happy with the benefits and there are a wide range of people buying into the club, including parents, alumni and season ticket holders.