Monday, September 6, 2010

Interview with Rick Henderson of Goal Line Philanthropy

I recently interviewed Rick Henderson, Co-President of Goal Line Philanthropy, LLC, an entity that provides unique fundraising programs for charities, colleges, and universities, with specific focus on intercollegiate football programs. Rick is actively engaged with a wide array of colleges and universities, including schools within the Patriot League. He has unique perspectives and answers for a host of issues facing college athletic budgets in general and football programs specifically.

Rick was gracious enough to answer some questions. We are happy to provide his insights here at Chu Chu Rah Rah.

LD: What is the current climate like from a fundraising perspective in regard to NCAA Football programs?

RH: The biggest issue currently across all non-profits, not only NCAA programs, is the fear of parting with assets. With lots of uncertainty with tax laws, personal portfolios and businesses, there is a reluctance to part with assets.

Another issue is the annual pressure on programs to fulfill the balance of the budget not covered by the university’s budgeted amount. Programs are trying to connect with supporters by offering tickets, parking, etc to make it easier for them to grasp the idea of giving a gift and parting with their assets. While Retention rates are on the rise, the sizes of gifts are in decline. However let’s not forget that supporters have a unique passion for their respective sport. Football guys will probably give to football before they give an unrestricted gift to the university.

LD: In your opinion what is the impact of dedicated fundraising programs on the coaches and players?

RH: Nowadays, coaches spend half the off-season recruiting and half the time fundraising. One coach told me that lately his friends and supporters walk away when he walks into a room or social event, “they know I am going to ask for money.” Think about the pressure on today's coaches. While the emphasis within recruiting is on the relationship, facilities play a huge part.

These are 18 year old kids, they look at the facilities and how they compare to other schools. If your facilities are not up to par with your competition, your coach needs to sell the relationship component even more. Knowing that our unique fundraising initiatives can address many financial needs such as editing systems, recruiting budgets, planes,or even scholarships, takes the pressure off a coaching staff so they can do what they were hired to do....recruit good kids and win.

LD: What separates your company from all others?

RH: With 26 years of college football coaching experience at the senior level of our staff and by working with some of the largest programs in the country, we know the frustrations of all athletic department members and coaches. We also know that the relationship with the athletic department supporter base is far more important than anything else. We have developed and managed these same types of relationships as you. We understand what the coach needs, what the athletic department needs and also, what the supporter needs.

LD: How does your company execute these gifts?

RH: We use a variety of different ways to connect with supporters, but one particular strategy that we specialize in is a perfect fit for NCAA athletic programs. Making it easy for a supporter to give is our primary goal, by not only making it productive for them, but efficient as well. We want the supporter to be able to impact the program in many different ways. At the same time we need to help them with the financial side of the decision and make it “painless” for them to give.

LD: What separates this strategy from all others?

RH: Well, we understand the need for larger capital gifts for facilities and renovations but we also know the importance of the annual gift to the program’s booster club. This strategy allows the supporter to take advantage of both with one strategy.

We are engaged with a large state university that is in the midst of a facilities renovation project. Of course, the school has naming opportunities for the project. Our strategy can allow someone to take advantage of a naming opportunity now while they're alive and also fund a certain amount annually to the booster club as well. This in some cases could secure season tickets, parking passes, club box passes, endow a scholarship, etc. Previously we would have asked a supporter to part with money to help with the renovation project and then part with money on an annual basis to the club. With us they do not part with the asset at all.

LD: How can this strategy also be used to enhance the yearly line item stress that our football program has handled in the past?

RH: Our number one goal is to take the pressure off the program to cover the annual expenses. For the athletic director or the head coach to know that a certain amount is always accounted for, they can expand their attention to other projects. They will be more productive, efficient and impactful. They will be better positioned to win 'on and off the field.'

LD: Rick, you're talking our language. The HCGLC's mission is to do exactly Holy Cross football win 'on and off the field.' Next question. In your opinion what is the future forecast for fundraising with NCAA programs.

RH: As much financial uncertainty as there is in our country, the great thing about our industry is the “passion.” If you put a handful of football supporters of a specific program in a room together, you can cut the passion in the air with a knife. Everyone wants to see their team be on top. In today’s world, this comes down to one thing, recruiting. Unfortunately, to recruit the best kids, facilities do come into play. If you visit the best programs in the country, they have tremendous facilities. This helps the coaches recruit. If the coaches recruit, they will win. Having the best facilities, unfortunately comes down to money. We are excited about the future of college athletics. Coaches and players get up every day working on the x’s and o’s. That’s their passion. We are impacting programs everyday by making it easier for supporters to help their schools and teams. With our background and expertise finding solutions to achieve everything from facilities to annual giving to booster clubs is why we get up every morning. This is our passion!

LD: Rick, Thanks very much for sharing these insights and your passion as well. Certainly we are living through challenging times. These challenges require truly creative solutions. Goal Line Philanthropy sounds like it is well positioned to help schools get creative. We have to get you introduced to our friends atop Mt. St. James. Thanks again for taking the time.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no business interest or affiliation with Rick or Goal Line Philanthropy. I just thought those who are passionate about Holy Cross in general and Holy Cross Football specifically may care to hear from an individual such as Rick.

Larry Doyle
Holy Cross Gridiron Leadership Council

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