Reaching Beyond Your Team: Brian Gerrity, Senior Associate AD/Executive Director of the Mercer Athletic Foundation
Brian Gerrity is no stranger to building success from the ground up. Serving as the Senior Associate AD/Executive Director of the Mercer Athletic Foundation, Mercer Athletics has seen tremendous growth. This growth can be seen through the past five years with not only an increase in financial and community support, but also with four sports added, and 14 championship titles won. Despite all of the successes that Gerrity has had a hand in building, the people around him might best know him as someone who deeply cares about the relationships he builds. Speaking with Gerrity for The Coaching Assist, we sought out what coaches can do to help bring community and campus support to their own programs!
Fundraising Part I: Communicate Across Departments!
At many institutions, there are marketing and development offices that are employed to help raise money. If that’s the case at your school, why not ask for help?
“If your team is trying to raise money, especially if you are at a smaller school, there is probably a limited pool of people who give. Coaches should communicate with marketing and development offices when there’s a project because they might not know who has already given and what other commitments donors may have.”
By having these conversations, coaches and institutions as a whole can avoid situations where a donor is asked for say $100, when they might have just pledged $10,000 to the athletic department as a whole.
One of Gerrity’s keys to success is calling a donor for the sake of calling and catching up – no monetary donation as a topic of discussion! “I don’t ever want a donor to feel like they are just a checkbook. I want them to know that we care about them as human beings, fans, supporters, etc. Every interaction can’t be about asking for something!”
Quick Tip: Trying to fundraise for winter break team meals? Gerrity says, “Talk to the marketing people. They know the restaurants that are already sponsors and they know the season ticket holders who might be more inclined to help!” Also, by asking marketing, they help you avoid gaining support from a large sponsor’s direct competitor.
Fundraising Part II: Know Your Needs
For successful fundraising, Gerrity asserts, “Coaches should have a clear vision about what the program needs and wants, versus raising money for the sake of raising money.” When asked about creative fundraising ideas, Gerrity reflected back on a program that created a “menu” of different items and how much the program needed to fund each of them. It gave donors specifics of what their money was going to and helped the coaches better articulate the vision of the program.
Quick Tip: It may be best for your head coach to remain on a pedestal, and having a sit down dinner with them being “special” rather than available to anyone. Your marketing department could then better market that opportunity while the assistants take on the grass roots side of the fundraising.
Fans are More Likely to Support Teams that They Know
In order to gain the support of your campus, athletes must mix with other athletes and non-athletes. Think about it, are your teams sitting in pods in the dining hall together, sitting next to each other in classes, walking around campus together? If your players are only seen with each other, this can intimidate the rest of the community. Gerrity asserts, “Someone might want to go to a basketball game as a freshman but they now see the team as a closed off circle of players.”
Gerrity has seen teams try to include the community by handing out pizza throughout the dorms and personally inviting students to games. This can help break down some of those walls and make the players more approachable.
Host open tailgates at other teams’ events. This gives your players the chance to interact with a broader fan base, engage other students, and showcase their personalities off of the court.
From the Top Down
Gerrity was clear that everything starts with the head coach setting expectations. The players will then follow the head coach’s lead! Before events like tailgates, community service events, and handing out pizzas, make sure to coach your players up on the importance of interacting with others. Help your players to understand that the community supports them; explain how important it is to show gratitude for that.
Quick Tip: In the head coach role, it is critical to know the community you are in. It can be easy just to drive to and from work, but it will go a long way to truly be immersed into the community.
Connect Your Players With Alumni!
Athletic departments and athletic programs in general have lengthy alumni lists, filled with former student-athletes who are eager to give back. In order to best assist your players after graduation, begin by taking a vested interest in them outside of their sport! Take the time to get to know them and their interests! By doing so, it will be more organic to connect athletes’ interests with alumni professions! If you know what your players are interested in doing upon graduation, you can best connect them with the right resources to achieve it!
Quick Tip: In order to have your athletes put their best foot forward when meeting with alumni, encourage them to visit career services. If a player has already visited career services, has a working resume, and an idea of the area he or she would like to intern or work, the student-athlete can make a better first impression with an alum!
Want More from Brian Gerrity?
Follow him on Twitter @briangerrity and check out this article he wrote for Basketball HQ!