I FUND Expands Donor Level Opportunities
CHAMPAIGN, IL - With the Illinois Renaissance for State Farm Center kicking into a higher gear, the University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) is ratcheting up its annual fund program in ways that will benefit supporters of Fighting Illini athletics and the overall excellence of the University's varsity sports.
The annual fund, or I FUND, provides scholarship support for more than 500 U of I student-athletes in all sports. With tuition and fees steadily climbing at the University, private support for athletic scholarships is more vital than ever.
"True to the mission of the DIA, the ultimate goal of the I FUND is to support and promote the development and success of our student-athletes," said UI Director of Athletics Mike Thomas. "The higher education and college athletic landscape is changing rapidly like never before and we have reached a critical moment in the history of Illinois athletics. Our ability to offer scholarships that attract elite athletes to Illinois depends on annual funding from our generous and passionate members of Fighting Illini Nation. When our loyal donors and friends step into these new levels of commitment, they will be investing in excellence; they will be investing in our future. In doing so, Illinois will develop the next generation of leaders benefitting us all."
During the 2012-13 academic year, total education costs for Illini student-athletes were $10.5 million. For the same period, the I FUND generated gifts of $7.6 million. By 2020, total education costs are projected to be over $16.5 million. Any gap between education costs and I FUND contributions places a significant strain on the athletic department budget.
To that end, the I FUND has set a target goal of 15,000 donors giving $15 million annually to I FUND scholarships by 2020. These targets would double the current figures and, combined with interest income from endowments, would meet the expected education costs. With that in mind, the DIA has expanded its donor giving levels from the current seven to 12 levels, reflecting more directly to the true costs of an individual, annual scholarship and the need for involvement from every Illini fan.
The new top I FUND donor level is the Hall of Fame. That level requires lifetime giving to the DIA of $500,000 or more with a minimum annual fund contribution of $10,000. The next highest level is Loyalty Circle Platinum, which reflects annual outright support of $50,000 and the annual cost the DIA pays for a full out-of-state scholarship student-athlete. The following two levels, Loyalty Circle Gold ($30,000 annually) and Loyalty Circle Silver ($15,000), reflect the annual full and one-semester costs respectively of an in-state scholarship student-athlete. The traditional $10,000 giving level has been renamed Loyalty Circle Bronze.
Beyond the new levels at the upper end, the DIA also recognizes the need to engage all fans in order to compete with the best. Along those lines, the I FUND has set a goal to unite all Illini fans behind Illinois student-athletes and has established a new $50 giving level called Illini Nation.
"Illini fans have lofty goals and so do we," said Thomas. "However, in order to accomplish these goals we're all going to have to work together and potentially change the way we think and act. We currently rank in the bottom fourth of the Big Ten in total number of annual fund donors. We need involvement from every Illini fan in supporting our student-athletes, which is why we are excited to announce the new Illini Nation level in the I FUND. It needs to become part of our culture that this is what we do as members of Illini Nation...we support Illinois student-athletes through the I FUND."
As in the past, donors to the I FUND will have access to benefits. All ticket and parking benefits will be allocated from a top-down hierarchy starting with the Hall of Fame level. New Fighting Illini experience benefits will be available to donors participating in the Loyalty Circle Platinum, Gold and Silver levels. I FUND gifts are also tax-deductible.
"These changes allow additional opportunities to support student-athletes, while meeting our donor preferences for ticket and parking allocation," said Chris Peacock, Assistant Athletic Director - Development. "These changes bring us in line with our peer institutions within the Big Ten Conference and around the nation."
For more information about the changes to the I FUND allocation hierarchy, the priority points system and other modifications, see the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics' Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), charts and more at fightingillini.com/ifund/levels. The Development office can also be reached at 217-333-6595 or firstname.lastname@example.org in Champaign and 312-575-7850 or email@example.com in Chicago.
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