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Best Practices for Fundraising in Division II


Nov. 17, 2010

How athletics development differs between Divisions I and II:

The fundamentals required to raise funds at both levels are very similar. At the Division II level, I believe that you see a higher percentage of large donors who support athletics as well as other significant university causes. In most cases Division II athletics programs also work with smaller donor bases, thereby allowing the Division II development professional an opportunity to build closer and more intimate relationships with those donors. In addition, most Division II universities' donor bases are more regionally based than those of Division I institutions.

The ways in which those differences impact the way you fund raise and attract donors at the Division II level:

Division II athletics development professionals must work more closely with other development areas at the university in order to most effectively match the donors with the causes that bring the most benefit to the university. With smaller donor bases and the ability to form more intimate relationships with the donors, Division II development professionals have a better opportunity to match their donors' desires and interests with the university's greatest needs.

The biggest challenge I face in my current position:

There are many, but in particular at our institution we struggle to identify and produce donors for our non-revenue sports. We have had excellent success in fundraising for both football and men’s basketball, but have not been as successful outside of those two programs.

My development as a Division II athletics development professional:

I have come to better understand the importance of athletics development at the Division II level with the significant budget cuts that our institution has experienced over the past several years. In addition, I have become more comfortable making an initial contact with a prospective donor knowing that in most cases they appreciate the opportunity to become better connected with the university.

The necessary skill set for a development professional in Division II:

First and foremost, I believe that you have to have a passion for athletics and helping student athletes. In addition, development professional must have a strong work ethic and excellent people skills. I also believe that it is important to be open minded and willing to continue to learn throughout your career.

The advice I would you give to someone looking to enter the field of intercollegiate athletics development:

There are many different paths that an individual can take to enter the athletics development field, and one is not necessarily better than the other. Being involved in athletics as a student athlete, coach and/or administrator are all beneficial to having a better understanding of the field and will help in relating to athletics donors. An additional step would be to become involved in athletics through a graduate assistant position or internship. Both will provide valuable exposure and experience that will benefit an individual’s career advancement.

How my NAADD membership has influenced played an important role in my professional development:

It has provided both an excellent avenue for professional networking as well as a means to interact with colleagues who are willing to share ideas, challenges and successes. The annual convention provides a tremendous opportunity to learn best practices in athletics development as well as have the ability to visit face to face with colleagues from around the country. In addition, the extensive resources provided through NAADD have been invaluable to my professional development.


About Neil Elliott:

Neil Elliott obtained a B.S. in Economics and Business Administration/Business Education from McPherson College in 1986.  He then went on to gain an M.S. in Athletic Administration from Oklahoma State University in 1988.

He joined Northwest’s University Advancement team in October 2007. There he is responsible for managing a pool of donors who support Northwest’s 16 athletic programs. Elliott also assists in donor cultivation and stewardship programs, working closely with the Northwest athletic director and coaches.

Prior to coming to Northwest, Elliott spent 12 years in coaching and eight years in athletic administration at several community colleges and four-year institutions throughout the Midwest.

Neil is originally from south central Kansas and participated in athletics in both high school and college. His wife, Jackie, is Northwest’s vice president for student affairs. They currently reside in Maryville and have four sons: Josh, Bryan, Noah and Ben. Elliott enjoys spending time with his family, helping coach his boys’ athletic teams and attending athletic events.