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U. of Georgia Ticket-Holders Return $14M to Athletics

Paul Steinbach

If there was a poll for ticket-base generosity, the University of Georgia might be the new number one.

Earlier this week, AB Today shared news that University of Michigan football fans had donated nearly $6 million to the pandemic-challenged athletic department instead of opting for refunds of their 2020 season-ticket investments. Forbes reported Wednesday that Georgia season-ticket holders have kicked back $14 million.

Related: Michigan Fans Donate Millions in Lieu of Refunds

The key to such success is how a school asks.

A finance executive who has given back to the University of Georgia’s athletic department told Forbes that the schools that paid attention to Consumer Behavior and Sales and Sales Management long before the pandemic are benefitting from season-ticket holders donating back unused tickets and seat license purchases because of the pandemic. The schools that treated their fans with a certain level of inexcitability or indifference while taking their money likely are not getting as much in the way of donations, but issuing refunds.

“The programs that may have been a little more forceful in the past in the way they raised money and are now switching gears to a more ‘high touch’ approach, donors are going to be more skeptical of them,” said Andy McGhee, a University of Georgia season-ticket holder and graduate of its Terry College of Business. “If you set a standard through the years of high-touch, like Georgia has, which was well before Covid, your donors are a lot more open and understanding where you are and buy into your program.”

The university saw 58 percent of its season-ticket base opt out of attending one of four home games and, according to Matt Borman, deputy athletic director for development, 26 percent of those who opted out said Georgia could keep all or a portion of their season ticket, seat donation and seatback buys for 2020.

Borman said Georgia created a “COVID Fund” out of the donations to help offset the costs of testing and other safety measures, as well as day-to-day operational costs. Athletic director Greg McGarity told the University of Georgia Athletics Association Board of Directors in September that the Bulldogs’ shortfall in revenue because of the pandemic was going to be about $55 million.

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