Inaugural Friends of Bates Athletics Giving Challenge is a 'runaway success'

The Bates men's and women's swimming and diving program raised over $31,000 via 268 donors in the inaugural Bates Athletics Giving Challenge. (File photo by Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

The first-ever Friends of Bates Athletics Giving Challenge was a blowout victory for Bobcat sports teams, like Secretariat winning the Belmont by 31 lengths or Tiger Woods capturing the U.S. Open by 15 shots.

Conducted from May 29 to May 31, the FBA Challenge drew 1,333 donors to its ranks — more than four times the goal of 310 donors.

"The runaway success of the FBA Challenge helps us deliver on our promise to each and every Bates student-athlete: You will be supported in your pursuit of excellence," said Director of Athletics Jason Fein. "I am grateful to our alumni, parents, and friends for responding to the challenge with trademark Bobcat generosity, enthusiasm, and passion."

Fein also gave a shout-out to Dick Coughlin '53 and Norma Crooks Coughlin '52, whose $10,000 challenge gift kicked off the competition on May 29. "Dick and Norma led by example. They led Bates onto the field."

The three-day FBA Challenge raised a total of $189,127, with donors directing gifts to each of Bates' 31 varsity teams. The men's and women's swimming and diving program achieved the most dollars ($31,832), while the women's basketball team achieved the most donors (308).

For Bates coaches, the FBA Challenge is a powerful twofer, providing specific program benefits — such as funding for expanded travel and training opportunities, better equipment, and stepped-up recruiting efforts — as well as support that's more intangible.

Peter Casares, head coach of men's and women's swimming and diving, says that FBA gifts fund team dinners during winter training trips, new training equipment, and water-repellant, compression "tech suits" that swimmers wear during NESCAC and NCAA championship meets.

"Our fundraising goal is $40,000 each year to run a program correctly for 60-plus athletes," says Casares. "What we accomplished — together, in just three days — will make an impact on us for an entire year."

The intangible benefit, Casares says, is "creating a culture of giving back. We've given back to our sport, to each other, to our team, and to Bates College. Simply put, a culture that gives, wins. We swim and dive our best when it is for others."

In the offseason, explains Alison Montgomery, head coach of women's basketball, FBA gifts underwrite recruiting trips around the country, "which is imperative to stay competitive."

In season, FBA gifts help "make the student experience much richer, particularly when we travel," she says. This winter, the team hopes to make its first major trip since 2011­–12, to Atlanta for two games in January.  The trip represents "a big fundraising undertaking," Montgomery says. "The FBA Challenge gifts are an awesome start toward our goal."

Conducted online through the GiveCampus portal, the FBA Challenge allowed teams to use their social media platforms, especially Instagram Stories, to great effect.

As it took to social media, "the women's basketball network was relentless, creative, and determined," Montgomery says, pointing to a program-wide vibe of "camaraderie and enthusiasm" that was "more galvanizing than any monetary gift."

Though not surprised by the 308-gift result, Montgomery says she was "overwhelmed by the strength of connection and sense of family that unites our group."

For men's head basketball coach Jon Furbush '05, FBA gifts will help purchase an improved shooting machine, bring his team to Miami for games over the winter, and fund top-of-the-line Under Armour apparel.

"The intangible benefit is the feeling of pride," he says. "Our alumni, parents, and friends want to see our student-athletes have a great experience and know that their donation can directly have an impact. Their gifts help instill a sense of purpose in our student-athletes — knowing that our success is important to our community."

Top Dollars

$31,832: Swimming & Diving (men & women)

$15,987: Men's Squash

$14,657: Men's Basketball

$13,775: Men's Lacrosse

$11,342: Women's Basketball

Top Donors

308:    Women's Basketball

268:    Swimming & Diving (M&W)

164:    Men's Basketball

83:      Alpine Skiing (M&W)

74:      Nordic Skiing (M&W)