VAF NEWS & NOTABLES
When COVID-19 caused the Virginia Athletics Foundation to cancel in-person events, in-game hospitality spaces, and suite operations, we sought new avenues to engage and steward donors and alumni through virtual events. Since April, VAF has connected with almost 3,000 constituents on Zoom featuring coaches, student-athletes, and student-athlete alumni as special guests.
One of the most personal engagement efforts highlighted our endowed scholarships. Traditionally, endowed scholarship recipients are announced at the annual Hoos Choice Awards. Once the event was canceled for May 2020, VAF connected our endowed donors with their endowment scholarship recipient student-athletes through private Zoom meetings. Donors were able to share their reasoning for establishing the scholarship, student-athletes personally thanked the donors and stated how much their scholarship means to them, and coaches stressed the importance of scholarships to their program. VAF publically shared portions of the meaningful calls with edited video clips on social media and the VAF website.
An important goal established early in quarantine was to directly engage with our Cavs for Life as the fall 2020 All-Sports Reunion would be canceled. Student-athlete alumni have enjoyed sport-specific Zoom calls with their sports’ coaches allowing intimate and engaging conversations. Some sports were offered larger webinars, while other sports were divided into segmented graduation years for smaller conversations. Coaches provided updates on shortened season impacts, how teams trained at home during the spring and summer, and fall scheduling predictions and recruiting impacts. Some of their student-athletes joined the events to share their perspectives and experiences as well. Throughout these intimate settings, alumni had many questions for the programs and offered their help with player career networking and sport fundraising. Some sports such as Track & Field/Cross Country, Baseball, and Men’s Lacrosse have hosted speaker series on current team Zoom meetings to motivate teams and provide career advice/connections.
Additionally, VAF has hosted various donor Zoom events to show appreciation during such an uncertain time. Now more than ever, we need support from our generous donors! Coach Bennett and Coach Mendenhall participated in several small and large Zoom calls to thank donors for their continuous support and provide program updates in an intimate smaller setting so donors could also ask questions. Those included endowment and scholarship society donors, donors to Coaches 10, and new facility projects such as the Master Plan, and the Basketball Performance Center and Locker Room. Some head coaches helped us host sport-specific Friends Of donors and season ticket holder calls such as Women’s Basketball with Coach Thompson. Men’s and Women’s Golf facility donors and past fundraising tournament participants were able to enjoy a Zoom with both head coaches Ria Scott and Bowen Sargent and UVA golf alumni/celebrity pro golfers Denny McCarthy and Lauren Pond. Recently, men’s basketball Associate Head Coach Jason Williford and UVA men’s basketball alumnus Malcolm Brogdon joined VAF for an all-inclusive Zoom for all VAF donors and UVA alumni who have participated in UVA Club engagement events to share program updates and NBA bubble experiences.
While the Spring Social Tour consisting of between 13 and 16 in-person events around various donor districts was canceled, VAF virtually brought the coaches to the donors’ homes instead. Coach Bennett and Coach Mendenhall each had a large webinar for the donor districts they were scheduled to visit. Programs resembled in-person Socials with a VAF update by Dirk Katstra and an interview with the coach and a student-athlete led by Dave Koehn, Voice of the Cavaliers. Student-athletes Jay Huff (MBB) and Charles Snowden (Football) participated, and donors were able to submit questions for all participants.
Director of Athletics Carla Williams participated in many of our Zoom calls and hosted a meaningful conversation with almost 30 of our top lifetime donors and board members providing program updates from her perspective.
The VAF plans to continue bringing Virginia Athletics to our donors’ homes virtually throughout the fall as well so we can keep sharing the passion, determination, and hard work by our student-athletes, coaches and leadership. We are incredibly grateful for our donor support!