Lindsey Buckheit ’15 knows firsthand just how important philanthropy is for the student-athletes who represent the Tribe in athletic competition. Without private support, Buckheit and other students might not have been able to attend William & Mary and participate in a Division I athletics program.
“An athletic scholarship provided me with an opportunity of a lifetime to learn at an incredible institution, all while having a second family by my side every day at Busch Field,” she said.
Buckheit, a Tribe field hockey player, created Ten for the Tribe, an initiative intended to foster engagement and philanthropy among William & Mary’s student-athletes before they graduate.
Student-athletes from the university’s 23 varsity programs were asked to give $10 to support their teams during the initiative, which resulted in gifts from 529 student-athletes — 99 percent of the total population of 535.
“I was not surprised by the awesome support, but never in a million years had I thought we would reach 99 percent participation,” said Buckheit. “It is absolutely incredible.”
The extraordinarily high participation rate for the September initiative was not surprising to Tribe baseball player Willie Shaw ’14, because of William & Mary’s “One Tribe, One Family” culture.
“It’s not just a marketing slogan or a hashtag,” he said.
Buckheit is a representative on the Tribe Club Executive Board. The Tribe Club, which was established in 1948, is a group of alumni and friends who work to provide support for William & Mary’s student-athletes. Since the W&M Athletics Department receives no financial support from the state, it depends upon the generosity of alumni, parents and friends who give through the Tribe Club to provide funding for scholarships, equipment, travel and other necessary expenses.
With the Tribe Club Executive Board’s blessing, Buckheit teamed up with Tribe swimmer Ryan Natal ’16 — who also is a student-athlete representative on the board — and Carey Goodman and Nick Georges, assistant directors of athletic development for the Tribe Club, to implement Ten for the Tribe.
“It is so important student-athletes understand that we are not funded by the state, and without private support, Tribe Athletics wouldn’t exist,” Buckheit said.
Goodman and Georges met with each team to inform them of the initiative. During those team meetings, many Tribe coaches made gifts to encourage student-athletes to support Ten for the Tribe. The initiative included a social media campaign featuring a logo and brief videos to show the impact of private philanthropy on each sport.
“The Ten for the Tribe program made our athletes realize we must all share responsibility for our department’s existence,” said Tribe volleyball head coach Melissa Aldrich Shelton ’91.
Student-athletes gave more than $5,500 in support of Ten for the Tribe. Donations from some Tribe Club members provided for a 2-to-1 match for gifts to teams that achieved 100 percent participation from players. Every women’s varsity team posted a 100 percent participation rate. Including matching funds, the initiative raised a total of $16,565.
“This initiative was a tremendous success,” said Bobby Dwyer M.Ed. ’94, the executive director of the Tribe Club. “Lindsey’s idea was brought to life and executed with a lot of hard work by Carey, Nick and Ryan. The participation numbers reflect what a truly special place William & Mary is to be a student-athlete.”
Tribe men’s soccer head coach Chris Norris ’95 said Ten for the Tribe was an opportunity “to have a dialogue with our student-athletes about what a great privilege it is to play an intercollegiate sport at William & Mary. Without overburdening them with details, we are able to get our student-athletes to recognize the importance of private funding to our athletic program,” Norris said. “Hopefully, we are also getting them in the habit of giving back financially, in addition to all they give during their four years here.”
Alumni support is vital for collegiate athletic programs, said Tribe lacrosse head coach Hillary Fratzke.
“The Ten for the Tribe campaign was a great way to encourage the habit of giving back before student-athletes graduate. It also encouraged them to recognize the importance of the support required to make a program possible,” she said.
Zachary Fetters ’15, a William & Mary football player, said being a part of the Tribe Athletics family is an amazing opportunity. “We only want to make the experience even better for those to come after us,” he said.
Buckheit believes current student-athletes will continue to support their programs in any way possible as alumni.
“Ten for the Tribe demonstrated how $10 can quickly turn into $16,000 when everyone participates. We hope that in showing how every little bit counts, current student-athletes will continue this habit and give back in whatever amount possible. You don’t have to donate thousands of dollars to make a difference,” she said.