Anyone who has been by the Butler baseball or softball fields can attest to how much they have improved over the past two years.
Both fields were renovated with new bleachers, backstop walls and nets, bullpens, cages, wall padding , dugouts and improved playing surfaces. Additionally an indoor hitting facility was built.
A large part of those changes are a result of fundraising, which helps every athletic team at Butler.
Fundraising is done several ways at Butler.
Kyle Smith, assistant director of the Bulldog Club, describes the club as being “the umbrella” for all fundraising activities.
Membership to the Bulldog Club can be given to anyone, whether he or she gives $1 million or just $1.
In addition to the Bulldog Club, each team has its own individual gift fund.
“If someone wants to come in and give to soccer or volleyball, they can do that, and we have a lot of people that do that,” Smith said.
Fundraising comes into play if a team wants to do a project that is not approved by its budget.
Examples of this are the baseball and softball facilities.
“The facility upgrades have been strictly from money that has been in teams gift funds and help from the Bulldog Club,” Smith said.
Money that is given to a specific team’s fund is also used for replacing or improving equipment, improving travel and food accommodations and improving facilities.
Athletic coaches also work with the Bulldog Club to reach out to former players and current or former donors.
Fundraising by coaches was not always available for teams.
When Steve Farley, coach of the baseball team, arrived in the early ‘90s, the university did not allow coaches to fundraise.
When Farley first started out fundraising, he sent out letters in the fall and spring to all his former alumni to tell them how the team would benefit from a donation.
Upon sending out his initial letter, “lots of nice donations came in,” Farley said.
For the past few years, the players have been sending out letters to potential donors, usually people back in their hometowns. Farley said this money goes toward the team’s spring break trip to Arizona.
Last year, Bob Haddad, father of senior baseball catcher Radley Haddad, played a big part in the remodeling of Bulldog Park.
Haddad was able to put together a plan to help with the remodeling process, which included a new backstop, new patios and new dugouts. With his connections, he was able to save the team some money on bricks, concrete and other materials.
The volleyball team, similarly to baseball, has help from its alumni with raising money. Volleyball also does an online auction to generate funds, coach Sharon Clark said.
Fortunately, fundraising has not been impacted by the economy. Smith said total Bulldog Club and team athletic funds have had a 98 percent increase over the past five years.
Additionally, the Bulldog Club in each of the past two years has amassed more than 2,700 donors, a feat that has never been accomplished before. In prior years, the Bulldog Club did not even reach 2,000 members.
Over the past five years, total Bulldog Club membership has increased by 63 percent.
“Now, we’re probably as good as we’ve ever been,” Farley said. “If you talk to our seniors, they would say (the field) is as nice as it’s ever been down there.”
While fundraising and Bulldog Club memberships are at an all-time high, Smith believes that the switch to the Atlantic 10 Conference will help fundraising even more at Butler.
“It’s hard to get a defined reason why someone gives,” Smith said. “But the A-10 is obviously going to generate excitement, which can only benefit fundraising.”