Stabler Arena, home to Lehigh's basketball programs. This year, the women's basketball team received an additional $3,000 in funding for garnering the highest rate of former alumni donating to the 2022 March Mania campaign. (Katie McNulty/B&W Staff)

Lehigh Athletics sets new March Mania fundraising record


Lehigh Athletics set a new record in 2022 in the annual March Mania fundraiser, raising $895,905. In 2021 they raised $845,007.

Lehigh Athletics Annual Giving Officer Lisa Landis said March Mania is an athletics giving campaign for Lehigh’s varsity athletics. The moniker originated as a play on the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Teams spread awareness with the Lehigh community to garner financial support in a March Madness-themed competition. 

This year, 1,375 donors contributed. Alumni made up 838 of the total donors, combining to raise $692,538. Other groups contributed too, including 275 parents, raising $123,665; 90 friends, raising $25,366; 69 faculty and staff members, raising $21,643; and 69 current students, raising $5,176. 

Lehigh Athletic Director Joe Sterrett said Lehigh Athletics aims to generate roughly $2.5 to $3 million a year to fund programs.

Sterrett said a third of that fundraising usually comes from the two days of March Mania, which Lehigh hosted from March 29-30 this year.  

For March Mania, Landis said over a 48-hour period, teams go against each other to see which has the strongest support. 

Lehigh Athletics Partnership Representative Harrison Lawrence said via email, all the money raised for specific teams goes directly to supporting those teams’ annual operating budgets.

The annual operating budgets include recruiting costs, out-of-region travel, training, equipment costs and expenses that vary by sport. 

“Everything we raise for this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, is funding available for the operational budgets for varsity sports starting July 1,” Landis said. 

Lehigh Athletics also fundraised for the General Lehigh Athletics Partnership Fund, which Lawrence said serves as a discretionary fund to be used on the department’s highest-order priorities.

Funding allocations for the General Lehigh Athletics Partnership Fund include support services benefitting all teams, such as the strength and conditioning staff, event staff, leadership training, academic support services, maintaining obligations to gender equity and responding to opportunities that emerge for which there is no specific funding. 

“(It) will go a long way in helping to support student-athletes in their journey to learn, grow and prepare for a lifetime of leadership,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said March Mania support is measured in three ways: total dollars raised, total number of donors and participation percentage. 

This year, women’s basketball achieved the highest alumni participation — measured by percentage of former athletes who donate — followed by women’s golf, field hockey, softball and volleyball. For placing first, with 31.18 percent of former athletes contributing, the women’s basketball team received an extra $3,000 in funding. Each of the successive four teams also received additional funds, decreasing in increments of 500 from women’s basketball’s total. 

The football team raised the most total dollars, reaching $122,000 from 128 total donations. The cross country team received the most total donations with 199, raising $62,300. 

Landis said both of these teams were awarded an extra $1,000 for finishing at the top of the total dollars and total donations categories.

“It has grown to be a significant part of our annual support efforts to generate gift funding from primarily alumni, but also some non-alums … who are willing to help support,” Sterrett said. “It started as a smaller scale and we’ve gotten more refined and effective in the way in which we communicate and market it.”

Lawrence said teams market their campaigns through email, social media content, coordination between Athletics Partnership Representatives and volunteers.

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