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Fowl Calls
Fowl Calls

Feathered mascots raise school spirit—and giving—during hoops season

By Toni Coleman

While 10 teams competed in New York in the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament, the mascots of Creighton, Marquette, and St. John's universities had their own competition: the Battle of the Beaks.

During a three-week challenge leading up to the tournament in March, Billy Bluejay, the Golden Eagle, and Johnny the Thunderbird vied to see which bird could gin up the most alumni and undergraduate participation in the annual fund.

Nebraska's Creighton called for a friendly fundraising challenge upon joining the Big East last summer. Just three institutions participated, and they all happen to have feathered mascots.

After a little trash talking, er, trash chirping, the Battle of the Beaks was on. How did each university get alumni and students to act?

Creighton mailed a trifold brochure with an appeal from Billy Bluejay on one side; the other side featured the institution's name in school colors, which alumni could display at games. Billy also starred with an actor-alumnus in a series of videos encouraging alumni and students to give. The challenge was incorporated into the phonathon script.

St. John's in New York also mailed an appeal from Johnny the Thunderbird and promoted the challenge during annual fund calls and at alumni events. Wisconsin's Marquette mailed appeal postcards to alumni most likely to give and relied heavily on email to make the ask. Social media played a big role in all three universities' efforts.

"This is a contest where there is no loser," says Scott VanDeusen, director of development for St. John's. "We all won because we all gained donors. We had a chance to market ourselves."

Adds Brian Diss, director of the Creighton Fund: "It was one of the first out-of-the-box giving campaigns we've done at Creighton for quite some time. It makes us know folks are paying attention to channels we haven't used before, and using different media types resulted in a good ROI for us."

Battle of the Beaks Standings Chart

About the Author Toni Coleman

Toni Coleman is the interim editor in chief of Currents.




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