Name That Bat
On spring and summer evenings, just after sunset, the skies of Gainesville, Florida, U.S., fill with bats.
That’s when 450,000 bats take off from the University of Florida’s bat barns—said to be the world’s largest occupied bat houses. It’s something of a campus tradition to witness the nightly bat emergence, and in 2019, that led the university’s advancement team to let a quirky idea take flight. UF invited donors to make a gift and “name” a bat.
In a 2017 brainstorming meeting on naming opportunities, bats came up—and “we knew we had the winner,” says Nicole Neal, executive director of strategic communication at UF advancement. “The bats are a special part of our campus and naming them was just ridiculous enough to work.”
UF started the campaign in October 2018, but it really took off, says Neal, (no pun intended) in 2019, drawing 1,533 gifts—a 442% year over year increase.
While the naming itself was technically symbolic, donors received a real certificate with their bat name of choice. Some of the best names submitted? The Great Batsby, Tim Tebat, Batty White, Albat and Albata (the UF gator mascots are named Albert and Alberta), and Libatty West (named after the campus Liberty West library).
Creative, less-serious annual giving ideas like “Name a Bat” (which won a bronze 2020 CASE Circle of Excellence Award in targeted campaigns) help catch donors’ attention, and “that’s easier to do if we can offer variety,” says Neal.
About the author(s)
Meredith Barnett is the manager, digital communications at CASE.
Article appears in:
Community, Celebration, and Change: How traditions bridge past, present, and future. Plus, understanding how equity is central to institutions’ pursuit of social and racial justice, engaging alumni of color, and investing in alumni during trying times.