Aggie Pride Magazine sat down with Jennifer Thomas, the new associate athletic director for development, to learn more about her background and her goals for supporting the 325 student-athletes on campus. Thomas, who played women’s basketball at the University of North Carolina, is in charge of fundraising and corporate sales for Aggie Athletics. Her main goal is to provide student-athletes with the scholarship funding needed to enroll and earn a degree.
Q: Why is
fundraising so important?
A: “It’s important because you’re giving student-athletes who technically wouldn’t have a chance to compete or to go to school; you’re giving them that opportunity. It’s not about the dollar value. I think people sometimes shy away from giving because they think, “Oh, I have to give $1,000 or $5,000.” But $50, $25—it’s just making that commitment to help a student-athlete reach their goals. We say we want to win, but you have to put your money where your mouth is. We don’t have the funding to maybe go out and recruit like Elon or UNC Greensboro because of our budget. So having donations come in helps our coaches purse those student-athletes who can get it done in the classroom and on the fields, courts, or whatever.”
Q: What do those
fundraising dollars go toward?
A: “Scholarships. Right now the focus is scholarships. We want to be able to fully fund all of the maximum allotted scholarships that the NCAA allows us to have. That’s the goal, that’s the push right now. Of course, we want to help our coaches with their operating budgets, but definitely the push right now is scholarships. We met our goals last year, but with increasing tuition and with us trying to recruit bigger, stronger, faster athletes, you’re going to need to meet certain new goals, higher goals. Any amount helps. Of course we want people to be able to come at the $100 level and higher to be a part of the AAF and receive certain benefits, but we’ll never turn away a donation. To fully fund scholarships would be $3.5 million. With the AAF, we’re about providing the scholarships and that’s our goal for this year is to really stress the importance of scholarships and that drive.”
Q: How else can A&T fans help support athletics besides just giving?
A: “We recognize everyone does not have the means. Just coming out to the games and showing your support, being positive and being a center of influence. You may not be able to give, but encourage your friends or people who may have the capacity to support the AAF and our student-athletes. Being a mentor helps. If you have a business and you can come and talk to one of our track and field athletes about entrepreneurship or about how to jumpstart a business, that’s a way to give back. That’s a problem with a lot of younger alums. They feel like because they don’t have it, and they’re trying to get started in their own careers that the only way to give is through money. We’re not looking for just money. Come back to letterwinners’ day, come back to events we have because we want you to be around and see what we’re doing here because there are some great things happening. We don’t want to have that disconnect. Any way you can help, whether it’s financially supporting the AAF or coming out and supporting the team or your former sport, that’s it right there. That’s big.”
Q: In your efforts to help raise funds for A&T student-athletes, you work with corporate sales as well as with donors, correct?