Blue and Gold Women’s Varsity Endowment Fund is picking up its fundraising pace

It’s been 10 months since the Blue and Gold Women’s Varsity Endowment Fund was announced and the initiative is already halfway to its $100,000 goal.

Announced at last season’s Millennium Breakfast, the fund intends to close the gender gap within sports scholarships on campus, with all funds raised (and UBC’s matched funds) going towards women’s varsity sports scholarships.

UBC Athletics’ Development and Alumni Engagement team has raised $48,000 for the endowment — primarily over the last six months since Sarah Barclay, the new director of development and alumni engagement, took her post. Barclay hopes to hit the $100,000 mark by this season’s Millennium Breakfast on February 26, 2019.

Since assuming her role in August, Barclay has also seen several donors shift their priorities from supporting a men’s team to balancing their donations between the men’s and women’s teams.

“ A number of donors have said, ‘You know what ... of course I want to do equal gender [donating].’ … We’ve started the conversation and now it’s starting to trickling down not only into this endowment but all of our other fundraising,” Barclay explained.

The unveiling of the new initiative — which was originally seeded by a $30,000 anonymous donation — has also helped seed three other varsity endowments on campus, as donors became aware of the discrepancies in gendered funding at the varsity level.

“We’ve had a new endowment for women’s rugby that has been created for $125,000 which will be matched by the university as well, so it will created a $250,000 endowment fund,” Barclay said about one of the other new funds. “... This donor historically supported men’s teams and he turned around and said, ‘What am I doing for women?’ and he’s gone and done this, which is incredible.”

The Blue and Gold Women’s Varsity Endowment Fund is still gaining traction. It is on the hunt for an initiative champion to help it pick up momentum, particularly with regard to finding other alumnae willing to donate to their old program — and give big.

Typically, UBC’s female varsity graduates have been more likely to give smaller but more frequent donations to Athletics, while male graduates will give one large sum.

This observation was previously addressed by the Twenty8 Group, a leadership group for funding women in varsity sport on campus. In hopes of evolving the Twenty8 Group’s goals, Barclay and UBC Athletics have transitioned the group into a collective called Thunderbird Women in Sport.

“With the Twenty8 Group, it was a fairly exclusive group — you had to donate $500 in order to gain membership as donor — and there was a number of younger [alumna] who came up to me and said, ‘You know, I really wanted to be a part of that group, but $500 was too steep for me right out of school,’ and so that’s why we kind of took a step back and said, ‘How about we just, at this point, make it an inclusive group,’” Barclay said.

The collective hopes to allow more of UBC’s community to be involved in fundraising for women’s sport, with space open for alumni, staff, students and general athletics community advocates. To date, it has been championed and led by UBC women’s basketball alumna, Sauder graduate and UBC Hall of Famer Erica McGuinness.

“She epitomizes everything that the … initiative should focus [on]. Somebody who volunteers, has an amazing corporate, powerful woman job, breaking glass ceilings, she’s about to have her second kid and she’s just doing it all and … really directing me as well to figure out where we can fundraise from,” Barclay said.

Though there is evident progress since the Blue and Gold Varsity Endowment Funds announcement last year, Barclay acknowledged that it’s still missing that one, incredibly substantial donation. But that’s not a far-fetched dream.

In September, McGill University announced a $3.5-million gift from alumni Sheryl and David Kerr. According to McGill’s press release, the donation intends to “advance the role of women as athletes, coaches and decision-makers” by increasing the number of position available for female coaches on campus and helping female athletes be leaders in the community.

“One of the female alumni said to me, ‘Where is our Kerr family? Sarah, where are they?’," Barclay said. "and I said, ‘Find them for me, I’m looking.’”