Analyzing Big Data in Intercollegiate Athletics: An Application to Athletic Donor Behavior

Jonathan A. Jensen – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Liz Wanless – Ohio University
Kaya Hedt – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Emily Wayland – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Intercollegiate athletic departments rely on fundraising for a significant percentage of their overall revenue. Therefore, the retention of donors is a critical issue. In an effort to better understand the factors that influence this important outcome, this study undertakes the first longitudinal analysis of donor behavior data from multiple universities in a major athletic conference (i.e., the Power Five), a total of 34,057 donors spanning 169,479 observations. After inserting covariates into a survival model, the effects of the economy are apparent, with economic growth decreasing the probability of a donor exiting and inflation increasing the probability of exiting, with results consistent across both universities. Living in the same state as the university and wins in the NCAA Tournament both decrease the probability of exiting, for both universities. These results support the efficacy of analyzing big data in the intercollegiate athletics industry, while also providing novel managerial insights for intercollegiate fundraisers.