Georgia Southern

Record-Setting Fundraising Year Closes for Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation

The Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation, in conjunction with the Department of Athletics, announced record-setting fundraising numbers for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The books have officially closed on the first full fiscal year for Georgia Southern Athletics under Athletic Director Jared Benko. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021 (FY21), the Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation raised a record $6.3 million in new pledges and outright gifts – more than 38% over the previous record.

“Eagle Nation is really something special and we are very thankful and blessed for the generosity shown during a difficult year,” Benko said. “This increase in funding will directly impact our student-athletes. We regularly talk about the passion of our fans rivaling any school in the country and it is invigorating to see how much our fans care about the university and our student-athletes. Their continued support, particularly in times of adversity like this past year, provide further affirmation that our best days are ahead!”

In total, Benko and representatives of the Athletic Foundation team completed over 600 face- to-face, one-on-one personal visits in a year, something that was a top priority for the new administration.

“Often when foundations report their numbers, they can be skewed by a few large gifts,” said Erick Reasoner, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development and head of the Athletic Foundation. “These can be one or two seven-figure gifts or what we call planned gifts, meaning life insurance or estate gifts, which sometimes are not realized for decades down the road. We are really proud of this number because $5.9 million of the $6.3 million we raised is from outright cash gifts or cash pledges and we had no seven-figure gifts included in this number. This was a grassroots effort, and we plan to continue helping our supporters get involved at this level.”

The Erk Russell Fund, the annual fund of the Foundation, had its highest number of donors since 2013 and there were 44 major gifts (identified as those of $25,000 or more) pledged to the Eagles in FY21. Of the 44 major gift donors, 33 of these supporters (75%) had never previously committed a major gift to the entire university.

The major gift side saw huge growth, almost quadrupling the previous year’s total and setting the mark for biggest year ever with over $4 million raised. Ben Rodriguez (Associate Director of Major Gifts), David Cutler (Associate Director of Development), and Frank Hook (Special Assistant to the AD) played an integral role in these efforts.

While FY21 has ended, the Foundation continues to work on securing pledges and donations in support of Georgia Southern Athletics. To donate, fans can go to

“The support Eagle Nation generously provides us on a yearly basis is critical to our department and it affords us the opportunity to provide a top-notch student-athlete experience,” Benko said. “Erick and his team have implemented a lot of new initiatives this past year, and with continued alignment with Dr. Kyle Marrero and Trip Addison (VP for University Advancement), we are set up for continued success in the coming years. I am really excited to continue to share our vision and plans for comprehensive excellence across our department. Hail Southern and G.A.T.A.!”

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