The Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation (RCAF) is one of the most instrumental parts of Cajuns sports.
As Executive Director of the organization, Lee De Leon said, “We’re in charge of raising money for all of our 16 different teams and 400-plus student-athletes at UL.”
He oversees a staff that helps with fundraising efforts and works with 25 volunteer board of directors that help raise money as well.
In 2019, the RCAF changed the model in which they raise money. This new investment model “helps our donors by counting their gifts to all units within athletics as well as their gifts across campus,” said De Leon. People that donate get priority points for all different areas they give money to.
“We have 14 different levels, ranging from $50 a year all the way up to $100,000 a year and we give out different benefits to different people,” De Leon said.
He gave examples on what kind of benefits donors can receive. Higher donors could receive a trip with the football team or a personalized parking pass, while lower donors could get a monthly e-newsletter or invitation to RCAF events.
“We’ve got something for everyone and we try to make it as easy as possible for people to give,” he said.
De Leon believes he has a specific job for fundraising efforts.
“My job I feel as the executive director is to make people feel good about the money that they spend with us and have people look forward to writing that check to the RCAF each year,” De Leon said.
In the past, donations to specific sports did not count toward the RCAF, but with the new model, that has changed.
The RCAF’s goal is “to build authentic relationships that provide the resources to enhance the experience of Louisiana student-athletes.” They do this by getting to know their donors personally and finding out their passions.
“We try to give them opportunities to support those passions financially,” said De Leon.
For someone newly interested in donating to the RCAF, you don’t have to be an athlete or alumni to donate.
“We just want people to have a passion for the Ragin’ Cajuns, or they care about the community of Acadiana, or they love the university,” he said. “Anybody that wants to help improve the lives of our student-athletes can give to the RCAF and become a member.”
Fundraising has been more difficult due to COVID-19.
“We haven’t been able to get in front of our donors as much as we’d like and see them face to face, whether that’s at games or at events, you know all those have been canceled,” he said.
“It’s also been hard because the economy is still bad and it’s hard to ask people for money when things are as difficult as they are right now, and not only because of COVID, but just because the oil market as well is down,” De Leon said.
“I joke all the time, it’s a bad time to be a fundraiser right now, but we’re trying to make lemonade out of lemons and continue to build authentic relationships where people understand what we’re trying to accomplish and they want to support it,” De Leon said.
Lee knows it’s hard, but he believes it’s necessary and rewarding.
“We’re a non-profit organization just like American Red Cross or Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers Big Sisters. When people join the RCAF and they make a donation, it’s tax-deductible because it’s supporting a non-profit and it’s going to a good cause.
“We just have to continue to remind people, you don’t just give to the RCAF to get better tickets or better parking, you give to the RCAF and you become a member because you want to make an impact on our student-athletes and help them succeed on and off the field of play,” De Leon said.