Stewart to increase community involvement in athletics department

Melody Stewart was recently hired to the position of annual funds and major gifts officer in the athletics department. She hopes to increase the community involvement in the athletics department for Division I.

Melody Stewart has filled the position of annual funds and major gifts officer in the athletics department at UNA.

Stewart, an alumna of the university, began the job in January. She has worked in the Office of University Advancement for the past three and a half years and was the liaison for the athletics department before taking the job.

As officer of annual funds and major gifts, Stewart now works full-time for the athletics department.

“Our hope is that by having a full-time fundraiser, we will generate additional revenue in two areas,” said Mark Linder, director of athletics. “The first is to help with operational costs, such as gas prices for traveling to away games. That’s the annual giving side. The second—major gifts—is for the university’s transition to (Division I).”

Despite the aim to handling major gifts for the D-I transition, Linder and Stewart both agree that alumni giving has grown exponentially in recent years and the position was necessary, regardless of the move.

“The alumni giving percentage has more than quadrupled in the four years I have been here,” Stewart said. “It was at 2 percent, and at the end of the last fiscal year, it was up to 9 percent. The university has grown so much that this position was needed, even without the D-I transition.”

Stewart said the biggest part of her job is finding and maintaining involvement with donors and alumni.

“A large part of it is promoting involvement from alumni and handling donations to the athletics department,” Stewart said. “Athletics is a huge tradition at UNA, and we have a strong group of support.”

Stewart, alongside others in the athletics department, is working on several events that will help bring both community and alumni involvement to athletics. She is currently working on the upcoming annual membership drive for the Sportsman Club, as well as a bass fishing tournament that will take place in October to benefit women’s sports at UNA.

“We’re also looking to build lots of relationships within the community this summer,” Stewart said. “We want to be available as much as the community wants us to be.”

Linder said the creation of this position has been, and will continue to be, good for the athletics department as a whole.

“It’s been a very positive move for our department,” Linder said. “Melody’s a tireless worker. She loves the university and believes in the direction of the department.

“This will also hopefully alleviate some of the stress in our department. It’s going to allow the coaches to coach and recruit, which is why they’re here.”