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The Institutional Advancement Advantage: The Road Best Traveled

To Do a Campaign or Not To Do a Campaign -
That is the Question!

With the media portraying so much doom and gloom, and with college needs as great or greater than ever before, what is a foundation board to think and do? Many are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to move forward with a campaign during a time when many donors may have concerns about the current economic climate.

Research provides some interesting perspectives. Two separate studies by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University have been conducted recently: 1) giving during and following a crisis; and 2) giving during economic recessions. These studies provide information on the percentage of change in the stock market and on philanthropy in the United States. Findings include the following:

  1. With 4 exceptions, there was a conspicuous drop in the stock market within 30 days after a crisis.
  2. With 3 exceptions, the market recovered (within 1% or more) within 1 year.
  3. Despite crises, giving in each of the past 54 years has increased every year except 1.
  4. Each year, Americans have given more than the year before.
  5. Rates of market growth have varied.
  6. With 3 exceptions, giving in the calendar year after the crisis grew at a faster rate than it had during the calendar year before the event.
  7. Despite crises over the last 40 years, giving has grown at an average annual rate of 8.4% in current dollars.
  8. During past recessions, giving has grown at a rate of 6.2% in current dollars.

Below are other thoughts, research, and sources of information on giving during times of economic turmoil.

  1. Article by Ray Clements, CG’s CEO and Managing Member, on economic crises, community colleges, and donor reactions.
  2. Article by the Sharpe Group on giving during the great depression, fundraising in the current environment, and giving during economic downturns.
  3. Article by Effective Philanthropy indicating that in a time of economic crisis and political change, isolation is not an option.
  4. A variety of studies on The Foundation Center’s website on foundation giving in times of economic stress.
  5. Article by the Association of Fundraising Professionals on facing the economy with a sharp focus and solid strategy.
  6. Article by Kathryn Masterson published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (September 26, 2008): “Fund Raisers Keep a Close Eye on Financial Markets’ Movement.”
  7. Article by David Shieh published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, (January 9, 2009): “Despite Downturn, Some Colleges Continue to Receive Major Gifts.”

Two Best Practices Tip:

  1. Seriously consider the results of your feasibility study and what your donors say; however, put both into the context of what research tells you.
  2. Before making a campaign decision, boards ought to consider four key questions:
    • Are we "true believers" in the role of our college in changing lives and changing our communities?
    • Does the college and its current/future students really need our assistance?
    • Can we be significant advocates for "changing lives and changing our communities for the better?”
    • Will we be better off taking action to control our destiny and address our needs rather than having destiny determine that for us by not taking action?


Issue IV

A Best Practice Tip If An Organization Does Not Pursue a Campaign

Marv LeRoy, Director of Major Gifts and Gift Planning at Hudson Valley Community College (NY) and currently the manager of HVCC’s successful ongoing campaign, offers this best practice tip to those organizations who decide not to pursue a campaign:

"In years impacted by economic downturns, it is imperative that gift officers continue to reach out to major prospects even though actual solicitations may be suspended. In fact, during these times, gift officers might actually build “what if” scenarios into their conversations. For instance, one might ask a prospect to ponder what they would like to do if the economic environment was more favorable, and then agree that they'll return back to this line of thinking in better times."


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