Samples, Research & Tools
CASE Advancement Investment Measurement Study (AIMs) and Benchmarking Tool

CASE is undertaking a study of investments in advancement using the CASE Benchmarking Toolkit. The toolkit will help member institutions participating in the study assess the effectiveness of their fundraising operations and demonstrate the value of investing in advancement.

Why is CASE undertaking this study?

One of the most frequent questions members ask of CASE is: “How much do I need to spend to raise a dollar?” However, there is no simple or universal answer. An institution building its fundraising infrastructure or preparing to launch a campaign, for example, may need to spend significantly more per dollar than one with a mature fundraising operation. Institution type, size, location, mission, fundraising goals, donor base and many other factors influence how much a school, college or university should invest in fundraising operations. The only certainty is that a lack of investment will yield a lack of results.

Complicating the question is the fact that fundraising success is supported by investments in other areas of advancement including alumni relations and communications and marketing. Should these investments be considered and, if so, how should they be factored in?

In short, a seemingly simple question is actually quite complex and difficult to answer given the many variables to consider, a lack of consensus around definitions of appropriate expenditures to include, and a lack of comparable data. CASE intends to fill this vacuum with a practical survey tool that will give members common definitions for what to count; the opportunity to enter their own data regarding expenses, staffing and other factors; and the ability to select their own variables to compare their own expenditures and results—anonymously—with those of peer institutions at similar stages of development.

Hasn’t this been done before?

The closest CASE has come to measuring fundraising investments by educational institutions is a study that resulted in the book Expenditures in Fundraising, Alumni Relations, and Other Constituent (Public) Relations. That work, published in 1990 and no longer in print, was funded by the Lilly Foundation, and is often referred to as the “Lilly Study.” While the Lilly Study’s methodology lives on as an appendix in the CASE Management and Reporting Standards (3rd edition), currently under revision, it has never been applied to any broad and systematic survey. Furthermore, the world of advancement has changed significantly since the Lilly Study, which called for including the cost of typewriter ribbons but did not account for investments in technology. After nearly two decades, it is time for a fresh approach.

What is the goal of the AIMS study?

The 10 specific objectives of the AIMs study are:

  • To update CASE’s 1990 Lilly Study on the cost of fundraising
  • To update the methodology used in Lilly by taking into account, for example, changes in information technology
  • To refine the methodology and approach on the basis of experience with a pilot group of volunteers
  • To ascertain the real present value of investing in fundraising and variances by type and size of institution, campaign status, staffing and other factors
  • To demonstrate the value of advancement to institutions in terms of return on investment and to give members systematic, comparable, well-grounded information for making the case to invest
  • To encourage the strategic business use of any resulting fundraising investment data for data-driven planning and decision-making in the advancement field
  • To develop practical methods and strategies for predicting return on investment that can be used by members when planning and expanding their advancement operations to meet given goals
  • To help CASE members articulate the rationale for investing in advancement, assess the effectiveness of their fundraising operations and understand how to interpret resulting numbers within the context of their advancement goals and use the information for continuous internal improvement of programs and multi-campus systems
  • To give members the tools to benchmark their programs against their peers through the CASE Benchmarking Toolkit
  • To gather information on overall advancement investment for the benefit of members and the profession
How will CASE achieve these objectives?

CASE has appointed a volunteer advisory group of seasoned fundraising professionals and expert association representatives to lead the process with assistance from CASE staff. To date, the group has had extensive discussion around the difficult questions that need to be answered in order to reach consensus about the methodology that will best serve the profession.

The advisory group reviewed the Lilly Study in detail and scanned other relevant literature to identify modern developments in cost-of-fundraising analysis in order to arrive at key questions that were still open for interpretation. Members then agreed on scope, detail, working definitions and boundaries to resolve those questions before developing a pilot survey and a supporting document to assist respondents. Members conducted a pre-pilot test using their own institutional data before recruiting other institutions to participate in the pilot test scheduled for March and April of 2009. The pilot group will allow wider testing of the approach and the survey questions and provide preliminary calculations with real results.

Who serves on the AIMs advisory group?

Members of the group were chosen because of their extensive personal experience with educational fundraising and their deep understanding of institutional issues and data. They include:

Public colleges and universities:

  • Thomas J. Mitchell, chair, Vice Chancellor, University Advancement, University of California, Irvine
  • Lori Redfearn, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Advancement Services, Division of Business and Finance, California State University
  • Connie Kravas, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, University of Washington

Private colleges and universities:

  • Richard Boardman, Associate Dean for Development and Alumni Relations, and Senior Advisor, Harvard Law School
  • Dr. Peyton R. Helm, President, Muhlenberg College
  • David T. Blasingame, Executive Vice Chancellor for Alumni and Development Programs, Washington University in St. Louis

CASE Educational Partners:

  • John Glier, Principal, Grenzebach Glier & Associates Inc.
  • Donald M. Fellows, President & CEO, Marts and Lundy Inc.

Other associations:

  • Ann E. Kaplan, Director of the Voluntary Support of Education survey, Council for Aid to Education
  • Matt Hamill, National Association of College and University Business Officers
How will CASE members be served through the AIMS project?

CASE member participants will benefit from a number of materials and outcomes:

  • A new methodology (including agreed definitions, questions, a survey, a guidance document, and a Web-based tool for peer-to-peer comparison) for measuring investments in advancement
  • A summary report on the pilot study
  • A variety of materials helping them to understand, explain and use the data

In addition, CASE will share insights from the study with members through a variety of outlets.

Do I have to participate?

Participation in the pilot, and later in the full advancement investment survey, is open to CASE members only and is entirely voluntary.

If I take part in the survey, who else will get to see my institution’s information?

The person designated by each institution to respond to the survey will see his or her own institution’s data in full, but the data of other institutions participating in the survey and the summary statistics will not be visible in any way that connects actual data to an individual institution. Non-participants will not be able to enter the toolkit and see any data at all. Contributing your institution’s data is the price of admission. CASE may later report summary data only, through a variety of publications and outlets, for the benefit of the profession.

How will the actual calculations of expense in comparison with dollars raised be made?

Once the advisory group has the data from the pilot study, members will explore several models before deciding on a recommended approach.

What if I participate and find out that I’m spending more than my peer institutions, raising questions about whether I should be spending as much? How will this information be shared with my institution in a way that provides appropriate context?

CASE strongly believes that there is no single, universally “correct” figure for how much an institution should invest to raise a dollar, since institutions are all at different phases in their fundraising programs, have different missions and goals, and different donor bases upon which to draw. CASE will make this point in all communications related to the project. CASE will not release any data identifying any institution by name, and released data sorted by, for example, institution type is likely to be expressed in ranges rather than in absolute, single figures.

Participants will decide what to provide their own constituents related to how they compare with their peers and with the whole. (The CASE Benchmarking Toolkit allows participants to define the data points they want to analyze and, once defined, develop their own downloadable charts for inclusion in reports and presentations.)

CASE will also provide materials that will give context to the findings and help members understand, explain and use the data.