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Preliminary Report of the Campaign Standards Working Group

Below is the preliminary report of the Campaign Standards Working Group released to the CASE membership for a six-week public comment period in conjunction with the group's initial recommendations. Based on feedback from the public comment period, the working group revised its recommendations before taking them to the CASE Board of Trustees for approval, which was granted in March 2008. The approved changes were reflected in the fall 2008 CASE Survey of Educational Fundraising Campaigns. Please see final language revisions for comparison with the third edition of CASE Management and Reporting Standards.

A Report of the CASE Campaign Standards Working Group
December 2007


In July 2006, the CASE Board of Trustees created the Campaign Standards Working Group to "take a fresh look at the CASE Management and Reporting Standards, in consultation with other groups and individuals, specifically as the standards apply to campaigns, due to developments in the field."

The standards trace their origin to 1979, when a committee of development and business officers began work on standard definitions for reporting gift income and expenditures in alumni relations, fundraising, and other constituent relations. This work, and the work of other volunteer committees of fundraising professionals in the following years, led to several publications outlining standards for counting annual and campaign giving or contributions to educational institutions. The most recent is the CASE Management and Reporting Standards: Standards for Annual Giving and Campaigns in Educational Fund Raising, Third Edition, published in 2004.

The standards were designed to help schools, colleges, and universities benchmark the goals and progress of their fundraising programs against other institutions. In order to make sure these comparisons were meaningful and accurate, institutions were asked to follow them when filling out the CASE Survey of Educational Fundraising Campaigns and the Council for Aid to Education’s Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) Survey. Although other uses of the standards have been voluntary, many institutions have elected to follow them for reporting both annual and campaign fundraising results to their own campus communities.

Committee Charge

The CASE Board of Trustees gave the 2006 Campaign Standards Working Group the following charge:

  • Identify what guidelines and data, if any, regarding campaigns would most benefit CASE institutional and professional members as well as the advancement profession.
  • Recommend whether the current CASE campaign standards are adequate to those identified needs and, if not, how might they be improved.
  • Recommend whether the data elements regarding campaigns being collected by CASE and other organizations are adequate for those needs and, if not, how they might be improved.
  • Recommend, based on these discussions, what position CASE should take toward other proposed campaign guidelines, such as those of the National Committee on Planned Giving.


The CASE Campaign Standards Working Group met three times (Nov. 14, 2006, and April 17 and Sept. 18, 2007) at CASE headquarters in Washington, D.C. In addition, the group gathered input through survey of chief advancement or development officers, a public email address and other outreach. The group kept CASE members updated on its work through the BriefCASE enewsletter, CURRENTS magazine, the CASE Web site, and reports to the CASE Commission on Philanthropy and Board of Trustees.

At its initial meeting, the group agreed that the existing standards continue to be a valuable resource, but that the new realities of campaigns called for their reexamination. These new realities included, for example, rapid growth in the scale of campaigns, donor sophistication, peer institution competition, increased public scrutiny, longer campaigns, the diversity of institutions embarking on campaigns, increased pressure for private support, and the growing variety and complexity of revenue sources. (See the group's full initial statement.)

The group also recognized the following:

  • That although the original intent of the standards was to serve as a benchmarking tool, many institutions have considered them to be prescriptive;
  • That campaigns are organic to institutional planning and priority-setting activities, and that within the planning process, institutions must make strategic decisions about how campaigns are structured and reported – consistent, of course, with the law, accounting standards, and ethical practice;
  • That all philanthropic gifts, regardless of how they are counted, made, and realized bring value to the institution, and information about them, even if they fall outside of IRS or other governmental recognition, is vital for strategic planning;
  • And finally, that standards are important to the profession because they contribute to clarity, transparency, consistency, and accountability.

For these reasons, the working group felt that the standards, as applied to campaigns, should be a recommendation of best practices and should be considered as "guidelines" or "principles" rather than "standards," although standards have a place in such areas as benchmarking and identifying practices to avoid. The group agreed that recommendations would be considered with the following goals in mind: encouraging institutions to make strategic choices about the structure and timeline of campaigns, allowing institutions to better benchmark against peer institutions, and enhancing clarity, transparency and accountability in the reporting of campaign progress.

While the committee identified a number of areas that might be explored, the following were identified as the highest priorities:

  • Counting of government support and matching gifts
  • Counting of revocable and irrevocable gifts
  • Valuation of deferred gifts
  • Treatment of conditional/unconditional pledges
  • Term/length of the campaign
  • Term/length of pledges

The group then conducted a survey of senior-level fundraising and development officers to evaluate current practices in each area and to seek member views of best and unacceptable practices in campaign counting. The survey results showed that while the majority of participating institutions followed the 2004 CASE Management and Reporting Standards in each of the individual areas identified for campaign counting, few followed them in all of the areas. In some cases, institutions took an alternative approach based upon a very thoughtful and compelling rationale.

Based upon the group's expertise, analysis of the survey data and other input, the group made a number of recommendations related to campaign counting and drafted related language for consideration by the CASE membership.


The working group makes the following recommendations specific to campaign counting and reporting (see attachment for proposed language recommendations and a comparison with current language in the third edition of the CASE Management and Reporting Standards):

  • Revocable gifts may be included in campaign totals at face value if they are pledged during the campaign, documented, and as long as they are reported separately from outright gifts and irrevocable deferred gifts.
  • Irrevocable deferred gifts may be included in campaign totals at face value, but both face and discounted present values should be reported.
  • Conditional pledges may be included in campaign totals if there is a reasonable expectation that the conditions under which the pledge is made will be met during the campaign period and if there is appropriate documentation.
  • Campaigns should be tied to the strategic goals of the institution, and for this reason the length of a campaign may vary. However, in order to maximize the commitment of volunteers, donors, staff and others, CASE recommends that a comprehensive campaign period generally not exceed eight years.
  • Government funds are very important to helping institutions achieve their strategic goals, they are often secured competitively and help leverage private funds, and fundraising staffs often are integral to securing government support. However, CASE reaffirms its position that comprehensive campaigns are fundamentally philanthropic ventures designed to raise resources from the private sector. Therefore securing government funds does not fall under the definition of philanthropy as a private act. For this reason, government funds should not be included in campaign totals, but institutions should work to raise visibility and recognition for the value of government funding in accomplishing institutional goals.
  • CASE should include a disclaimer to the revised campaign guidelines recognizing that within increasingly complex gift agreements, there will be situations not expressly covered in these guidelines and standards.

Next Steps

Following the development of its recommendations, the CASE Campaign Standards Working Group shared them with the CASE Commission on Philanthropy in October 2007 and the CASE Board of Trustees in November 2007. The general membership will have opportunities to provide public comment in January and February 2008. Based upon this feedback, the working group will make final recommendations to be considered by the CASE Board of Trustees for formal consideration. Should significant changes be approved by the board, the CASE staff will consider how to reflect changes in campaign reporting guidelines in future editions of the CASE Management and Reporting Standards. Approved changes will also be reflected in future versions of the CASE Survey of Educational Fundraising Campaigns in order to facilitate campaign benchmarking.

Closing Comments

The Campaign Standards Working Group commends CASE for recognizing that the ever-changing realities of fundraising campaigns may call for new strategies to reflect the total impact of private giving on institutional success. The group thanks the CASE Board of Trustees and CASE President John Lippincott for their confidence and support. Members of the working group are deeply grateful to the many professionals before them who dedicated their time to developing and updating the standards so that they reflected best practice as well as the evolution of the fundraising profession. Finally, the group expresses sincere thanks to CASE staff members Rae Goldsmith, Chris Thompson, and Norma Walker for helping it stay on track, gather input from members, and communicate the results of our deliberations.

Membership of the Working Group

Paul Sheff, chair
Vice President, Development and Alumni Affairs
College of the Holy Cross

Kyle Button
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
California State University, Los Angeles

Robert G. Dietrich
Executive Director, Individual Giving
Northeastern University

Ann House
Associate Vice President, Advancement Services
University of Miami

Kathleen Kavanagh
Senior Executive Vice President & Managing Director
Grenzebach Glier & Associates, Inc.

Jerry May
Vice President for Development
University of Michigan

Cheryle Mitvalsky
Vice President, Resource Development
Kirkwood Community College

Rick Nahm
Cranbrook Educational Community

Robert Sweeney
Senior Vice President, Development and Public Affairs
University of Virginia

Susan Washburn
Washburn & McGoldrick, Inc.