Samples, Research & Tools
Statement from the CASE Campaign Standards Working Group

November 14, 2006

The Campaign Standards Working Group was charged with:

  • Identifying what guidelines and data, if any, regarding campaigns would most benefit CASE institutional and professional members as well as the advancement profession.
  • Recommending whether the current CASE campaign standards are adequate to those identified needs and, if not, how might they be improved.
  • Recommending 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.
  • Recommending, 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 committee took its charge seriously. We focused on recommendations in the CASE Management and Reporting Standards that apply to campaign standards in the current as well as previous versions.

We agreed that the existing standards continue to be a valuable resource, but that the new realities of campaigns should cause us to reexamine the current standards as well as earlier versions. These new realities include, for example, scale, donor sophistication, peer school 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.

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 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 recognition, is vital for strategic planning;
  • And finally, that standards are important to the profession because they contribute to clarity, transparency, consistency, and accountability in the way institutions report their campaign activities and successes.

For these reasons, the committee felt that the standards, as applied to campaigns, should be a recommendation of best practices as well as an identification of practices that are not acceptable or appropriate because they do not comply with accepted accounting, legal or ethical principles, are outside the range of accepted standard practice, or simply do not make common sense.

In light of the committee's leaning toward a "best practices" model, it frequently chose to use words like "guidelines" and "principles" rather than "standards" to describe what it was trying to accomplish and the tone it was trying to set.

The question for the committee then becomes how to identify, define and communicate best practices that contribute to campaign success as well as to the setting of institutional strategic priorities in a way that is clear, transparent, and meaningful and also has value for benchmarking.

Our recommendation is to consider a broader range of professional best practices than the current standards (for campaign counting) provide—a range that is informed by input gathered from CASE members and is in concert with the new realities of fundraising campaigns.

While we 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

Based on data to be gathered from CASE members and the expertise of the committee, the group proposes considering the following options for each area identified:

  • Recommend that the standards as applied to campaigns remain the same.
  • Recommend changes in the standards as applied to campaigns.
  • Recommend a range of acceptable best practices that could be incorporated as applied to campaigns.

In short, the committee believes that there is value in obtaining and providing data that allows the comparison of campaigns but suggests that the current data elements may be too narrow.

Potential revisions of the campaign reporting standards, including recommendations of best practices, will 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.