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Introduction to the CASE Reporting Standards & Management Guidelines, 4th edition

Below is an adaptation of the introduction to the CASE Reporting Standards & Management Guidelines for Educational Fundraising, 4th edition.

As the leading source for best practice in educational fundraising, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) offers these reporting standards and management guidelines for annual fundraising and campaigns. This book provides institutional leaders and fundraising officials at schools, colleges, and universities with two important kinds of information:

  • Section I includes the prescribed standards for institutions to use in reporting their fundraising results to CASE for its annual Survey of Educational Fundraising Campaigns and to the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) for its annual Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey, and
  • Section II includes selected guidelines for educational institutions to consider in the management of their annual fundraising programs and fundraising campaigns.

Now in its fourth edition, this book is the result of 30 years of review and development by leading fundraising practitioners and researchers in North America. Seven volunteer committees contributed to these standards and guidelines, based on widespread input from CASE members. (A brief history of the book's evolution, along with the names of those who served on the committees that contributed to its development, can be found in the appendix.)

The fourth edition also contains important revisions to the reporting standards as they apply specifically to campaigns. (The standards for reporting annual fundraising results remain unchanged from the third edition.) The campaign-related revisions provide institutions with the opportunity to report gifts in additional ways that recognize the importance of all donors, the value of all gifts, as well as the efforts of all members of the fundraising staff.

In March of 2008, following an eighteen-month review by an expert working group and extensive input from the CASE membership, the CASE Board of Trustees approved the following revisions to the campaign standards:

  • You may report irrevocable deferred gifts at both face and discounted present values.
  • You may report revocable gifts at face value if they are pledged during the campaign, documented, and are reported separately from outright gifts and irrevocable deferred gifts.
  • You may report conditional pledges as revocable gifts 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.

Section I of the book contains detailed information about these revisions along with the rest of standards for reporting to CASE and CAE.

The revised edition also includes an important change in the management guidelines section. To reflect changes in practice and the growth in the size of campaigns, CASE now recommends that the campaigns not exceed eight years in duration; past editions suggested a maximum of seven years.

About the Reporting Standards

In an era in which nonprofit organizations are being held to significantly higher levels of accountability, CASE has adopted an approach to comparing fundraising results on a national level that is designed to be clear, consistent, reasonable, and responsible.

Developed by educational fundraising professionals from a broad range of institutions and organizations, the CASE reporting standards provide a common set of definitions and procedures for reporting the results of fundraising activities at educational institutions. CASE designed these standards to help schools, colleges, and universities benchmark the goals and progress of their development programs against other institutions. To ensure these comparisons are meaningful and accurate, institutions are asked to follow the standards carefully and consistently when completing the CASE Survey of Educational Fundraising Campaigns (known as the CASE campaign survey) and the CAE Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey.

Most of the standards are the same for both surveys. However, there are two key areas where the standards vary to recognize key differences between annual fundraising and fundraising campaigns. These areas are:

  • pledges, which are reported to the CASE campaign survey, are collected but not added to totals when calculating gift income on the VSE, and
  • revocable gifts, which may be reported to the CASE campaign survey but not to the VSE.

The specific guidelines for reporting on these areas are included in Section I under the appropriate topic headings.

Many institutions, particularly those based in the United States, choose to follow the CASE reporting standards for their own internal and external reporting purposes because these standards have been thoroughly researched and are aligned with accepted accounting practices and U.S. federal reporting requirements. However, CASE recognizes that some organizations and individuals may choose to calculate fundraising efforts in other ways, whether for donor stewardship, employee evaluation, or professional recognition.

These standards do not replace or override any laws originating in any country when determining tax-deductibility.

About the Management Guidelines

The management guidelines section of the book, Section II, offers general advice on various aspects of annual fundraising and fundraising campaigns. In some instances, the guidelines provide recommendations that build upon the standards in Section I. In other cases, leaders in the field have offered the guidelines as best practice or recommended practice. The guidelines are by no means comprehensive and assume a certain level of knowledge and experience on the part of the reader.

The guidelines in Section II are voluntary and can help inform internal discussions about the fundraising practices most appropriate to the institution and its goals. Institutions may choose to adopt them as written or adapt them to fit their particular circumstances, traditions, or management structures.

When it comes to reporting fundraising results, CASE recognizes that how an institution records a gift for purposes of donor recognition, for example, may differ from how it records that same gift in its financial statements. CASE offers the following general guidance on gift reporting:

  • The reporting standards in Section I of this book provide an excellent starting point for establishing institutional standards.
  • An institution should develop its standards in consultation with its governing body, key advisory groups, and top leadership.
  • The institutional standards should be transparent and publicly available.
  • An institution should apply its standards consistently over time and across all related forms of giving.

Above all, it is in the best interests of the institution and its donors, leaders, volunteers, students, community, and other constituents to publicly define what it is counting and how it is reporting gifts in the spirit of transparency, consistency, and accountability. This transparency is also important if the fundraising profession is to retain and grow the respect it has earned in the last 30 years.

Regardless of the method used to calculate and communicate about fundraising success, CASE strongly encourages institutions to comply with the CASE Statement of Ethics, the CASE Principles of Practices for Fundraising Professionals at Educational Institutions, and other CASE-adopted ethical principles.