As Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat, Poplar Forest is an incredible piece of history. However, it lay in private hands until the 1980s, when money was raised to purchase the house and grounds so they could be opened to the public. Since that time, Poplar Forest had not launched a major campaign and struggled with low visibility for this national treasure. The Curtis Group conducted a planning study, which determined that there was not much public awareness of this hidden gem, and that the organization was relying on a small, core pool of major donors. We recommended a strategy to enhance both fundraising and marketing efforts simultaneously.
Our consultants then helped Poplar Forest launch a transition campaign to raise awareness as well as dollars—to create a new entrance parkway, programmatic and educational resources, and fund continued house restoration. We also focused on building Poplar Forest’s endowment and reserve funds to protect their future. After our trainings, board members got more engaged with fundraising through campaign leadership—and personally invested nearly $1.4 million. The staff became more proactive, focusing on relationship-based fundraising—getting out into the community and making direct, in-person solicitations. A true culture of philanthropy bloomed.
Within the first eight months, Poplar Forest had reached over 40% of their $6 million campaign goal. They exceeded their additional $1.2 million planned giving goal a full eight months prior to campaign wrap-up. With new marketing dollars at their disposal, Poplar Forest also increased visitorship and awareness.
“Even though we had no prior experience with capital campaigns, we had terrific results—thanks in great measure to The Curtis Group. They handled our first-ever campaign in an efficient, professional manner. They developed a good plan, prodded us as needed to execute the plan, and coached and supported us at every stage. They did an outstanding job.”
Phillip C. Stone, Past Board Chair,
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
President, Sweet Briar College