Over the course of its 40+ years in existence, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities had grown into the largest and most successful organization of its kind in the country. But the foundation hadn’t taken a hard look at their development program in over a decade, so they asked us to conduct an assessment to see if they were on the right track. We began meeting with key stakeholders to get their input, and we closely examined their structure and fundraising practices.

Our consultants determined that the foundation’s staff, and especially their board, needed to get more directly involved in fundraising. We outlined the steps needed to bring these individuals into the fold—such as giving program staff more responsibility over grant proposals, because they had deeper familiarity with programmatic details and needs than a development officer. We also trained their board members how to solicit major gifts.

Directly as a consequence of this training, the board secured two $1 million donors, who both continued large commitments. The foundation’s annual budget grew from the $4 million range to the $6 million range, doubling that of California’s foundation for the humanities—the second-largest in the nation. The Virginia foundation also has a vastly wider range of donors across the country, and is now only 15% dependent on a national endowment, versus California’s 85% dependence.

“Our experience with The Curtis Group was exemplary—it changed the way we were looking at things fairly dramatically. They helped us refocus on major gifts, and we were able to increase our major gifts and pledges. We really extended the range of employees to assist in fundraising. Our board is more engaged and willing to ask people for money, and they’ve been impressed with the results.”

Robert C. Vaughan, III, President, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Tenured Professor, University of Virginia