Posted , by Wendy McGrady, Executive Vice President. Topic: Capital Campaigns, Higher Education.

While mistakes can be valuable learning opportunities, this is a case where the client did everything right. Blue Ridge Community College followed our advice to the letter—and the results speak for themselves.

Founded in 1967, Blue Ridge Community College offers comprehensive programs of instruction including associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in occupational/technical and college/university transfer programs. The college also provides non-credit workforce training and special interest classes for individuals, business, and industry. They are especially known for their veterinary tech program.

When BRCC first approached The Curtis Group, they already had a lot going for them: a history of successful campaigns, a successful annual fund, experienced advancement staff, a president who was well respected in their community, and flourishing programs. They were ready for a new campaign—focused on workforce and economic development, increasing access and student support, and capital enhancements. The challenge was how to take their fundraising to the next level.

We started by conducting a campaign planning study, which pointed to a fundraising goal of $5.5-$6 million in cash and pledges, plus a $2 million planned-giving goal. In addition to an experienced staff, BRCC had excellent leadership and strong relationships with the community, so we helped them capitalize on these assets. We trained the staff, volunteers and president on how to meet with donors, and we sat down in person with the Campaign Leadership Committee monthly to keep everyone on task and on track. They seemed to benefit specifically from our coaching prior to donor visits. In addition to their campaign, we helped them tweak their strategy and increased what they raised in annual fund dollars. We continued to emphasize best practices that they could use long after the campaign ended.

As our original engagement drew to a close, BRCC decided to extend our engagement for continued strategy and guidance. As a result, BRCC raised $500,000 beyond their original $8 million goal—which they revealed to much fanfare at their campaign celebration February 11:

 

In summary, here are the top five ways BRCC made their campaign a success:

  1. They put the right people in charge. Leadership will make or break a campaign effort. BRCC filled their Campaign Leadership Committee with people who were experienced in campaigns and veteran supporters of the college.
  2. They had strong relationships in the community. Prior to starting a campaign, BRCC made sure they had built and maintained relationships with key business and community contacts.
  3. They didn’t try to do it alone. Using a consultant for your campaign is not an expense—it’s an investment. Few nonprofits are fully equipped and prepared to execute a campaign from start to finish. Having an expert there beside you, to guide you, makes a measurable difference.
  4. They hired the right counsel. Don’t just select a consultant because a board member knows his sister-in-law. Be sure to select someone with experience in campaigns of your size, knowledge of your sector and your community, and a track record of success.
  5. They followed the consultants’ advice. From the staff to the board, everyone followed through our recommendations, putting their trust in our experience and knowledge. When we instructed them on how to approach a donor, they did each step by the book.

 

It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with such a passionate and committed group of volunteers and staff members on this successful campaign. That leadership made the campaign a success.

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