Catholic School Development Foundation

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School Fundraising Business Plan


Catholic School Development Foundation offers:

  • Capital Campaign Readiness Assessment (Core business).
  • Capital Campaign Counsel (Core business).
  • Planned Giving Programs.
  • Annual Fund Development.
  • Market Research of Alumni and Parents.
  • Alumni Relations Programs.
  • Donor Relations Programs.
  • Strategic Public Relations.
  • Marketing and Recruitment Consulting.
  • Development Director Recruitment and Training Services.

3.1 Service Description

Core Business: Capital Campaign Readiness Assessment and Capital Campaign Counsel
Schools are most willing to spend substantial money on campaign counsel.  Therefore, campaign counsel must be the core of our business.  Monthly retainer fees of $15,000 for a 10-12 month campaign are not uncommon (i.e. a single school campaign contract generates $150,000 to $180,000 plus travel expenses). Depending on the campaign goal, these fees translate into campaign expenses of 4-6% and are considered good stewardship; the industry standard is 10% though some fund-raising 'firms' have been known to take as much as 70% of total dollars raised.

Fund raising costs of 6% on a $4M campaign (common these days) yields a substantial sum of money ($240,000) available to the school for consulting fees. 

Planned Giving Programs
The largest intergenerational wealth transfer in world history will occur within the next decade.  Many schools have talked about endowments, but made the mistake of trying to grow them with cash gifts.  Most have successfully completed capital building campaigns in the 90's, but because they sought cash, built only modest endowments. Planned gifts represent the opportunity of a lifetime for our Catholic schools, and the single most promising new area in development consulting.

Annual Fund Development and Market Research of Alumni and Parents
These two services go hand in hand.  By now, every Catholic high school in America has an Annual Fund; phonathons and direct mail are common.  To grow revenue, schools will need to make use of market research to better understand why alumni parents choose to give or not to give.

Alumni Relations Programs
The number one factor influencing major gifts is the degree to which an individual has been meaningfully involved in the mission of an organization.  Alumni Relations Programs build on this principal to attract people and dollars.

Donor Relations Programs
Too often, once capital campaign pledges are secured schools leave relations with donors to chance.  There is rarely, if ever, a planned system of communication and involvement to keep the 200+ best donors (who represent 90% of all gift revenue!) informed and involved--and ready for the next campaign.

Strategic Public Relations
About half the Catholic high schools in America have a public relations officer on staff.  But even among these schools, it is extremely rare to see a communication plan built on the strategic interests of the school.  Donor Relations are high-touch and focused, the goal of Strategic Public Relations is to improve perceptions in order to grow the number of supporters.

Marketing and Recruitment Consulting
In the late 80's and early 90's many Catholic schools suffered severe enrollment problems.  By 1997 that was no longer the case.  A demographic bulge, plus continuing uncertainties about public schools helped fuel the growth in Catholic school enrollment.  But fortunes could change with demographics.  Now is the time many schools need to think strategically about their position in the market--before demand weakens.

Development Director Recruitment and Training Services
The turnover rate among development directors is very high due to the overwhelming demand  in the NFP sector for experienced development people, and the high burnout rate of people new to the field.  An investment in training yields as much as twice the first-year revenue for the school.

3.2 Alternative Providers

The competition comes in two forms. First there are a multitude of regional consulting firms consisting of one person, or an owner who sub-contracts consultants.  Second are the national firms such as Ketchum, Community Counseling Service, etc.

Though the large firms have the financial power to advertise with full-page ads in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and sponsor elaborate booths at national conventions, it is the smaller firms who consistently have more qualified staff.  Herein lies the irony.  The large firms  may truthfully say they have "launched 10,000 campaigns."  What they don't say is that over 30 years they may have gone through 5,000 consultants, each doing two campaigns before burning out. 

On the other hand, the smaller firm may have only completed 30 campaigns, but each consultant was responsible for 15 of them.  Who looks better on the surface?  But who is better qualified?   

In presentations, prospective clients always want to know who they will be working with.  The firms, leery of the question, work hard to change the conversation from the level of the specific consultant to the success of the company as a whole.  But the natural inclination of the buyer is to return to the level of the individual.  Rather than fight this inclination in the buyer, the wise firm would seek to grow a company that could capitalize on it.  If a single firm could combine the power of marketing the firm name, backed up with experienced people across the board, the rest, as they say, would be history.  Thus, we return to the name of the game identified earlier: retaining qualified staff.

The second issue is identification with a specific market.  Most firms tend to be all things to all people.  Other than Catholic School Management, a very fine firm on the East Coast with a small number of consultants, it is extremely rare for development consulting firms to identify themselves as specialists in one particular area of the market.  We believe this represents a tremendous opportunity to grab the #1 slot in top-of-mind awareness categories.  "Catholic School Development Foundation: The #1 provider of development services to Catholic schools."

Finally, as a not-for-profit, the Catholic School Development Foundation has another competitive advantage: an aura of trust.  Given the lack of government supervision and the disparities in quality outlined in the Keys to Success section, it is little wonder that distrust surrounds the contracting of development counsel.  We believe our incorporation as a NFP allows us to readily differentiate ourselves from the pack.  Doing so will lead to more presentations and lower business acquisition costs--dollars that can be used for gratis clients and salary enhancement (thereby retaining the best talent!).

3.3 Printed Collaterals

The business will begin with a general brochure establishing our position, developed as part of the start-up expenses. Because our market is very specific, mailing lists and direct mail are the most natural avenue.  The sales process takes three steps:

  1. General mailings for awareness.  Interested parties are invited to call or write for a free publication: "Are you ready for a Campaign?"
  2. Those that identify themselves as interested receive the publication, followed by a phone call to discern their needs.
  3. Those interested in services receive a seven minute introductory video of the founder on location at the schools and projects he helped build, talking personally about the drama inherent in each campaign.  The objective is for the prospective client to see himself and his own situation reflected in that of other clients we have already successfully worked with prior to forming CSDF.

3.4 Fulfillment

Fulfillment will be provided by principals.  Once CSDF has expanded to four full-time employees we can then consider hiring a junior level consultant.  It would be too expensive and difficult to expect to attract an entire stable of experienced consultants.  We will need to train a certain number of experienced development directors interested in consulting.  The key to success is balance in the consulting staff between junior and senior consultants.

3.5 Technology

We will be PC-based.  An Internet presence is assumed, not only for marketing, but for company communications.

3.6 Future Services

Planned Giving represents the most promising extension of our services.  For a discussion of this, see Service Description section.