While school has let out for the summer, many institutions are already looking forward to the fall. Fall is a natural time to launch a capital campaign, or to begin campaign planning. If your institution is gearing up for a feasibility study this fall, there are likely some common questions you might be asking. Will our case be supported? Who will lead? Will our donors give?

Often times, primary and secondary schools look to higher education peers for comparison. How will we fare in comparison to an alumnus’ college or university? Will they be more or less likely to support us in a campaign?

Our clients are no different. They turn to CCS to learn what is happening in the secondary education landscape and for insights from higher education that translate to success. And, we have a wealth of data to share. In 2015, CCS conducted more than 175 feasibility and campaign planning studies representing over 5,000 in-person interviews. In 2016 alone, we have worked with 60 independent schools, many on capital or endowment campaign planning.

What have we learned about donor reactions in a proposed primary or secondary school campaign as opposed to higher education?

Let’s get into the data. We looked at 120 studies conducted on behalf of education clients (higher education and primary/secondary education) encompassing nearly 20,000 interviews. These interviews were conducted between 2012 and 2015. Among many other data points, we sought to understand the following key strategic points:

  • Overall perception of the institution
  • Reaction to proposed campaign
  • Whether or not the proposed goal was seen as realistic/achievable
  • Whether or not the campaign should move forward
  • Donor satisfaction
  • Willingness to give and/or lead a campaign
  • Philanthropic priority
  • Philanthropic motivations

In many cases, we observed statistically significant differences between primary/secondary education respondents and those interviewed on behalf of higher education institutions. Among the most striking differences was that primary/secondary interviewees were more likely to have a “very positive” perception of the institution, more likely to consider a campaign gift, and more likely to consider the school among their “high” or “highest” philanthropic priorities. Here’s how the results shook out:


What can we possibly infer from this data? First, that primary and secondary education institutions may hold closer relationships with their donors as evidenced by high donor satisfaction rates, willingness to give, and philanthropic priority indicators. Secondly, primary and secondary education donors may be more cautious when faced with a large philanthropic challenge, like a campaign, and therefore corresponding campaigns might require a longer “silent” phase as momentum builds. And thirdly, that primary and secondary education fundraisers need to go about the business of asking. Being “asked to give,” while not the most important motivational factor, is more important for primary and secondary education donors than for higher education donors.

To close, primary and secondary education institutions compared favorably with their higher educational institution counterparts, edging them out in several key areas. This should serve as a great point of motivation for primary and secondary education fundraisers because your donors are interested, loyal, and ready to be asked. Now, let’s go out there and raise some money!

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