Randolph-Macon Academy, located in Front Royal, Virginia, is the oldest Air Force co-ed boarding school in the nation. It has a growing national reputation as a leading college preparatory institution.
Yet the Academy had not experienced success in prior capital campaigns and had serious reservations and concerns about the viability of its fundraising capacity. Many academy alumni had only attended R-MA for a few years. Many alumni from earlier years had been forced to attend. The 1970’s saw considerable discord at all military academies that affected its alumni from that era.
R-MA, given its uncertainties, was proposing two sequential campaigns — the first, a start-up campaign for $2 million to meet immediate needs and to build confidence and a track record of success and the second, a $20 million campaign for capital projects, endowment and debt reduction.
In 2005-2006, The Sheridan Group designed a Feasibility Study to fully explore R-MA’s potential by incorporating data mining into its selection of interviewees. The Study consisted of 20 interviews with current, well known prospects and then included interviews with 20 new prospects selected through a wealth screening of all alumni and parents by Wealthengine.com.
We determined that:
- R-MA constituents had a strong rank and file belief in the leadership and vision of its President, General Henry Hobgood;
- there existed a core group of leaders and donors ready to give R-MA their top priority;
- there existed a significant but undetermined potential in outlying prospects that could be engaged through a concerted, organized effort at relationship building; and
- that the present campaign potential of the Academy was between $3.5 and $5.1 million.
Accordingly, we recommended that R-MA focus its energies on a single campaign, and not set a goal until it progressed through the campaign’s early stages.
Board members stepped forward. One in particular provided an unanticipated, significant, lead, seven figure contribution. A thorough, well-led Leadership Gifts Phase allowed the Academy to formally launch the Celebration of Learning and Leadership Campaign in the fall, 2007, with a total of $8.7 committed, toward a $10 million goal. The Campaign concluded in October, 2008, with a total of $11.1 million, making it by far the largest and most successful campaign in R-MA’s 115-year history.
The Sheridan Group’s custom designed Feasibility Study, successfully incorporating data mining into the process, not only identified significant new potential but also broadened the prospect pool. The Sheridan Group further assisted R-MA by emphasizing that the right person making the ask, staying focused on standard cultivation, development, and fundraising practices. Finally, our counsel to R-MA allowed the school to understand its best course for a successful capital campaign and allowed leadership to understand that it could successfully engage its constituents in its mission and goals for the future.