Cul­ver Acad­e­mies: by exam­ple campaign

Exhibited by
Culver Academies.
August 10, 2011
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
October, 2004

SOFII’s view

By exceeding its original target not once but twice, this campaign is a brilliantly successful example of alumni fundraising. What’s more, the Culver Academies By Example campaign also demonstrates just how powerful the offer of matched giving can be and reveals that, combined with the right audience and the right ask, you could well be on your way to raising millions for your cause.

Summary / objectives

The Culver Academies are college preparatory boarding schools and summer camps in the United States. Like many educational organisations, they depend on public support to maintain their long-term sustainability. Culver Academies launched their By Example campaign in 2004 which aimed to raise funds primarily for endowments, the annual student fund and also the construction and renovations of its academies. They aimed to raise $200 million by 2010.


The Culver Academies campaign was based on the idea of leading by example. In the first stage of the appeal, after pledging their own individual donations, trustees and members of the advisory board encouraged others to do the same. Staff and students alike were urged to become involved and set an example. A letter and campaign brochure was then sent to all alumni members and previous donors, asking them to follow the example of the current students and to donate to the campaign. This approach was very successful and, at this stage, the campaign recruited over 12,000 donors and received 72 gifts and pledges worth over one million dollars.

Special characteristics

While the Culver campaign was very successful in receiving a large number of high value gifts, their greatest achievement was creating the Batten Leadership Challenge which offered dollar-for-dollar matched funding up to $50 million.

The offer of matched funding came from Frank and Jane Batten (who were both alumni of the Culver Academy) in December 2008. This was a unique opportunity to vastly increase the academy’s endowment in a short amount of time. The irresistible offer saw hundreds of Culver alumni, parents, faculty and staff take part in this effort to meet the $50 million challenge. Parents of current students raised over one million dollars and staff at Culver raised $200,000.

Influence / impact

The campaign aimed to raise $200 million by 2010. However, this was easily surpassed by 2007 and fundraisers upped their target to $300 million. Even this ambitious total was met and by the end of the appeal they had raised an astounding and very impressive $376 million.

The By Example campaign is not only the most successful appeal in Culver’s history, it is also thought to be one of the most successful fundraising campaigns in the history of American secondary schools.


This is a truly impressive example of an alumni fundraising campaign. Culver Academy’s ‘follow my example’ approach inspired so many to get involved and give to their campaign. And their matched giving programme was expertly used as a powerful incentive to attract a second and even third gift from many existing donors.