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Campaign counting: smoke and mirrors?

by Shaun Horan | Jul 4, 2019 | Fundraising

I once took part in a very interesting survey of what was being counted in the income for University Campaigns. About 13 different organisations took part. How many ways of counting campaign income do you think we came back with.


But does this mean that Campaign counting has no credibility, and is, as a number of people outside of the fundraising team may feel, just window-dressing?

Absolutely not.

No one institution counts in the same way, because no two institutions are exactly the same. A campaign should be about what you value, what behaviour you are trying to encourage, what areas you want to expand, what areas you want to encourage to work together.

Whilst it is sometimes a surprise to people outside of fundraising teams that not all of the money in Campaign is philanthropic income, all of those thirteen ways of counting were absolutely credible, based on the above factors. So what are the things you need to consider?

How should you count in Campaign?

We would suggest that a campaign counting policy should consider the following principles. The policy should:

  • Be objective, credible and transparent
  • Support the organisation’s strategy
  • Enable robust reporting and benchmarking (both internal and external)
  • Celebrate philanthropy
  • Create leverage opportunities
  • Be approved and supported by leadership and widely understood
  • Encourage the campaign to be widely owned throughout the organisation
  • Celebrate non-£ contributions
  • Demonstrate impact

That’s quite a list, but the first line of it is undoubtedly the most important. If you don’t take the time to explain internally what you count, why and how, you won’t convince the outside world. Your own organisation has to understand what you are doing and why, and they have to believe in it.

What income might you include?

When we work with clients, we take them through a practical list of all areas that have been included in campaigns across the sector. No institution everything – again it is about getting something that works for you. The following is an extract from the full list that we use, so consider your drivers, and consider what you might include:


  • Major gifts
  • Leadership
  • Annual fund
  • Regular gifts
  • Staff gifts
  • Cash gifts from corporates
  • International government monies (for campaign projects)
  • Government departments, e.g. Arts Council, DIFD (for campaign projects)
  • Volunteer hours by alumni
  • Volunteer hours by students
  • Pro-bono support offered via projects

Impact/participation measures

  • Number of students benefiting
  • Research impact measures
  • Number of scholarships given
  • % alumni giving
  • % staff giving
  • % trustees/governors giving
  • Number legacy pledges

This list is of course focused mainly on Universities – the approach for Schools and Charities is easier in the sense that the majority of the money will be philanthropic, and the opportunity to include wider sources of income is harder. However, for medical research charities and those with wider income sources, it is again worth considering the key drivers – what kind of institutional behaviour do you want to encourage by undertaking a campaign?


So, once you have your Campaign counting method clear, you have communicated it widely and everyone is on board, you have the investment needed, and you have clear projects and priorities, and a clear strategy, you are good to go. It’s time to take the campaign out of the institution and to see what donors and prospective donors make of it.

If you want help with deciding what you should count, putting together the strategy, and engaging external donors, we are the experts in all of those areas. We have run campaigns in house, and have advised on countless others. We have a very strong record of accurately predicting campaign potential, and we would love to help you achieve yours.

Shaun Horan is Joint CEO of Halpin – the home of experts in higher education fundraising