Capital Campaign Case Study ~ Billings Christian School


Initially started as a ministry of Cornerstone Community Church in 1981, Billings Christian School (BCS) became an independent non-denominational school in 2006.

The school and church remained in close fellowship and support of one another, and in 2011 the church graciously gifted approximately 15,000 square feet of their existing building along with three and a half acres of land surrounding the buildings, parking areas, and sports fields. The school subsequently developed plans for expanding the campus, but due to funding limitations knew that it would need to occur in phases.

With a reputation for both quality academics and a strong Christian environment and classes from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, the school nearly tripled enrollment in just three years. Space was at a premium, and something needed to be done.


With rapidly increasing enrollment, Billings Christian School needed to expand their facilities to keep up with the growth. To begin this process, the BCS Education Foundation Board and members of the school Board and administration conducted a “mini-campaign” that quietly raised $640,000 for the completion of two classrooms, a Home Economics classroom/kitchen combination, a science laboratory, rest rooms and a fire sprinkler system. The school also badly needed a gymnasium, but that dream was carried forward to a future phase due to lack of funding.

The Plan

When the original facility was built, space was allocated for a gymnasium. The shell of the gym was constructed but was never finished due to lack of finances. It sat empty for years ~ little more than four concrete walls and a dirt floor.

The envisioned gymnasium was to be a centerpiece for the school, including basketball and volleyball courts, seating for 350, locker rooms, and a scoreboard. In addition to athletic events, the gymnasium would also double as a dining hall, and would be available for other activities such as plays, band and physical education classes. Plans also included a large storage area and two additional classrooms, if sufficient funds could be raised. Located in Montana, weather conditions made an indoor gym even more critical. With the remarkable growth the school was experiencing, the Board determined that it was time to act.

Pre-Campaign Planning

To determine just how much was needed for plans for the gymnasium to become reality, the school hired an architect to give them an estimate of the cost and create renderings that could be used in a fund-raising program.

The next step was to engage Dickerson, Bakker & Associates to conduct an independent feasibility study among the school’s constituency. The results of the study indicated support for the construction of a gymnasium was very high, but the financial support was border line depending on the “bells and whistles” in the gymnasium.

Dickerson, Bakker & Associates provided a preliminary plan as to how the funding goal could be achieved. The school leadership reviewed the proposal and agreed to partner with the firm to conduct a capital campaign. With this, another giant step was taken toward future growth and expanding the school’s academic and extra-curricular programs.

The Campaign

DB&A’s consultant pointed out that people needed to understand that the school leadership was involved financially in the project and was not simply asking others to do something that they had not done.

So, an important first step of the campaign was to let people know that the school administration, the school board and the school’s foundation board members had provided the $640,000 that provided for the previous construction of classrooms within the church building.

The consultant felt it was important for people to understand that the school leadership was once again stepping up with commitments to this new phase of school expansion and now were calling on all friends of Billings Christian School to join them to provide the needed funding for the gymnasium.

The campaign plan called for Advance Gift Prospects (leadership/major gifts) to be cultivated and solicited face to face to acquire as least 60% of the financial goal of $1.9 million. Board members volunteered to undertake these meetings and after being trained by the Dickerson, Bakker & Associates consultant, they began seeking meetings and requesting people to invest in the lives of the children in the Billings community. In addition, programs for the faculty& staff, parents, grandparents, former parents, alumni and community friends were initiated.

A major Montana foundation also became involved and its gift toward the end of the campaign put the goal over the top. Today, the gymnasium is in full use and the storage area and classrooms have added to the school’s ability to expand it programing and enrollment.


Successfully completed Billings Christian School's first-ever capital campaign

Raised 100% of the $1.9 million needed to achieve the vision for the campaign

Completed construction of a new 10,000 sq ft gymnasium on time for beginning of the school year

Resulting expansion will also serve as a multi-functional "centerpiece" of the campus, for events like plays, concerts, science fairs

Sufficient funds were raised to also add new locker rooms and two classrooms


Dickerson-Bakker has an expertise that you just can’t duplicate. You can study about donors. You can read about capital campaigns. But there is no way you can duplicate their experience.
Dian Floth, Head of School ~ Billings Christian School


No doubt you’ve heard it said that successful major gift fund development is “all about relationships”. We couldn’t agree more. At the same time, however, it just isn’t that simple. Real success in major gift fundraising is about strategically managing relationships with high-value donors in order to maximize their understanding of, interest in, involvement with, and commitment to your organization and its underlying mission. Even the word “relationships” is ambiguous. Major donors don’t have “relationships” with organizations. They have relationships with people in the organization. Too many put too much emphasis on the relationship with the development officer and overlook the importance of others. Relationships between your organization and its major donors actually have multiple dimensions, each increasingly important as you advance to higher tiers of giving.

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The case statement, also known as the “case for support,” provides a glimpse into the heart of a non-profit organization and is a vital part of any major gift fundraising effort. With over twenty years experience working with major donors we know what they are looking for in an offer. We will work with you to craft a compelling and professional case for support and guide you through the development of additional collateral materials needed to effectively present your case. We will also spend time in the field with your team to help them hone their presentation skills and train them in the “Art of the Close”.

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Of all the building blocks needed to create a major gift program, none is more important than the people you have in place on your major gift leadership team. Having the right people in the right roles is a critical part of the Keystone Solution™ and we will work with you to ensure that your staff and volunteers are well-trained and appropriately gifted for their roles. If necessary, we will work with you to recruit additional members to your major gift leadership team.

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Any good fisherman knows that you can’t catch a big fish if you’ve got your line in the wrong pond. The future success of any major gift fund-raising program is built upon the organization’s ability to attract new donors to support its mission. To ensure on-going growth, a wide base of dynamic support is necessary, which presumes that a significant number of new major donors must be acquired and subsequently nurtured and elevated to rising giving levels. Using both “high-tech” and “high-touch” approaches we will work with your organization to identify a pool of best major gift prospects for your major gift program and to segment them into prioritized lists. As part of our prospecting services, we are also able to provide Donor Research Services to help you realize the major gift potential in your donor database and circles of influence.

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Successful major gift fundraising is both an art and a science. The art is in the relationships, but the science is in the systems. Someone once said, “Motivation is what gets you started; good habits are what keep you going.” Putting good major gift development policies and procedures in place and getting into the habit of living by them is a critical part of making a program sustainable. Dickerson, Bakker & Associates will work with your organization to implement best practices within your major gift development department to ensure that the improvements we put in place will continue not just beyond our term of service but can be consistently applied even if you have a turnover of staff.

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An organization’s brand is perhaps its most important asset. Most people think of brand superficially—considering only those aspects encompassing the “look and feel” of an organization (e.g. name, logo, etc.). Those brand marks are just outward expressions of your brand, however. At a deeper level, BRAND represents a promise to your constituents of those quintessential qualities that define who you are, what you do, and what you stand for as an organization. Doubt about the integrity of an organization’s brand promise almost always has a detrimental effect on giving, regardless of the effectiveness or competency of the fund development staff. Establishing and adhering to a clear focused brand is foundational in your ability to communicate who you are, what you do, where you are going, and how you will get there.

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CULTURE refers to the collective attitudes that characterize and impact the ways that an organization’s people will perceive one another and work together. A “development-friendly” culture provides a fertile soil for giving to flourish. Dickerson, Bakker & Associates has identified six ingredients that together comprise a vibrant, development-friendly culture, and—if consistently applied—will significantly improve your organization’s ability to consistently garner high-level investments from major donors.

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While mainstream donors may be satisfied with a simple understanding of what an organization does, major donors are more interested in what an organization achieves, or—more specifically—will achieve with the money they invest. Major donors want to know how their investment is helping bring about positive change in the lives of people. Major donors increasingly condition giving upon delivery of impact metrics, often requesting information on outcomes even before investing. Organizations that are serious about achieving success in major gift development will therefore do best when they embrace a culture that supports and encourages outcomes thinking.

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