Turnaround Case Studies

Case Study #1: An arts institution and an independent management consultant contacted Peggy Calhoun, ACFRE, to immediately address lack of funding.

Profile: A visual arts education center, created 19 years ago serving a wide array of audiences, was struggling with Board, donor and senior management changes.


A. The position of Director of Development had been vacant for one year.

B. A fiscal analysis conducted by Miller,Calhoun & Company indicated a cash flow crisis within two months.

C. Executive Director did not have the confidence of the Board.

D. Strong programming created constant parking problems and waiting lists often frustrating key constituents and prospects.


An Oversight Committee comprised of key leaders, was engaged to launch a major gifts initiative beginning with the Board. This process included prospect identification, screening, and solicitation workshops. Responsibilities were shared with mutually agreed upon deadlines. Using the team approach, trust was beginning to return to the institution as evidenced by stellar leadership gifts, increased event attendance, and unsolicited contributions.

Within six months, an 18-month Fund Development Plan with a three-year outlook was written resulting in a 168% increase for operations from the previous twelve months. Also, a six-figure gift was committed for immediate capital improvements while another donor expressed interest in gifting adjacent property to the organization for additional capital expansion. Future Board leadership, programming and staffing needs were addressed through a strategic long-range planning process led by Peggy Calhoun.

Today, the organization has successfully turned around embarking on a capital expansion of the aforementioned adjacent property.

"The guidance, direction and 'hands-on' approach Counsel gave proved totally effective," stated their philanthropic advisor.


Case Study #2: In a robust economy, an institution wanted to address declines in donations, event attendance, and staff turnover.

Profile: Over half of the Philanthropy Department either resigned, was terminated, or reprimanded creating low morale, missed deadlines, and sporadic communications jeopardizing donor and board relations. This department oversaw client development, philanthropy, volunteerism, and communications.


A. The remaining staff were overworked and not properly trained to take on additional responsibilities.

B. Increase client demand created a fiscal strain on current resources.

C. Members of the Advancement Committee did not understand their role in the acquisition of funds.

D. The Department’s Fund Development Plan was not updated in two years.


The institution retained Peggy Calhoun, ACFRE, to serve as interim Chief Development Officer. She conducted a Development Audit while researching additional funding opportunities, internships, and potential partnerships. Eventually two new staff members joined the team. Each staff member received personalized training and ongoing coaching. Major gift and sponsorship packets were re-designed to encourage multi-year pledges. New cultivation strategies and recognition opportunities were introduced with a strong emphasis on community outreach in three languages.

An expanded Advancement Committee comprised of select board members and executive staff committed to launching a major gifts initiative. This process included referrals, prospect identification, screening, and solicitation workshops to initiate new responsibilities. Using the team approach, trust was beginning to return to the organization as evidenced by stellar leadership gifts, more requests for group tours, and increased sponsorships and event attendance.

Concurrently, a dashboard was introduced to internally monitor outcomes on a weekly basis. The CEO and CFO were given additional responsibilities which increased their understanding of philanthropy and the value of stewardship. Together, the team created new prospect pools and tested different strategies for community outreach. A higher priority was placed on re-engaging lapsed donors. Members of the Advancement Committee accepted new responsibilities to befriend donors, identify new stakeholders, and conduct tours.

“With a fresh perspective and a deep understanding of the underlying problems, Peggy Calhoun was able to lead the turnaround creating enthusiasm and a new culture of philanthropy which helped us increase contributions while recruiting a new CDO,” declared the Board Chair.