An important step in planning a capital campaign or endowment campaign is to undertake a fundraising feasibility study.
Understand how campaign feasibility plans work
Nonprofit organizations planning to conduct a capital should plan to commission a fundraising feasibility study – also known as pre-campaign planning study. This study will help confirm or adjust fundraising goals, campaign timing and necessary resources. It will also help identify potential donors and volunteer leaders, organizational issues and an effective case for support.
“There are three absolute … prerequisites to planning a campaign including: a compelling case/cause that will attract support; a donor constituency that is ready to support a campaign; and, most importantly, leadership commitment right from the start,” says Betty Ann Copley Harris, FAHP, in The Fundraising Feasibility Study: It’s Not About the Money (2007).
Fundraising Feasibility Study Timing
A feasibility study should be conducted six to nine months before the planned start of the campaign. Studies generally take at least two months to complete and could last even longer.
The organization’s board should be asked for final approval of the campaign after the feasibility study has been conducted and adjustments to goals, objectives and timeline have been made based on the findings of the study.
Steps in a Campaign Feasibility Study
Most campaign feasibility studies follow a similar plan:
- The campaign planner – usually a consultant – reviews the organization’s internal readiness to conduct a successful fundraiser campaign. This includes conducting interviews with staff members, board members and select volunteers and an analysis of the fundraising infrastructure.
- The nonprofit supplies a list of potential interviewees to the campaign planner. The list includes current major donors, major donor prospects, potential campaign leaders and other key community and organizational stakeholders. The nonprofit sends a request to all potential interviewees asking for their cooperation.
- The campaign planner conducts confidential one-on-one interviews with interviewees. While this is the most effective method to collect information from stakeholders, focus groups and written surveys may also be used.
- The campaign planner reviews information from internal and external analyses and prepares a final recommendation report.
What to Expect in the Fundraising Feasibility Study Final Report
Ultimately, the completed feasibility study makes a recommendation to the organization about how to proceed with the campaign. The recommendation may be to proceed with the campaign at the original dollar goal; to proceed with the campaign, but adjust the goal number; to postpone the campaign until important issues have been addressed or timing is better; or to not do the campaign at all.
The feasibility study final report should also provide the organization with an understanding of the study’s process – including who was interviewed and how the interviews were conducted.
The final report should also include findings about the way study participants feel about the proposed project/program, perceptions about the organization and external factors such as other community projects being undertaken.
Nonprofits should use the feasibility study to understand not only whether enough donors exist to make a campaign successful, but also how committed stakeholders are to the organization and whether the nonprofit has the infrastructure to support the campaign’s activities.