by Dan Schipp
Campaigns are often preceded by a feasibility study. It’s a common and proven way to gauge what level of philanthropic support may be achieved in a campaign and what strategy will help ensure the success of a campaign. A feasibility study answers the question, “Are we ready to do a campaign?” But how do you know if your organization is ready to do a feasibility study?
In order to get an accurate outcome from a campaign feasibility study, an organization must have accurate and complete information to test in the study. Prospective donors, when asked to reflect on an organization’s aspirations and their willingness to help fund it, expect an organization to be beyond the brainstorming phase and to be approaching them with ideas that have been well considered.
Here are five key questions to consider before proceeding with a feasibility study.
1. Is your campaign clearly the means to an end and not the end? The proposed campaign should be aimed at providing the resources necessary to advance your organization’s strategic plan and your vision for the future. It is crucial that your leadership be united behind this vision.
2. Have you thought through the campaign components thoroughly and assessed their costs with due diligence? For example, if building construction or renovation is part of your campaign, you must be able to clearly define how the facility will be used and offer a reasonably accurate projection of its cost. If funds are to be raised for endowment or programming, then you should be able to articulate the difference the additional investment will make and the outcomes to anticipate from it.
3. Do you have a sound business model for the campaign initiatives? Interviewees want to be captured by the emotional appeal and vision of your campaign, but they will invariably ask questions to ensure that their gift will be a sound philanthropic investment. Be prepared for those questions by ensuring that you have thought through the ongoing sustainability of the project. Do you have a financial model that illustrates the sustainability of the project? Will the building add to your operating costs and, if so, how will they be funded?
4. Can you show donors the difference their gift will make? You need to be able to bring the campaign to life through a well-developed, compelling case for support that touches both the heart and the head. Have you captured in writing persuasive arguments for undertaking the campaign? Can you show not just what will happen in the new building but how it will transform lives? Can you show how campaign funds will enable you to be more effective at your mission? Do you have real stories that demonstrate the needs to be addressed through the campaign?
5. Have you sufficiently developed relationships with donors so that they are ready for a feasibility study interview? The feasibility study interview should not be the first time a prospect or donor hears from your organization in several years. Your potential interviewees should be up to date on what your organization has been doing the last several years. They should have a general idea of the goals and vision for your organization. Have you cultivated your potential interviewees so that they are prepared to have an in-depth conversation about your organization?
It is important that your organization does its own due diligence before undertaking a feasibility study. Interviewees will be looking at the way you are approaching a campaign as much as they are examining the components and goals of the campaign. Demonstrating that you have taken the time to plan well and to develop a solid case for your campaign will breed confidence in donors.