by Lee Ernst
A feasibility study, in JGA’s view, is active campaigning and is an integral part of the cultivation and involvement process of major donors and prospects.
Done right, it allows for an objective conversation to explore, in a sophisticated, unpressured fashion, what your constituents want to invest in your organization. The feasibility study process provides the opportunity for your current and prospective donors to dream big, to think through what the future will look like for your organization, and to share how they see themselves participating in that future.
During the feasibility study process, a third-party expert can facilitate an objective and in-depth conversation with your current and prospective donors and other key constituents about the health and future of your organization. Our experience has proven time and again that interviewees are typically willing to share much more regarding how they feel toward your organization, your plans, and your perceived strengths and weaknesses with an objective third party. Serving as the objective third-party, a consultant can provide a fresh and objective viewpoint when it comes to synthesizing the information learned from multiple interviews and devising strategies to move forward successfully into a future campaign.
When devising a customized question protocol for our clients, here are a few areas where we like to focus our feasibility study questions in an interview to generate the most authentic donor feedback:
1. Impressions and Background. The interview must be a conversation that allows for an open and honest discussion. This is a time for your current and prospective donors to talk about what’s most important to them, their priorities and values, and how those relate to the focus of the organization. It is also important for the interviewees to share what they value about your organization and your role within the community and even the world.
2. Leadership. The interview provides an opportunity for your current and prospective donors to share their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of your organization’s leaders and board. People must feel confident about the leadership and that their gift will be used effectively before they are willing to make a major philanthropic investment. Do the interviewees believe that you have the right people in leadership positions to achieve your vision?
3. Vision and Case Statement. Does the vision of your organization resonate with your current and prospective donors and is the role of philanthropy clear in achieving this vision? A feasibility study interview is an opportunity for current and prospective donors to think through your organization’s top strategic priorities. This is the chance for your current and prospective donors to understand what type of impact they may have in the campaign and where their priorities align with your organization’s vision.
4. Support. This is the part of the conversation where the interviewees can talk candidly not only about their philanthropic support of the campaign, but also about the campaign goal overall. Questions should uncover what would motivate current and prospective donors personally to make their best gift, what might demotivate them, and who else in the community might support the campaign.
While a feasibility study can test the ability of your organization to reach a specific dollar goal, it can also do much more—it can be an excellent means of hearing and involving current and prospective donors who will be vital to ensuring the success of your organization’s proposed campaign. A feasibility study is a vital component of campaign success because it engages current and prospective donors early in the campaign planning process, it helps gauge philanthropic support of your top current and prospective donors who are likely to provide more than 90% of your campaign goal, and it establishes your campaign strategy and implementation plans.
Here are some other resources to review as you explore a potential feasibility study:
• Four Keys to an Effective Feasibility Study
• What to Look for in a Feasibility Study – PLAY VIDEO
• Preparing for a Campaign: Are You Ready for a Feasibility Study?