Almost every organization, at some point in their history, has significant needs that require a major fundraising campaign. Whether you are facing a capital, capacity or endowment campaign, the notion of raising millions and millions (or sometimes billions) of dollars can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned fundraiser.
Where do you start? Who should help you? Can you achieve your goal and how? The answer to all of these questions is the same: conduct a feasibility study.
We, at BCA, are big fans of feasibility studies, and here’s why:
A feasibility study is the most important step your organization can take in planning a successful campaign.
To get started, let’s discuss exactly what a feasibility study is: a series of conversations that assesses your organization’s readiness for a major project through an evaluation of your organization, leadership, project, timeline and goals. Think of it as a “discovery” step that can guide your final phase of planning. By surveying your most essential supporters, including your board, donors, volunteers and community stakeholders, you will gain valuable insights into the strength of your organization and viability of your plans for the future.
You may need to pause your planning in anticipation of the feasibility study outcomes. However, it is a much more beneficial use of time to adjust your plan based on the results of a good feasibility study rather than ask a donor to support a project that you cannot see to completion. Skipping this step could put your campaign, your organization’s reputation and your relationship with your donors in jeopardy.
A feasibility study is donor-centric.
As fundraisers, we are all looking for the most meaningful interactions to have with our donors. And every interaction simply cannot be a solicitation. A feasibility study can be viewed as a cultivation point; an excellent reason to reach out to your donors for their advice, not a solicitation, because you value their opinion.
A feasibility study gives your donors an opportunity to collaborate with you and help shape the next step in your organization’s future. And, it helps to solidify their “buy-in” for your planned project. The best feasibility study interviews leave donors inspired by your vision for the future and thinking about how they can support your project with their time, talent and treasure.
When done right, a feasibility study tells you everything you need to know to be successful.
A good feasibility study will provide valuable insights into your top donors’ and volunteer leaders’ evaluation of many aspects of your organization, including:
The community’s perception of your organization
Strengths and weaknesses of your Board of Directors and staff
Alignment of your plan to fulfill your mission
More important for a capital, capacity or endowment campaign, a good feasibility study will give you a road map to success. By listening closely to donors, they will tell you everything you need to know to be successful in soliciting transformation gifts from them, including:
Donors’ motivations for supporting your organization
Identifying a lead donor
Identifying at least half of your fundraising goal
Identifying leadership level donors, gift ranges and preferred timing of a formal solicitation
Prospective campaign donors’ giving preferences, including multi-year pledge terms, naming opportunities and other public recognition
Identifying other prospective campaign donors
Identifying prospective volunteer leaders for your campaign
Don’t stop with a feasibility study!
The principles of the feasibility study process can and should continue to be applied to any major solicitation – whether for a significant fundraising campaign or to support other needs your organization has (such as establishing a new program or emergency funding).
Continue to use this “discovery” step with your major donors to learn what motivates them to give and what kinds of opportunities bring them joy. When you take this time to learn more about your donors, you will create stronger relationships, better outcomes and a solicitation that is joyful for everyone involved!