We talk to a lot of development professionals about their plans for fundraising campaigns and sometimes hear them say, “I know it’s feasible, so we don’t need to do a study!” These individuals are exactly those whose organizations stand to gain the most from conducting an in-depth pre-campaign planning study.
When properly conducted, a campaign planning study (or feasibility study) will provide an organization with the insight and intelligence to craft a winning strategy to realize its full fundraising potential and achieve more challenging goals.
The fundraising industry has historically referred to this accepted standard of pre-campaign planning as the “feasibility study”. Today’s astute chief development officer is looking to determine much more than the mere viability of their proposed development plans and a simple “go” or “no-go” determination. In other words, much more than simply the feasibility of their plans.
The vanguard of the development industry looks to the pre-campaign study as a critical tool in assessing how their institution is perceived in the philanthropic marketplace and how to plan the success of an aggressive yet attainable major gift fundraising campaign.
A well-conceived and conducted campaign planning study will open an important and detailed dialogue about your institution and its future plans with key members of your donor constituency. It evaluates services, organizational strengths, the case for support, campaign rationale, vitality of your volunteer and donor base, and finally the capacity to win your proposed campaign.
Now back to our friends who claim to “know it’s feasible.” We’d like to suggest that they base their opinion of institutional readiness, in part or wholly on the following factors:
1. A clearly stated organizational mission that is relevant and realistic and is used to focus the organization’s activities.
2. The organization has a written strategic plan that has carefully considered the reality of its operating environment and uses sound administrative practices to outline both short- and long-term objectives.
3. The organization’s operating systems and finances are in order, and have been for quite some time. Major donors want to make an investment in a winning project that can and will be sustained far into the future.
4. You can identify a reasonable number of prospective donors with the financial capability and sufficient interest in your organization to make a pacesetting leadership gift.
5. You have a committed board, staff, and volunteer corps that will follow through with a campaign.
6. The governing board, staff, and volunteers are committed to the success of the organization, as demonstrated by their current giving.
7. You can position your appeal for philanthropic investment in a manner that clearly addresses the urgent needs of your constituents and clients, rather than the internal desires of the institution.
A properly positioned pre-campaign planning study will carefully analyze these factors to determine the best course of action for launching your campaign to achieve the momentum and success your institution so richly deserves. Instead of a simple determination of “yes” or “no,” wouldn’t you rather discover a projected minimum reasonable goal and a breakdown of the size of gifts to be targeted for the largest potential donors? A properly directed study will not only determine if there is fundraising potential for your project, but whether or not volunteers are available to serve as advocates to raise the money. Finally, it should critically assess if the timing is right for your fundraising aspirations.
Unfortunately, too many institutions approach their campaign planning without first working through the critical steps to position themselves for success, and will conduct a feasibility study as an expensive and time-consuming fishing expedition. In short, you should not conduct a pre-campaign planning study without the conviction that the institution can raise money.
By engaging fundraising counsel early in your organizational planning and decision making, you will ensure the pre-campaign planning study will be appropriately used to develop a fundraising strategy to successfully raise all the money that you need. And maybe more!
Click here for PDF version: FRM 65