There can be tendency among organizations contemplating a fundraising effort to bypass a feasibility study and just begin a campaign. This decision often stems from urgency around a single project, such as a building, but often lead to disappointing results that leave organizations wondering “what could have gone wrong?”
Here are three reasons to resist taking the shortcut, and having the organizational discipline to conduct a study using a qualified external consultant.
1. The Study Provides a Needed Reality Check to your Case for Support
Of course your project is very important, because the need is so great! However, need by itself is often a poor case with prospective donors. Developing your preliminary case in writing and sharing it with prospective donors ahead of an interview is an important step. The interviewer is then able to learn what prospective donors really think of your idea. While interviewees often find the case compelling, they very often point out weaknesses you didn’t know were present, and this feedback can help sharpen your final case.
2. The Process Reveals what your donors really think of your organization
After doing hundreds of feasibility interviews, I’m still amazed at what interviewees will share in the way of opinion. Many hold nothing back, and this unvarnished feedback can very often improve campaign strategy before you’ve asked for the first campaign gift, and can help leadership make needed changes in organization, staffing, and approaches to prospects.
3. The Study Helps Determine Whether you actually Have Good Prospects
Many organizations assume that prospects are sufficient to support their lofty goals, especially if previous campaigns have been successful. However, factors such as outlier gifts and deceased or fatigued donors can dramatically change the pool of available prospects. A good interviewer will be armed with a gift table appropriate for the project, and will be able to get interviewees to reveal what they might be thinking of giving if presented with a compelling project. The results of these interviews are often the difference in determining whether sufficient leadership exists to support the campaign goal.
Remember, the most successful campaigns are those which have adhered to sound planning.