Some capital campaign feasibility studies are simply a waste of time and effort.
It’s a real shame when an organization spends significant time, energy, and money on a study that is not helpful. Frankly, this result is disappointing to everyone involved.
As consultants, we’re also just as disappointed as our clients and their board members. It’s like all this effort has just been wasted – time and money down the drain.
What Creates a Disappointing Feasibility Study?
Why do some capital campaign feasibility studies bomb out? The reason is because the donors who are interviewed in the study have nothing to share.
As consultants, when we ask donors how they feel about the organization’s work, their faces are blank. Alas, they have no opinion!
They say that they cannot offer feedback about the proposed campaign, or the case for support, because they don’t know enough about the organization. Even more, they are not enthusiastic about giving to the potential campaign.
Here’s what they will say: “I’m just not connected enough to this organization to have an opinion.”
In other words, your relationship with that donor is cold or at best lukewarm. The donor just isn’t ready to enthusiastically engage in helping you prepare for a campaign.
What Are You Trying to Accomplish with a Feasibility Study?
Why are you doing these donor interviews anyway? Here’s why: Feasibility studies are a crucial step in your due diligence in planning a campaign.
In a study, you are asking for feedback from key supporters about your fundraising potential – well before you launch a campaign. How do they feel about personally supporting this project?
You want to find out what they think about your proposed capital campaign, the expanded impact you want to make, and the projects you want to fund.
In these confidential interviews, donors will often share the names of people who should be involved in a campaign. What’s more, they’ll often identify other major donors we should involve, and share suggestions on the right person or people to chair the campaign.
At Gail Perry Group, we like to use study interviews to generate even more enthusiasm for the upcoming campaign. In fact, we are often able to locate early lead gifts from the donors we interview.
The Key to a Successful Capital Campaign Feasibility Study
The key to a successful feasibility study is warming up your donors and interviewees ahead of time.
Bring them into the fold. Touch base with them personally. Design private or small group engagement events to start introducing the campaign scope to them.
Hold one-on-one advice visits with your hoped-for lead donors early in the game. Ask their opinion of your plans. Discuss their ideas with them.
Above all, make sure that the people you select for feasibility study interviews know enough about your project to have opinions to share.
We Don’t Believe in a Traditional Feasibility Study
At Gail Perry Group, we are rethinking the traditional (stale) approaches to capital campaigns every day. What’s working today and what’s not?
Don’t forget: the traditional capital campaign feasibility study approach was developed in the 1960s.
Most donors don’t want to be interviewed “cold” about a potential project. Especially when they are not particularly involved with the organization. Clearly, you won’t get good results when your donor interviewees have no feedback to share.
That’s the difference between a successful feasibility study and a disappointing one: It’s the activity of warming them up and engaging them.
Our Approach to each Capital Campaign Feasibility Study: Engage Your Interviewees Early
We take a more innovative, 21st-century approach to feasibility studies, which in our eyes are all-important campaign planning tools.
Even more, we work with our clients, well ahead of the interviews, to design engagement approaches for the people we want to chat with within our study. It’s so important to engage donors early.
Our clients try to create wonderful, emotion-triggering experiences with these potential major donors, to connect them much more deeply to the powerful work our clients are doing.
There are additional ways we help our clients “warm up” their donors prior to the study interview. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to approach donors for early Advice Visits about the campaign, well ahead of the consultant’s interview.
When we do this kind of deeper preparation, almost on an individual basis with these donors, we can see startling results in a feasibility study.
Donors will start offering money to support the project. They will jump in with both feet to volunteer on the campaign committee. They will offer to open doors to new philanthropists and donors who might be interested.
THAT’s the kind of result you want in a feasibility study. Anything less just might be a waste of time.
As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies.
If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.