Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to do to get ready for a campaign?

Whether you need a major capital campaign, a limited project-based campaign, or simply a more effective annual campaign, a well thought-out, customized, and creative plan is critical.  Success in any campaign rests on a foundation of good planning both for the organization and the fund-raising effort behind it. At West Wind Consulting, our goal is to make sure that our clients receive the greatest return possible on their investment. Before we begin any campaign, we work with our clients to make sure that both the institutional and campaign planning efforts are strong enough to support a campaign and insure that the money raised will have the greatest possible long-term impact on the organization.  For more information, please click here to learn more about if you are ready for a campaign and how our Firm can help.

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Why should we do a feasibility study?

A feasibility study is a critically important step in preparing for a campaign. Its purpose is to determine the readiness of the organization’s external audience to support particular strategic directions or initiatives that have emerged from the institutional planning process. The study itself is time-limited, usually taking about 6 months, and includes a consultant conducting a series of confidential interviews with a select group of the client’s closest friends and supporters. It is designed to determine whether the project being tested is compelling and exciting enough to donors that they would be willing to support it in sufficient numbers and with large enough gifts to enable a campaign to be successful.

At West Wind Consulting, we believe that like campaigns, feasibility studies accomplish much more than testing the project and proposed campaign goal. That’s why we focus on the quality of the process for our client’s interviewees to provide an opportunity for them to feel closer and more connected with your organization from the invitation to interview through the final follow up.

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How do I make sure our campaign stays on track?

We encourage our clients to include provisions in their budgets for on-going counsel services because we know how hard it is to stay focused on a long-term campaign when there are many other urgent and important issues and challenges that you face every day. Having a partner in the campaign means you have someone outside of the day-to-day operations to help you trouble-shoot and stay focused. Through our on-going counsel services we provide assistance in developing and implementing a campaign plan, recruiting and training volunteers, advice and guidance on top prospective donor solicitations, identifying a broader and deeper pool of prospective donors, and developing strategies that help prepare donors to be asked to give.   We also provide advice to help strategically leverage opportunities during the campaign, anticipate and avoid problems and pitfalls, effectively manage volunteers, and address emerging challenges.

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Why should we retain fundraising counsel?

Even the most sophisticated institutions use professional fund-raising counsel as part of their campaign planning  and management. By working closely with counsel, you benefit from specific technical expertise, the experiences of other institutions similar to your own with whom the consultant has worked, and an impartial perspective on strengths and weaknesses.

Counsel can serve as an additional voice of credibility with volunteer leadership in the decision-making process, help you set realistic goals and timeframes, and provide a breadth of experience with current practice and successful strategies that serves as a helpful complement to the staff’s knowledge of the culture and environment of their own organization.

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What should I look for in choosing fund-raising counsel?

Ultimately the selection of counsel is a very personal decision and comes down to the right fit for you and your organization.  We recommend asking others for feedback on their experiences, looking into references, and, most importantly, having several conversations with the firm to see if it is the right match.  Be sure to interview the person in the firm who will be working with you most directly. You can click here to see our thoughts on what to consider when hiring a consultant.

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How will I interact with fund-raising counsel?

Ideally we work as a team.  Your consultant will do their best work when given the opportunity to plan and anticipate with you. The best way to use counsel is to have them as a strategic partner in the planning process and then to rely on them to help guide you and gauge your progress as you implement your plans. Even the best of plans can change, so a consultant can help you navigate through that change and even use it to help leverage success when that’s possible.

At West Wind Consulting, we rely on periodic on-site visits to really immerse in the planning process and to participate in key activities such as board and/or campaign committee meetings. In between on-site visits, we conduct regular conference calls, usually every two weeks, to check-in, monitor progress and answer questions. In between scheduled calls and visits, e-mails help keep us up to date. And we are available to review materials and provide samples as needed.

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Will the use of fund-raising counsel guarantee our success?

No. By carefully selecting a reputable fund-raising consultant, you will receive advice on fundraising strategy and methodology that suits your organization based on best practices, but it is up to you to implement their advice and follow-through on planned initiatives.

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How much time will the campaign require of our organization?

The campaign should be an organization-wide priority.  This means that it is given high priority at all board meetings, staff meetings and in all publications. To ensure the success of the campaign everyone will need to give it time and attention as well as endorsement. While the specific commitment will vary from one institution to another, it ranges from a minimum of 25% of the chief executive’s time in smaller non-profits to 70% of the president’s time in major institutions. (Major institutions have larger staffs to carry operations, while the smaller organization’s executive director is apt to be more heavily involved in daily operations.) The development officer should give the campaign as much time as is humanly possible, but the requirement may run from 35% in a small shop to 90% in a large operation.

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How do we know what to pay for professional fund-raising help?

It may be helpful to talk to others who have experience with outside fund-raising counsel before soliciting and reviewing proposals so you know what to expect. Most reputable fundraising consulting firms bill for their services by the day or the hour, plus travel and related expenses. It is important to have a written agreement spelling out your understanding of the consultant's role, fees and expenses, which you both sign to establish what you are paying for in terms of time and scope of service.

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What are West Wind Consulting’s Billing Guidelines?

Consulting fees are based upon a per-diem rate and clients are billed only for the actual number of hours spent on their behalf. The per diem rate divided by eight hours is the client’s hourly rate. All invoices summarize the total number of hours worked by the consultant for the following:

Meetings

  • On-site or face-to-face meetings with the client or the client’s representatives (board members, staff, or volunteers)
  • Telephone calls with client or client representatives
  • Feasibility or assessment interviews with client constituents

Preparation, Correspondence and Analysis

  • Data analysis, research, review of materials provided by client, or response to client questions
  • Design and preparation of materials, such as campaign planning documents and samples, retreat agendas and training tools (i.e., case studies and handouts)
  • Summarizing and conducting follow-up to client meetings as directed by the client

Travel Time

  • Travel to client meetings or interviews (if possible, meeting preparation will be done while traveling to client locations to minimize fees).  Cancellations of appointments or meetings, once the consultant is in transit or on-site, will result in a billing to the client for lost time and any travel expenses.

Fees will not be charged for the following activities:

  • Miscellaneous phone calls that last less than 15 minutes
  • Material review or responses to questions that require less than 15 minutes
  • Attendance at events that are not considered “working” sessions, have no agenda, and are collegial in nature

Expenses

All expenses are billed as expended and at cost for:

  • Travel (air, ground transportation [car rental, mileage, taxies, tolls, trains, or buses, and parking], meals, gratuities, hotel accommodations). Mileage is calculated at the current current IRS rate.
  • Client related office expenses including telephone toll charges, FAX, duplication, binding, postage and delivery.

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