Campaign Feasibility Study
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What is a feasibility study?
A feasibility study is an analysis of the donor’s readiness to support a potential fund-raising campaign. It is conducted during the planning phase of a campaign and it enables an organization to determine what can realistically be accomplished and indicates the most effective means of reaching those goals.
The information gleaned from the study will either provide the confidence to begin a campaign, or it will reveal that organization is not ready and the campaign should be postponed until areas of weakness can be strengthened.
Once a draft campaign case is prepared, the feasibility process typically takes about six months. In addition to giving insights about organizational readiness, a feasibility study is an opportunity to involve and cultivate donors, and will provide the organization with an understanding of current donors’ opinions of and overall attitudes toward your organization.
Feasibility Study Goals
- Help prepare leadership, volunteers and advancement staff for their roles in a campaign
- Assist with the articulation of an exciting vision for what a campaign might accomplish for the organization and its constituency
- Help clarify institutional objectives and refine the preliminary case for support
- Identify donor perceptions regarding institutional strengths and weaknesses
- Test the case and the preliminary campaign goal with potential donors and volunteer leaders
- Test the readiness of top prospective donors to give to the campaign
- Analyze the potential for meaningful support from other donors and prospects
- Identify and cultivate potential campaign leaders, volunteers and donors
- Develop strategies for preparing and conducting a successful campaign
- Identify policy or public relations issues to be addressed
Phases of a Feasibility Study
To achieve the goals outlined above, a study will typically be conducted in four phases.
Phase I: Internal Evaluation
In Phase I of the feasibility study, the consultant will examine the organization’s internal readiness for a campaign including evaluating the institutional planning process, interviewing the organization and advancement leadership, volunteers, and senior advancement staff, along with senior staff in other key program areas who will play a role in the success of a campaign, reviewing fund-raising history and all donor related materials and communications, and evaluating staffing and support systems such as donor research capacity, database management, donor screening and rating initiatives, procedures for gift processing and acknowledgement, and policies on gifts and investments.
Phase II: Study Planning
Phase II of the study includes engaging a group of volunteers (usually board members or previous campaign volunteers) as part of a study committee and meeting with the group to accomplish the following objectives:
- Orient members to the study and campaign processes and engage them as needed
- Familiarize members with the essential components of a campaign
- Keep members apprised of study progress
- Develop expectations for their role in a campaign
During this phase, the consultant also will guide staff members in finalizing the preliminary case for support. This document will be distributed to the study committee members and volunteers engaged in the campaign process for review, comments and suggestions.
The consultant, staff and study committee members will also identify a group of people to be interviewed. A list of key leaders, board members, major potential donors and stakeholders will be developed and names of potential participants will be prioritized.
The consultant will draft a letter to be sent to each potential interviewee to introduce the participant to the campaign plans and request an interview. The preliminary case for support will be included with each letter along with any appropriate supporting documentation.
Phase III Gathering Information
During Phase III of the feasibility study, the consultant will conduct one-on-one confidential interviews. During the interviews, the reaction to the case for support will be tested and prospective donors will be updated about the organizations plans and priorities. Interviews will be guided to determine an estimate of each person’s level of interest in the project, their giving potential, and their willingness to help with the campaign.
Phase IV Reporting
In Phase IV of the feasibility study, a written report will be presented that lays out the study findings and makes recommendations regarding the campaign goal, timetable, approach and any internal structural or operational changes needed. Following the review of the report by the board, a cover letter and report summary will be prepared for the staff to send to all non-board study participants to insure that all interviewees are informed as to its outcome.
What will the feasibility study evaluate?
- Your organizations’ reputation with insiders and community leaders
- The visibility and reputation of the CEO
- The strength and giving potential of the board
- The willingness of the board to devote time and energy to the campaign
- The size and giving history of the donor base
- The availability of volunteers to work on a campaign
- The potential to secure lead gifts
- The likelihood of securing an effective campaign chair and potential candidates
How does the feasibility study involve volunteers?
A key element in the success of any campaign is the involvement of volunteers. They provide leadership through their own gifts, through asking others to give, and by bringing others into the fold. That’s why West Wind Consulting is committed to engaging volunteer leaders to help conduct a feasibility study. The study process is an opportunity to do much more than provide an outside assessment of an organization’s fund-raising capacity—it can also help to educate, involve, inspire and cultivate strong volunteers, prospective campaign leaders, committed donors and key staff. Involvement in the study process yields campaign dollars, long-term commitment and a more deeply satisfying experience for volunteer leaders.
How do we select the right feasibility study consultant?
The feasibility study consultant will serve as the organization’s representative to the leadership of the community, lead donors, key volunteers, and any other individuals who are likely to be important to the organization thereby creating internal ownership of the study and building and strengthening relationships with its donors. The selection of a consultant should be a thoughtful and thorough process. The consultant will be privy to individual’s perceptions – good and bad – about the organization and its leadership. And the consultant will leave a distinct impression on the people being interviewed – people important to the organization’s future. Be sure to interview the consultant who will actually be conducting the study interviews on behalf of your organization.
What is the work of the feasibility study committee?
- Review the case for support
- Develop the list of people to be interviewed
- Review the questions that the consultant will ask during the interviews
- Help draft a letter to be sent to all prospective interviewees prior to scheduling the interviews
- Assist in securing interviews by personally contacting potential interviewees
- Meet with the consultant for a midpoint update to assess progress and to make course corrections if needed
- Review a draft of the final report and recommendations prior to it being submitted to the Board of Directors for review and action
When should you conduct a feasibility study?
- When you can articulate an exciting and compelling vision for what a campaign will accomplish for your organization
- When you have conducted a readiness assessment to determine if your organization is prepared to support a major campaign effort
- When there is a clear articulation of the need for the project/programs for which you are seeking funding
- When you have a business plan in place that demonstrates how the project/program will be sustained
- When you know how you will implement the project/programs
- When you have a project timeline (with a completion date)
- When you have a good estimate of the costs involved and how you finance them
- When you can anticipate the amount you need to raise through a campaign
What questions will the feasibility study answer?
- Is the proposed project perceived as important?
- Does the project as a whole make sense?
- What parts of the campaign case are most attractive to donors?
- Does the campaign have a strong chance of succeeding?
- Are major gift prospective donors likely to become contributors to this particular campaign?
- How much money can be raised?
- Who are the individuals whose participation and assistance will be most likely to make this campaign succeed?
- What are the best strategies and approaches for the campaign?
- Are there enough people willing to help with the campaign, and will they be dedicated enough to see the campaign through to completion?
- What is a reasonable timetable for the campaign?
- What must the organization do to get ready for a campaign?