Feasibility Studies–Not Just About Money Anymore

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In our last e-letter, Transforming Challenges, we offered ten steps for conducting a successful feasibility study.  (You can subscribe to the e-letter on any page on our web site or click here.)  But is that “success” measured only by what it tells you about what your fundraising goal should be?

Most people used to think so.  In his excellent article on Raise-funds.com, Tony Poderis reflects that “at one time, a feasibility study for a capital or endowment campaign was little more than a process of identifying where the money was—who had it and how much they might be willing to give.  No longer.”

So why do a feasibility study?
In what Poderis calls “a donor-centric world,” it’s as important to find out what your potential donors think about your organization and its mission as it is to find out how much money they’ll give you.  A well-crafted feasibility study can give you this information and much more.

How do people in the community feel about your organization?  Do they think you do great work or not?  Are you meeting an important need?  Do they trust you to use any donations wisely?  Do they believe that this capital or endowment campaign fits in with your mission?  Are they committed enough to your vision that they would consider serving in a leadership role in the campaign?

Get honest feedback
None of these questions deals with money directly, but they are crucial to gauging how much support–financial and otherwise–there is in the community for a campaign.  So it’s important to design the study in a way that elicits honest feedback.  Conduct one-on-one interviews, preferably in person, with your most important prospects, and guarantee confidentiality.

The issue of confidentiality is one reason why many organizations hire outside consultants to conduct their feasibility study.  People may be more comfortable giving what might be uncomfortably honest feedback if the questions are asked by someone who’s not a staff or Board member.

In any case, don’t neglect the opportunity a feasibility study offers your organization to strengthen its relationship with its supporters as well as its case for a campaign.  A successful feasibility study is an important building block of a successful capital or endowment campaign–do it well and the time and money spent on it will be more than worth it.

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