Capital campaigns are complex operations requiring careful planning and preparation. The capital campaign feasibility study is the planning tool of choice to help you prepare.
A Dickerson, Bakker & Associates Feasibility Study includes three phases:
Study Prep begins with an internal review of your organization’s fundraising practices, financial data, operations, and services to ensure you are ready for the campaign. The prep also includes a review of the project plans and the development of a Prospectus (case statement for the study) and likely chart of gifts. Finally, a prospective donor list is created using wealth screening, donor data, and suggestions from campaign planning leadership.
The core of the feasibility study consists of in-person, confidential interviews with a relative handful of individuals who have the highest likely potential to make an impact on the campaign. In short, these are the people we expect will be the top donors and influencers in your campaign. In addition to those in-person interviews, we will also conduct telephone interviews, online surveys, and focus groups to gather input from a broad swath of your constituency. The goal of the interviews and surveys is to determine how your case resonates in your constituency, the capacity of donors to give, and who would be the best leaders for the campaign.
Analysis & Campaign Planning –
Careful consideration is used to understand and interpret the findings from the Study Prep and Study interview/survey data. Findings, analysis, and recommendations are the compiled into a formal feasibility study report. This report informs the campaign plan including goal, timeline, budget, campaign organizational structure, recommended community leaders, and other strategies.
The entire process typically takes approximately 100 days to complete.
While there are many benefits to a feasibility study, there are five key benefits that can’t be replicated without a feasibility study.
- Identify and engage key leaders outside your “regulars”. In every feasibility study interview, we ask the following question: “Who do you know that if they were to lead this campaign, the campaign would be almost guaranteed to succeed?” That is perhaps the most important question in the entire interview. It helps determine who should be on the leadership team, and frequently, answers include key leaders who are either not currently on your radar or within your reach. However, those valuable leaders are often within reach of those who are being interviewed. Using the interviewee’s help, we secure the best leaders for the campaign.
- Set an appropriate and achievable goal. The feasibility study uses a variety of strategies to project giving capabilities of prospective donors. That data is then used to determine the campaign goal. Using building costs or other arbitrary numbers alone is risky business because the community either may not be inclined to support the project at that level or may be willing to provide even more than you expected if you had only asked.
- Uncover potential “land mines” before its too late. I once conducted a feasibility study where the leadership team was quite certain that one of their faithful major donors, the prominent president of a large real estate investment firm, should be the chair of their campaign. Interestingly, the feasibility study revealed this particular individual had a long history of bullying many of the other prospective major donors in business transactions. The feasibility study prevented many problems by simply selecting a different chair.
- Sweep away objections. It is not unusual for prospective donors to harbor misconceptions or problematic feelings. These concerns and issues may never come up in front of your internal team, but they often do with an outside consultant. The feasibility study interview provides them with an opportunity to be heard, clear the air, and at times, set the record straight. The feasibility study interview can also sweep away the objection that top donors were not asked for their input in advance.
- Prepare the donor for their gift. There is a time tested fundraising adage: “If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.” The donor can’t answer many of the interview questions without putting themselves momentarily in the driver’s seat as they do. Thus, asking for advice, helps change donor psychology from target to partner. The feasibility study interview also prepares the donor for their gift by giving them advance notice of the campaign so they can plan their gift accordingly.
Let’s face it: It can be tempting to skip past the feasibility study and dive right into fundraising for your campaign. However, by skipping the feasibility study, your team would lose out on valuable intelligence that can make or break the eventual success of your campaign.
Well-executed, a feasibility study can boost the total revenue for your campaign, engage a broader donor base, and reduce the campaign duration. It is a critical step that prepares both the organization and the donors for a successful campaign.