Why You Need to Conduct a Fundraising Planning and Feasibility Study
Every nonprofit dreams of growth, no matter its current size or mission. But growing your nonprofit at any level requires a deep understanding of your organization’s current status and a clear vision for the future.
Whether you’re raising money for a general fundraising campaign or a capital campaign, you need to commit to your vision and trust the teamwork of your community and your staff to lead you to success.
No matter what your end goal is, your nonprofit should conduct a fundraising planning and feasibility study before starting your campaign.
What is a fundraising planning and feasibility study, you might ask? It’s a method for gauging the support your nonprofit has, both internally and in the community, and assessing institutional readiness through conducting interviews with key stakeholders.
The most important things that your fundraising team will learn through the process of conducting a planning and fundraising feasibility study are:
- If your fundraising campaign goal is attainable.
- If you have the support necessary from board members and major contributors.
- If you have the necessary support from the community.
- If your staff members are ready and able to commit to the campaign.
- Whether there are any organizational challenges that might affect success.
A fundraising planning and feasibility study is an important step in any large-scale campaign planning process, so if you’re ready to learn more about the benefits of conducting a feasibility study, let’s get started!
1. Is your fundraising campaign goal attainable?
By the time you reach the stage in your planning process at which you’re ready to conduct a feasibility study, you should have already determined what your campaign’s monetary goal is and what project will be funded with the money.
As you get started with the planning process for your next campaign, your planning and feasibility study can help your team determine if the goal you have in mind is attainable, or help you set a goal based on your organization’s fundraising capacity and history.
So how can a fundraising feasibility study help your nonprofit determine if your team will be ready to reach your goals?
These three factors are key for understanding your nonprofit’s chances of achieving its goals for this campaign:
First, while your nonprofit should consider reaching higher and higher as it grows, you should look to your history of major campaigns and your level of annual support as indicators of potential.
Second, campaign timing should be designed to engage past donors, excite new possibilities and the community at large, and your team members. When was your last large campaign?
Third, if your feasibility study determines that your support system is not excited for your campaign or doesn’t believe that your nonprofit can reach its goals, adjusting the proposed goal accordingly will still allow your organization to make progress.
The reason that it is so vital for your nonprofit’s fundraising planning and feasibility study to determine the attainability of your goals is because running an unsuccessful campaign is more detrimental than you might realize.
An successful campaign enables an organization to fund needed facilities, programs and people. A successful track record builds credibility for future plans among your current and future donors. Conversely, unsuccessful efforts do not achieve these strategic objectives.
2. Do you have the board member and major donor support necessary?
Perhaps the most important people involved in your major fundraising campaign, besides your fundraising team, are your board members and other major contributors.
The key statistic to keep in mind is the 80/20 rule: 80% of your fundraising success will come from 20% of your supporter population, and odds are that your board members and proven major supporters will be an important faction of that 20%. This ratio can even be closer to 90/10!
When conducting a fundraising planning and feasibility study, it is imperative that these donors be engaged about their thoughts on the campaign. Some important questions to ask are:
- What do you believe is needed for us to be successful?
- Are you prepared to provide financial support to this campaign?
- Are you prepared to be an ambassador and advocate for this campaign?
Your board members and major donors will be on the frontlines for your nonprofit during your campaign, so much of your success will depend on their preparation and enthusiasm.
Interviewing the people you’ll be asking for support from ahead of time, during your fundraising planning and feasibility study, will increase your chances of success.
Most importantly, including them in this vital part of your nonprofit’s planning process strengthens the relationship between them and your organization. **Knowing that they are part of the team increases their level of engagement and will excite them for the upcoming campaign.
When your board members and major donors are fully engaged with your nonprofit’s campaign, they’ll be a valuable resource for your organization as well as provide social proof to other potential supporters that your cause is one worth giving to.
For a step-by-step breakdown of conducting a fundraising planning and feasibility study, check out this informative article from Double the Donation before getting started.
3. Do you have the necessary support from your community?
Fundraising campaigns aren’t only supported by your board members and major donors. The goal should be to gather as much support as possible from all of your organization’s prospective constituents.
Your nonprofit needs to conduct a planning and feasibility study because you need to know where individuals in leadership positions in your community stand on your upcoming fundraising campaign.
When interviewing individuals for your fundraising feasibility study, take into account the following people:
- Volunteers in leadership positions.
- Community stakeholders.
- Local or regional business owners.
- The beneficiaries your nonprofit serves.
By including your community in your fundraising planning feasibility study and gauging their opinions on the upcoming fundraising campaign, you increase social trust in your organization as well as create a connection between your community and the campaign.
When the community members believe they have been involved in the planning process, they become invested in the outcome of the campaign and will be more moved to contribute to its success.
Your nonprofit also benefits, because including non-team or board members in your planning and feasibility study promotes transparency and communication.
4. Are your staff members ready and willing to commit to this campaign?
Capital campaigns or annual fund campaigns can be very intensive. Capital campaigns can take multiple years to complete, and the planning process itself might take a year!
Your nonprofit needs to conduct a fundraising planning and feasibility study because the success of your campaign is heavily reliant upon your team being willing and able to put in the necessary work.
Some questions that need to be asked, both to and of your team, during the study are:
- Do we have enough team members to conduct this campaign?
- Who will be responsible - who will run the campaign?
- Do we need to hire more team members to share the workload?
- Do we have the experience necessary, or should we bring in an expert?
- Are our volunteers ready for this sort of project?
As members of your nonprofit’s development team, your staff members will have a clear understanding of your nonprofit’s strengths and weaknesses. Including these individuals’ valuable insight in your planning and feasibility study can only strengthen the outcome of your campaign.
Your nonprofit needs to conduct a fundraising planning and feasibility study to assess the views of your staff members. Engaging your team members in your planning and feasibility study helps gain their buy-in to the effort.
5. Where are the organizational challenges in your strategy?
No matter the goal you’re striving to reach with your fundraising campaign, a planning and feasibility study can help your nonprofit by consolidating the opinions, experiences, and understanding of all the stakeholders of your organization to discover where your challenges exist.
Any organization knows that sometimes things get done in ways that aren’t optimized just because it’s easier than changing a process. Overcoming institutional inertia can help your organization progress as quickly as it should.
When you interview a broad range of individuals, as one does during a fundraising planning and feasibility study, you will gain a better overview of your organization than you had before.
Some findings you might learn are:
- That you need to build stronger connections with major supporters or prospects with the potential to make a major gift.
- That your community needs more information about your plans.
- That your history and capacity may lead you to adjust your financial goal
It’s vital to have this knowledge before embarking on a major fundraising campaign.
Your planning and feasibility study will inform your decision to scale back your campaign to be more attainable, or if you need to complete capacity-building activities to get your organization to where it should be in order to conduct your desired campaign.
Either way, this study is a crucial first step in any organization’s planning process.
No matter what you’re fundraising for, your nonprofit needs to conduct a fundraising feasibility study. It solidifies your strategy, engages your team, inspires your community, and ensures your success.
For more information on running a successful capital campaign, check out this comprehensive guide from Averill Fundraising Solutions. It can point your team in the right direction.
Special thanks to Bob Happy from Averill Solutions for sharing his expert advice on fundraising planning and feasibility.
Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.