The Case for Questioning
A feasibility study is too expensive and public a process to test an idea that does not have the full support and commitment of the institution. The study should generate answers, not fuel conversation or dissension. Interviewees are going to ask why the organization is doing a campaign, and why a certain set of projects is important. The organization must have concise answers to those questions.
The organization has to be prepared to show why the campaign is the crucial next step for its growth. All of this prior work and review should be evident in the summary statement. The organization should invest as much time in the drafting of its summary statement as it would the campaign’s full case. As the campaign’s first public statement, it must bear the weight of public scrutiny.
The role of counsel
Fundraising counsel stands in the center of the study process. A consultant can serve as both guide and catalyst during the early phases of the study and quicken the work of the volunteer committee. Because the success of the study requires the candor of the participants, the study interviews should be conducted by an impartial, confidential third party. Participants then can speak frankly about the organization, the project and prospects for the campaign. Their candid opinions are truly the substance of the study.
Experience has shown that prospects are less open and direct if they are speaking with the organization’s development officers or administrators with whom they have worked for years. No participant wants to damage a productive relationship with the organization’s fundraiser or president. Thus, important insights and comments are lost.
Often, consulting firms quote a fixed price for a study that includes consulting and interview time, writing assistance, questionnaire design, tabulations and analysis, and presentation of the study’s findings. Many firms bill separately for travel and other expenses. The study’s expense is very modest when compared to the campaign goal and nagging costs of a failed campaign. An organization is always well-advised to talk to several consulting firms to establish which fits best with staff and leadership, and which produces studies of the highest quality and integrity. FS