Nonprofit Feasibility Studies: 5 Tips to Boost Your Campaign
In order to launch a major fundraising campaign for your organization, you need to make sure your nonprofit is prepared. Determining the current financial standing and support base of your nonprofit can help keep you from jumping into something too soon.
When you come up with projects requiring a large-scale campaign, it’s easy to get swept away in the excitement of it all. But it’s important to remember that better planning will lead to better success for your fundraising campaign.
Whether you are planning a capital campaign for a major construction project or another type of fundraising campaign, you are well-advised to conduct a feasibility study to see if your organization is ready for the challenge.
In this article we will cover the basics of feasibility studies as well as key elements to be considered in preparation for your campaign.
- Feasibility Study Basics
- Campaign Consultants
- Cases for Support
- Donor Relations
- Feasibility Study Results
Let’s dive in to see what a feasibility study can do for your organization!
1. What Is a Feasibility Study?
A feasibility study is a tool used by nonprofits to determine whether or not your nonprofit is ready to conduct a fundraising campaign for a major project, such as a capital campaign. These studies can also be used to cultivate and develop donor relationships and other areas of your fundraising strategy.
Feasibility studies give your nonprofit the opportunity to analyze your goals, assess your financial strategy and get an outsider’s perspective (from a consultant) about your readiness to launch a fundraising campaign.
Before you jump into your feasibility study, there are a couple actions you can take in preparation:
- Determine your overall goal. This overarching goal may be obvious for some projects, like completing a building project. But you should consider talking to an expert (like an architect or contractor) to get specifics about the project before jumping in.
- Engage your board. Your nonprofit board plays a significant role in major campaigns. Therefore, they also play a major role in feasibility studies. Talk to them about their involvement and see what questions they may have.
We can’t stress enough how important nonprofit feasibility studies are to the success of your major projects. Without a proper plan, it’s close to impossible to raise the funds you need during your campaign. And without the funds, it’s impossible to complete the project!
Plus, feasibility studies give you a head start when it comes to asking for money from major prospects. Talking to them during the feasibility study gives them a heads-up for the project and allows you to address any concerns before ever making an ask.
2. Invest in a Campaign Consultant.
One of the greatest advantages of conducting a feasibility study with a campaign consultant is that it enables your organization to get a third-party perspective on your planning process.
It can be difficult for an organization to identify its own flaws for a fundraising campaign or a large project (or for anything, for that matter!), so hiring an expert can help you see the weaker aspects of the campaign that you might have otherwise overlooked.
Be sure that when you hire a consultant, you do your homework before investing. Start with top recommendation lists for capital campaign consultants or general nonprofit consultants. Then, start asking key questions to narrow down your list. Ask questions like:
- Does the consultant specialize in a particular type of campaign? If you’re looking for a consultant for a capital campaign, be sure your short list of consultants has that specialty. Some specialize in a particular type of fundraising.
- Where is the consulting firm located? If you have a local firm near you, they may offer better in-person assistance with your feasibility study. Meanwhile, remote consultants can offer a completely unbiased perspectives and meet in-person as needed during the study.
- Who have they helped in the past? Check out the types of organizations the consultant has helped in the past. Make sure they have experience with nonprofits that are similar in size and type to your own.
Once you’ve got your short list of potential consultants, you can start having conversations with them to see who might be the best fit. You should hire a consultant who will be honest about your campaign and demonstrates an interest in assisting your cause.
If you’re launching a capital (or any other type of fundraising campaign), check out Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s step-by-step process to hire a capital campaign consultant.
3. Write an Effective Case for Support.
A case for support is your rationale for why stakeholders should support your organization and its mission. All nonprofits should have a general case for support, and it is doubly important to organizations pursuing a feasibility study or capital campaign.
Generally, a case for support is drafted for the feasibility study with the information known then. Afterwards, it is reviewed again and edited to answer questions and address issues raised during the study. A feasibility case should include the following information:
- An introduction to the organization’s overarching mission, needs, services and impacts.
- A presentation of the project details at hand and the cost to complete it.
- An explanation of the need for the project in regard to the organization’s mission and projected impacts.
After the study, use the feedback you gather from stakeholders during your feasibility study to finish your case for support. Put their potential fears to rest and answer any questions they may have. However, you shouldn’t drone on and on. Be sure your statement is concise and convincing.
Use your storytelling techniques to make your prospective donors feel close to your mission and the project. When they feel connected to the campaign, they are more likely to give to it.
4. Focus on Donor Relations.
When used correctly, a feasibility study can help you strengthen your relationships with donors and potential donors for current and future campaigns.
This is because you show people how much you value them when you ask (and listen to) their opinions. There are few better feelings than when someone asks for counsel and advice.
This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Your organization needs the perspective and feedback. Your donors, volunteers and supporters want to be heard. And your project needs everyone working together to be successful!
While your consultant will conduct the study interviews, there are a few things you can do to cultivate relationships through the feasibility process:
- Tell stakeholders why their involvement in the study is important and help them see how their involvement in the potential campaign could make a difference.
- Thanking them before and after each communication. Their time is valuable and showing your appreciation will go the extra mile in building a relationship.
- Follow up to let them know the results of the study and next steps for the organization and project.
When used to their full potential, feasibility studies are so much more than preparation for a single campaign. They are a tool to build donor relationships, increase confidence and unleash untapped potential. By talking to donors throughout the study, you are showing them you are actively pursuing a strategic plan for campaigns and are acting responsibly.
For more ideas on building donor relations, check out the donor relations guide from Salsa. These relationships can make or break your vital campaigns!
5. Accept the Results From the Study.
While we like to emphasize that the results of your feasibility study aren’t the only important factor to focus on, they are important. Sometimes you may realize you’re ready to move forward with the campaign, while other times you may find that you’re not prepared for such a large undertaking.
No matter what the results are, you should create a plan to move forward as an organization.
If your results indicate you should move forward with your campaign…
Assemble the troops and get started! Start planning your campaign and get ready to launch.
You may conduct steps like:
- Confirm the scope and cost of your project.
- Recruit campaign chairs and build a campaign cabinet to lead the fundraising.
- Create fundraising and communications plans for both quiet and public phases for capital campaigns.
- Create a gift range chart and begin building donor prospect lists with your cabinet.
Keep track of key activities throughout the campaign. This will help you produce accurate reports in real time. Finally, get ready to enjoy your success!
If your results indicate you should not move forward with your campaign…
Don’t worry! These results can be just as helpful to your nonprofit as the other outcome. A failed campaign could be destructive for your organization, so be thankful you didn’t jump straight into it.
Use the feedback and study results to address weaknesses that are acting as barriers to growth and progress for your organization.
There will be time to pursue your dream project with a hearty campaign once you’ve adjusted the infrastructure and put your organization on more solid ground.
Finally, don’t forget to keep your stakeholders in the loop so they can offer assistance as you move along. They will be vested in the success of your efforts and mission, now and into the future.
Feasibility studies aren’t like a test you take in school. Instead of simply giving you a passing or failing “grade,” you can use your feasibility study as a tool to grow and maximize the use of your fundraising campaign.
Hiring a fundraising consultant can help give you an unbiased, professional opinion of your nonprofit feasibility study. Start there, then jump into making the most of the results you’re given.