Feasibility studies are an important part of any capital campaign. The purpose of a feasibility study is to evaluate your plan and goal with your largest donors to determine whether they are realistic and feasible.

The feedback that you receive during the study will help you improve your case for support, refine your working goal, identify any potential obstacles, and find potential volunteers, as well as top donor candidates.

For decades, feasibility studies have primarily been conducted by experienced, specialized campaign consultants. Recently, more organizations have started taking advantage of alternative, and less expensive, feasibility study models.

There are three primary options for conducting your organization’s feasibility study.

Traditional Consultant-led Feasibility Study

Traditional feasibility studies are conducted entirely by an outside campaign consultant. The firm you hire will develop the study tools, conduct the interviews, analyze the findings and present their recommendations in a final report.

Feasibility study consultants generally follow a tried-and-true methodology for conducting studies that has been used with thousands of organizations.

PROs

  • Interviews conducted by an experienced consultant
  • Interviews conducted by an objective third party
  • Study deliverables include a written report with credible, clear recommendations

CONs

  • Does not further the relationship between the organization’s leaders and potential donors
  • Direct insight into individual donor feedback is limited
  • Doesn’t provide an opportunity for ongoing discussion around sensitive topics
  • Process of determining recommendations is often opaque
  • High cost

That’s a pretty big list of cons. Luckily, there are two alternatives to doing a traditional feasibility study with a consultant.

Alternative #1: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Donor Conversations

Some organizations choose to conduct the study themselves.

With this self-guided method, the Executive Director and board chair conduct private conversations about the campaign plans with the donors who are likely to make the biggest gifts to the campaign. These conversations focus on assessing the organization’s potential for securing the top 10 gifts necessary for the campaign.

When the interviews are complete, the organization reviews its findings from the interviews to determine the way forward.

PROs

  • Builds the relationship between the organization’s leaders and lead donors
  • Provides firsthand insight into interviewee feedback
  • Yields an informal assessment of the campaign’s potential
  • May result in early donor commitments
  • Minimal financial cost

CONs

  • Materials, interviews and recommendations are not guided by best practice
  • Board may not trust the findings and recommendations
  • Staff or board interviewers lack depth of experience
  • Time required by Executive Director and board chair

While this is not an “official” feasibility study, it may be sufficient for your organization.

If this sounds like the best approach for your organization, consider that the Capital Campaign Toolkit offers a number of tools to make this cost-effective option as impactful as possible. Feasibility study tools walk you through:

 •  how to identify who you should interview
 •  precisely what questions to ask them
 •  how to best synthesize their responses

There’s even a format included for reporting back to your board.

Alternative #2: An Advisor-Guided Feasibility Study

An Advisor-Guided study combines the best parts of the other two options. With this option, the Executive Director and board chair conduct the study interviews, but do so with the guidance and support of an experienced campaign advisor.

The advisor will provide the training, materials and advice required to gather meaningful, actionable insight from donor interviews. They will also help analyze the findings and shape the recommendations in collaboration with staff.

This option was developed by capital campaign expert Andrea Kihlstedt specifically for Capital Campaign Toolkit clients.

PROs

  • Builds the relationship between the organization’s leaders and its lead donors
  • Materials, interviews and final recommendations are guided by professional advice and best practice
  • Study deliverables include a written report
  • Expert advisor builds the confidence of board members
  • May result in early donor commitments
  • Approximately half the cost of a consultant led study

CONs

  • Staff or board interviewers lack depth of experience
  • Time required by Executive Director and board chair

If this option sounds like it’s more in line with your goals, inquire about a Customized Toolkit for your capital campaign.

Depending on the culture at your organization, the experience of your executive director, and the nature of your campaign, there’s a feasibility model that’s right for your organization. No longer is the only option to hire a hire a campaign consultant… or “wing it.”


Are you considering a feasibility study? Speak with one of our campaign experts to explore your options and discuss what might make the most sense for your organization — apply now for a FREE Campaign Strategy Session.

1 Comment

  1. Barbara

    Love! This has long been my personal philosophy since I’ve seen the vast CONS when outside consultants conduct the interviews and the key leaders in the organization miss out on the opportunity to build closer relationships with top supporters. Thanks for laying it out so clearly.

    Reply

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