We’ve been talking over the last few weeks about campaign feasibility and what’s involved in this important planning process. This post serves as Part IV in my 5-part series and will finally get to the issue you have all been waiting for: the campaign feasibility process (i.e. – how it works). Remember – a feasibility study is conducted prior to a capital, endowment or significant major gifts campaign. It is part of the campaign planning process. Feasibility studies are especially critical before an organization begins building or renovating a facility or purchasing land. They are primarily used to test a fundraising campaign goal.
Let’s review the first few steps of the study process and then move on to new territory:
- We referenced the development of study materials in Part II. Once these materials are complete (case for support, questionnaire, gift table, invitation to participate, thank you letters and background documents) you are ready to begin scheduling interviews, but be sure to determine who will review and give final approval on the documents before the process begins. Be clear about whether staff, the campaign committee, the board of directors or a combination of the three will give final sign off.
- Next, develop the interviewee list (typically 20 to 40 names depending on the size of the campaign and the organization). For more on this, reference Part III. Be sure to collect complete contact information and prioritize the list according to those who must be interviewed, should be interviewed, and could be interviewed. It is likely that not everyone on the list will agree to be interviewed, so the list should be longer than the actual number of interviews you hope to accomplish.
- Then reach out to prospective interviewees. Typically, the nonprofit does the outreach even if a consultant is conducting the interviews. We offered a sample interview invitation in last week’s post. The committee should agree on the outreach process and determine whether letter, email, phone call or a combination of approaches is best. The nonprofit or the consultant can schedule the actual interview but be sure to agree on a process in advance of the invitation being sent.
- It is time to conduct interviews! These conversations are best conducted in person but it is sometimes necessary to conduct them via phone or video conferencing. Many nonprofits interview out-of-town donors or stakeholders and thus flexibility becomes important if there is no budget to travel to each interviewee. Most nonprofits find that it is best for an objective, outside party to conduct the interviews, and therefore engage professional consultants to conduct interviews. However, it is not entirely uncommon for organizations to have their own representative(s) present. If you choose to go this route, be sure to train nonprofit leaders in the interview process and determine in advance who will participate in each interview (and the role they will play in the conversation). A few important issues to note and steps to take:
- Responses are confidential unless specific permission is given to share the information collected.
- Responses are aggregated and shared in the feasibility report, but not attributed to any specific individual unless permission is given by the interviewee.
- Listen deeply and probe to clarify responses. It is ok if you do not ask every question on the questionnaire.
- Take careful notes.
- Don’t forget to thank the interviewee either by email or written note after the interview. This is best done within 48 hours of the conversation. Both the consultant and the nonprofit should send a note of thanks. A phone call from the nonprofit is also very nice. Even though your donor or prospect has not yet made a gift to the campaign, they should be offered generous thanks for their participation in your process. Don’t forget that the feasibility study serves as an important cultivation touch point for your donors.
- Most consultants develop a system by which they code responses on a response spreadsheet. This may not be possible during the interview, so be sure this process is completed within close proximity to the actual interview date so that important information is not lost or misrepresented.
- Finally – prepare and present the feasibility report!
For more on the report and the arrival at the campaign goal, you must tune in to next week’s final posting in this series. Until then – check out this week’s freebie, a sample feasibility study timeline, and feel free to send us questions about your process. We’ll look forward to the conclusion of this conversation next week and then we move on to talking about annual campaign planning!