Historically, there’s been only one way to conduct a formal feasibility study – hire a campaign consultant. However, there are pros and cons to having an outsider speak with your largest donors and community leaders.
A capital campaign is a unique opportunity to build relationships with your best donors, community leaders, and philanthropists. And, the feasibility study is the first opportunity to invite those individuals “inside” your organization to discuss your campaign plans. By handing that responsibility off to a consultant, you’re missing an enormous opportunity to put yourself (and your organization’s leaders) in the homes and offices, and confidences, of the best prospective donors in your community.
The Downside of Traditional, Consultant-Led Feasibility Studies
Consultants argue that they are uniquely positioned to ask the right questions and elicit honest feedback from donors who wish to remain anonymous and may otherwise sugarcoat their responses. In reality, most donors are happy to open up to the head-honcho at your organization and have an honest conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of your case for support.
Not only that, when consultants collect negative feedback from donors with an understanding of confidentiality, there’s no recourse for the organization. If your consultant learns that a donor is upset with you, there’s no mechanism to respond to their concerns, because the consultant is bound by their promise of confidentiality. However, if a leader from your organization does the interviews, they could address the issues immediately and would respond appropriately.
Finally, and most obviously, consultant-led feasibilities are expensive!
In Defense of Consultant-Led Studies
Of course, there is merit to going with a system that’s tried and true. For decades consultants have been interviewing donors and providing feedback to nonprofits in advance of capital campaigns. That experience and expertise has value.
And if your organization’s leaders are not willing to set aside the time or are not willing or able to go talk with the largest donors, a consultant is preferable to no conversations at all.
Until now, organizations have had to choose between:
- A traditional, consultant led study
- Not doing a study
- “Winging it” on their own
If your board is skeptical about consultants or conservative with spending, it’s unlikely they will want to hire a consultant for a traditional study.
That may mean you’re left to head into your campaign without having early conversations with prospective donors – an unwise choice for most.
Savvy nonprofit professionals can do one step better by having conversations with their donors about a pending campaign. But now, you have another option.
A Hybrid Model
I recommend a hybrid model of feasibility study called, a Guided Feasibility Study. This gives you the best of both worlds. The leaders of your organization interview your biggest and best prospective donors, with the support and strategy of an experienced campaign consultant at their side. It’s affordable and effective.
To learn more about the pros and cons of feasibility studies and when you should do one, join me for the upcoming Flash Class. We’ll also discuss why now could be exactly the right time for your organization to do a campaign.
Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is the CEO and Co-Founder of the Capital Campaign Toolkit.
Join me: Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 at 1 PM EST
Flash Class: The Power and Pitfalls of Fundraising Feasibility Studies-How to Prepare for a Capital Campaign
Curious for more? Visit the rest of our Mastermind Series contnt here! Deep dive with us and check out our recorded Flash Classes, LiveCast recordings, and podcasts with these same Masterclass presenters.
ABOUT THE PRESENTER
Amy Eisenstein is a consultant, author, speaker, and the CEO and Co-Founder of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. She also developed the online fundraising course Mastering Major Gifts. Her published books include: Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops, Raising More with Less, and 50 A$ks in 50 Weeks. Amy served as the president of the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – New Jersey Chapter in 2014 and 2015, and received the New Jersey Consultant of the Year award in 2019. Amy became a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) in 2004 and received her advanced certification, ACFRE, in 2013. Check out her website and blog at amyeisenstein.com and CapitalCampaignToolkit.com for free fundraising resources.