A Campaign Feasibility Study: Your Strategic Next Step

Feb 16, 2016

By Jason Lewis
Executive Consultant

In the last eighteen months, BetterSchools has conducted several capital campaign feasibility studies for our clients, using our exclusive “3-C Analysis”. For each client we facilitated a process that included upwards of forty interviews with individuals identified as those who would be important in the success of the campaign. While our methodology remains consistent to ensure a quality outcome, our recommendations are as unique as the school communities we are partnered with.

Most recently, we advised a school on the West Coast to proceed with a large multi-million dollar campaign. For this client, we found all indicators necessary to green-light a campaign of this magnitude. Our recommendations included a clearly delineated roadmap for achieving a remarkable goal, and we are in the early stages of soliciting several seven-figure lead gifts.

The insight gained from a “3-C Analysis” is not always so straightforward. We have to be prepared that for some schools a major campaign is not the wisest next step. In another recent study, despite their capacity to give, the constituents indicated they would be less than responsive to the specific goals that we presented in the study and that some strategic baby-steps would be advisable.

In another case, indicating high capacity and certainly not lacking in commitment, potential donors repeatedly expressed a lack of confidence in the school’s administrative ability to follow through on the proposed project.

These examples zero in on three primary questions that every organization should be asking in advance of a campaign-the 3-C Analysis.

1. Does your constituency have the financial CAPACITY to respond at this time at levels consistent with the goal?

2. Assuming they have the financial capacity, does your constituency share your COMMITMENT to the vision being proposed?

3. Assuming capacity and a shared commitment, are your people CONFIDENT in your school’s ability to carry out the immediate and long-terms objectives that coincide with the campaign goal?

A well designed feasibility study is an effective way to ensure that boards, heads, and development officers can answer these questions.

In addition to offering clarity to important questions, some schools find themselves in unique situations where a campaign feasibility study may be especially helpful.

Is this your school’s first campaign? If so, you want to be especially careful about launching into a multi-million dollar campaign. If you’re not quite sure the goal can be accomplished, keep in mind that a failed campaign has the potential to impact the success of future campaigns. Non-profit organizations of all sorts, shapes, and sizes know from experience that successful campaigns beget successful campaigns. The opposite can be true as well. For the sake of both immediate and future fundraising efforts, let’s be sure you are ready.

Are you actively engaged with those who will be asked to make the largest investments? If you are not currently engaged with those individuals who might be some of the largest donors in your campaign, then a feasibility study becomes an expedient way to strengthen those relationships. Major donors, especially those who are aware that that they will be asked for a significant gift, will want to ensure that their investment is sound and that their commitment is aligned with the commitment of other potential donors. A feasibility study allows them to speak into the process before critical decisions are made.

Do you have a limited or inexperienced fundraising team? A well-organized feasibility study should answer questions not only about the school’s external constituency but also about the capabilities of the internal team. The study is designed to assess key indications of whether the organization is internally ready to launch a campaign. If internal readiness is weak, the study will indicate what resources are necessary for filling in the gaps.

A successful feasibility study provides your organization with substantive information of both a quantitative (how much can we expect to raise and when?) and qualitative (who will be involved and what motivates them?) nature so you can make well informed decisions.

Again, knowing your constituency’s financial CAPACITY is certainly critical information, but the final outcome should indicate whether constituents’ COMMITMENT and CONFIDENCE are aligned thoroughly enough to make the huge investment of time and energy a major campaign requires.

BetterSchools is currently partnered with schools across the country successfully navigating ambitious, multi-million dollar campaigns. If your growing school envisions the need for a major financial investment in facilities or programs, we can help you make solid decisions with a 3-C feasibility study.