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18 January 2018

Before starting large fundraising projects

Before starting large fundraising projects, you’ll need to know how much money your organization is capable of raising and who might be interested in giving a major gift or serving as a campaign leader.

While large organizations pursuing large capital projects typically conduct feasibility studies, these initiatives are also critical for smaller organizations and smaller projects. 

Does your organization need to conduct a feasibility study before starting its next project? We’ll cover the following basics to help you decide.

  1. What’s the definition of a feasibility study? 
  2. What information does a feasibility study disclose? 
  3. When should my organization conduct a feasibility study? 
  4. What’s the importance of a fundraising consultant for feasibility studies? 
  5. Who should my organization interview for the feasibility study? 
  6. What are the benefits of conducting a feasibility study? 

If you’re ready to learn about feasibility studies before you start your capital campaign, let’s get started.

ASP SofTrek Whats the definition of a feasibility study

nonprofit feasibility study helps your organization strategize how to conduct a large project like a capital campaign. During a feasibility study, key stakeholders are interviewed for their opinions on the proposed project as well as their perspective on your organization’s reputation and impact on the community.

Plenty of organizations hire fundraising consultants for unbiased answers from their networks. These interviews help your organization understand how your supporters view its work and the proposed project. They also ask pointedly about stakeholders’ interest in giving and/or leading a campaign. The goal is both to help determine how much and from whom dollars can be raised, and how your organization can ensure the project and campaign meet the interests and needs of stakeholders.

The bottom line: A feasibility study will help your organization make the right decisions for donor-centric fundraising.


ASP SofTrek What information does a feasibility study disclose

As we said previously, a feasibility study tells your organization how your supporters feel about your upcoming campaign, but that’s not all this study will reveal. A feasibility study can even help your organization determine your overall strengths and weaknesses. You’ll be able to determine things like:

  • A case for support. A feasibility study can help strengthen your nonprofit’s case for support! You’ll learn why your donors love being part of your organization’s community, and you can use this data to cater to what your donors love. 
  • Prospective candidates. Feasibility studies can identify prospective leaders for your capital campaign or other projects. 
  • Effective fundraising strategies. The people you interview during your feasibility study will help identify where your organization excelled and where you fell short with previous campaigns and other fundraising efforts. 

A feasibility study might bring issues to light, like donors being displeased with your online donation process, but don’t worry! The sooner you recognize these challenges, the sooner you can solve them.

Bonus! Check out DonorSearch’s Fatal Misconceptions About Feasibility Studies to know exactly what information these studies give and what they don’t.

The bottom line: A feasibility study will help strengthen your organization from the inside out with supporters’ opinions about your strategies. You’ll learn all about donors’ capacities and interests in giving.


ASP SofTrek When should my organization conduct a feasibility study

These large projects and campaigns require a lot of hard work in multiple stages. Discussions about major projects start with your board, which will approve the funds needed to conduct a feasibility study. 

Keep in mind you’ll want to conduct your study before you begin the planning stage for your campaign. This should happen several months to a year before you begin fundraising to provide time to make adjustments to your plan in response to study findings.

Before you conduct your feasibility study, you’ll want to create a branded mini-case for support to be shared with stakeholders before the interview. The idea is to give them context for and details about the project so they can give informed answers during the interview. Your mini-case for support should provide the following information:

  • An overview of your organization--mission, background, need for and impacts 
  • An overview of the project--need for, projected impacts, what’s included, budget 
  • A fundraising goal 

Additionally, it’s important to brand the case and format it for easy reading. You want your stakeholders to read the piece and understand what you’re proposing, after all.

The bottom line: To effectively determine whether or not your proposed project is a good idea, conduct your feasibility study months before you begin asking for donations.


ASP SofTrek Whats the importance of fundraising consultant for a feasibility study


A fundraising consultant is a completely objective outsider. This means they are more likely to elicit more honest responses from your stakeholders.

You may have great donor relationships and know your community like the back of your hand, which could lead you to think you should host a feasibility study yourself. In reality, this can cause trouble. Your positive relationships with stakeholders might dissuade them from responding honestly out of concern for your feelings! For example, they might not think your upcoming campaign is a good idea, but because you’re excited about your proposed project, they might be too polite to tell you they don’t support it. This leaves you thinking you’ve secured their donations when they have no real intention of supporting.

By hiring an experienced fundraising consultant to conduct your study, you can help create the best situation for gathering honest feedback about your nonprofit, proposed project, and donor support.

A fundraising consultant can acquire accurate information about your donors’ commitment to your project, creating conclusive results.

Check out Aly Sterling’s Steps for Hiring a Fundraising Consultant for more helpful pointers.

The bottom line: Fundraising consultants can conduct an objective feasibility study that results in more honest answers from your community and supporters.


ASP SofTrek Who should my organization interview for the feasibility study


This is a crucial question to ask your nonprofit when organizing a feasibility study. You’ll want to select the right interviewees so you get the best information.

To get a well-rounded and accurate picture of support for your project, you should interview a well-rounded group of people with different relationships to your organization. Most feasibility studies involve the following stakeholders:

  • Donors of different types--major, regular, or planned giving 
  • Board members 
  • Volunteers 
  • Staff members 
  • Clients/patients 
  • Community/business leaders 
  • Representatives of affiliate/partner organizations 

Think about who your cause is helping. For example, if your upcoming campaign is going to benefit your local elementary school, ask individuals in leadership roles from the school to participate in your feasibility study. These leaders will have insight into the needs of your shared audience and may help you work toward the most effective plan.

You might even ask common sponsors, like local business owners, to participate as well. This will prove you value their support and opinions while opening up opportunities for them to sponsor your next campaign.

The bottom line: Feasibility studies give your community an opportunity to speak up about where your organization succeeds and fails.


ASP SofTrek What are the benefits of conducting a feasibility study


The benefits of feasibility studies are twofold: they provide data to inform your fundraising plan and overall project while also strengthening relationships with key stakeholders. 

The feedback you receive from feasibility studies will help your organization strengthen your cultivation and enhance donor relationships. 

Asking donors directly for their opinions proves your organization cares about their insights and how they’re feeling. Plus, it encourages them to share their honest opinions about your organization and fundraising strategies. You might learn that some donors weren’t thrilled with your stewardship process, for example. With their comments, you can adjust your strategy to be more inclusive and thoughtful.

You can even use your study to get leaders excited about your upcoming project. If they like your project proposal and can visualize themselves helping bring your campaign to fruition, it won’t be difficult to get started.

The bottom line: Your feasibility study does more than help determine if your project is a good idea or not. It can help you strengthen your donor relationships and build excitement about your upcoming campaign.

Feasibility studies can help your organization with confirmation of an upcoming project and more. Your nonprofit can cultivate donor relationships and secure sponsors with the help of a fundraising consultant. Remember that an objective interview will result in the most accurate data!

All that’s left to do before beginning your next campaign and raking in donations is to conduct your feasibility study, so get to it!



image bio AlySterling2

Aly Sterling is an accomplished speaker, active board member and proud leader of Aly Sterling Philanthropy, a national consulting firm based in Midwest. Her expertise includes fundraising, strategic planning, search consultation, and board leadership development for organizations of varying sizes and capacities.

Ally Sterling