Published on philanthropy.com January 10, 2018
For decades, most nonprofit leaders considering a capital campaign would hire consultants to interview key supporters as a basis for deciding whether to mount what in many cases would be an organization’s most ambitious fundraising drive ever.
The use of an interview-only study has often been combined with this “highly technical” calculation: Double the size of your annual fund and multiply that by the number of years of your campaign to determine the overall amount to set as your revenue goal.
I have worked at Marts & Lundy for more than a decade, and it is still not unusual for us to get a call or inquiry saying something like, “We are planning a campaign and need a feasibility study. Can you send us a proposal for a study with 50 interviews?”
Realistically, this approach falls short. Why? It’s impossible to know how a group of supporters ― alumni, members, or subscribers ― will actually respond to a campaign solicitation, despite how they may react when asked about a general or theoretical campaign while it is still in the planning stage.
Plus, interviewees must be more than nominally familiar with a nonprofit’s goals before they can assess with certainty and accuracy how much they would pledge in support.
And finally, 50 conversations with donors offer only a limited view for an organization with, say, 50,000 households in its records.
It’s no wonder the capital-campaign feasibility study has come under scrutiny.
The Campaign Preparedness Study
You should, instead, conduct a study that provides your decision makers with sufficient feedback to make an informed decision about the nature, size, and scope of a proposed campaign.
The best way to do that is to combine qualitative feedback (interviews and small-group conversations) with quantitative analysis (analytics, surveys, and historic data on annual giving and prior campaigns).
Here are three steps to take to assess your nonprofit’s capacity for a capital campaign: