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Conducting a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study: 5 Steps

Former Executive Vice President, Business Development

Let Graham-Pelton help with your next campaign planning study.

A Capital Campaign Feasibility study, also called a Campaign Planning Study, is an essential element of preparing for and planning a fundraising campaign. An effective study will analyze various parts of your fundraising infrastructure and potential for financial support in order to lay the groundwork for a bold, ambitious – and ultimately successful – campaign.

To guide you in conducting your own study with success, these are the essential aspects you’ll need to understand:

Organizations traditionally work with consultants to conduct feasibility studies. However, it’s still important for your team to understand the what, why, and how of this process to guide your decision-making the next time you’re preparing for a campaign.

This overview will help you understand how feasibility studies work and how professional counsel can make a difference. Let’s get started with the basics.

Learn the basics of capital campaign feasibility studies.

Capital Campaign Feasibility Studies: The Basics

What is a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study?

A Capital Campaign Feasibility Study, or Capital Campaign Planning Study, is a way of measuring how prepared your organization is to undertake a proposed fundraising campaign. Through research, interviews, and analysis, a study seeks to identify your internal readiness and to recommend a course of action to successfully reach your goals.

Campaign Planning Studies vs. Capital Campaign Feasibility Studies

Many organizations use the term “Capital Campaign Feasibility Study,” but at Graham-Pelton, we prefer “Campaign Planning Study.” That’s because the purpose of a study is to identify how you can effectively move forward with the campaign, rather than simply if you can. Our team of experts offers a clear roadmap that guides you to positive and meaningful outcomes on your path to campaign success.

While this article uses the term “Capital Campaign Feasibility Study,” our Campaign Planning Studies go beyond industry standards, offering a roadmap to achieving ambitious goals and transformational giving for your nonprofit.

What does a feasibility study entail?

A feasibility study examines different aspects of your organization’s fundraising capacity, your donor base, and your preliminary campaign plans and goals to determine the best path forward.

An effective study should help you to develop an accurate picture of your organization’s strengths and abilities, as well as the likelihood of support from key stakeholders and the broader community.

Because a feasibility study touches on so many aspects of your organization, getting the expertise of an objective third party is highly recommended in order to bring perspective and impartiality to the process.

How do you conduct a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study?

An effective Capital Campaign Feasibility Study involves specific components. These include:

  • Gauging your organization’s internal readiness for the campaign.
  • Clarifying and testing your campaign message and funding priorities.
  • Analyzing the capacity of your current and prospective donors.
  • Engaging your key stakeholders in designing a path forward.

The study’s findings should then directly inform how you approach the campaign, whether that means adjusting course or moving full steam ahead. Let’s explore these steps in greater detail.

5 Steps to Conduct a Campaign Feasibility Study

These five steps will help you conduct your own campaign feasibility study.

1. Get clear on your messaging

In order to convince donors to offer their support, every fundraising campaign, regardless of its size, must tell a compelling story. Why should donors care about supporting your mission or your vision? What problem will your organization solve? How will their philanthropy drive real-world impact?

During your campaign, you’ll answer these questions and tell your unique story in your case for support, the seeds of which take root during your study. In order to effectively gauge the feasibility of your campaign plan, you’ll need a preliminary case for support to test with stakeholders and potential donors.

This guiding set of ideas should include a few key points:

  • Your vision for where your campaign or organization is headed.
  • The problem that your organization works to solve and why it’s urgent.
  • The reasons why your organization is best positioned to solve this problem.
  • The impact your organization has had in the past.
  • The real impacts that donations to your campaign will have on constituents and the community.
  • Your priorities and goals for the campaign.

Aim for impactful and focused messaging at this early stage, but remember that the overarching purpose of the Campaign Planning Study is to reveal ways that your approach can be refined and adjusted. Cases for support are living documents that can evolve as your campaign plan comes into focus.

2. Engage internal and external stakeholders

Once you have a campaign case for support to test, you can begin assessing varied perspectives from key supporters.

This stage of feedback collection will often consist of a mix of two approaches:

  • One-on-one discussions with key leaders and potential major donors in order to collect their qualitative thoughts and input on the campaign plan.
  • Surveys that are distributed among broader segments of the community to test the impact of your messaging as distilled in your case for support.

Organizations partner with external consultants to support these processes because an unbiased third party can help facilitate more open, candid discussions with stakeholders. Consultants also bring the expertise and broader industry perspective that your team may lack, resulting in more comprehensive and enlightening survey results.

In both cases, the point is to collect unbiased feedback on your campaign plans and generate buy-in along the way. What do your various audiences think about your goal, plans, and message? Their answers will help you shape your messaging and approach for maximum impact.

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3. Perform in-depth prospect research and data analysis

Your organization should next begin to dig deeper into your prospect and fundraising data to guide refinements to your plans and goal. This involves studying your existing pool of major and mid-level donors, measuring their potential support, and identifying new prospects as needed.

The results of a wealth screening will not only help you determine if you have the necessary financial support for your campaign’s goals, but can also give you a head start on developing an engagement and solicitation playbook for later in the campaign.

This step will influence your campaign goal more than any other, so it is critical to have confidence that the findings from your research are accurate and vetted. Outside counsel can play an important role here by providing you with more than publicly available data. Instead, high-impact prospect research during a study can include prospect tiering, data modeling, and predictive analytics. New technology is constantly emerging, and the right partner will connect you with these tools in support of your campaign planning.

4. Get your house in order

Once you have an understanding of how stakeholders view your organization and the financial capacity that exists within your database, it is time to examine your existing development operations. An internal readiness assessment will review your staff and volunteer resources, existing fundraising capacity and capital, and the philanthropic landscape.

This kind of in-depth look at your organization’s current abilities will reveal gaps that should be addressed in order to set your campaign up for success—for example, staffing, training, technology, or other investments and improvements that will be important for reaching your goals. A 360-degree view allows you to approach your campaign well-informed and with confidence from the start, and it helps ensure that you’ll land on a goal that is both aspirational and achievable.

5. Report the findings and make a plan of action

The findings of your study will identify how your organization can move forward to successfully execute your fundraising campaign. These next steps might point you towards moving ahead with the campaign as-is, making adjustments based on the feasibility of your current plan, or further investing in your fundraising capacity before proceeding.

When working with professional counsel, the findings will be clearly presented to you with next steps identified. Whether or not you immediately move forward with your campaign, this last step in your study is a crucial part of ensuring success. Your team will use this report to proceed to the next steps in campaign planning or address the concerns highlighted in the findings.

Graham-Pelton is an experienced partner for campaign planning studies.

Graham-Pelton’s Expertise in Capital Campaign Planning Studies

Throughout the process of working with Graham-Pelton, your team will benefit from our expertise at every stage of the process outlined above.

The Graham-Pelton Approach

Graham-Pelton’s approach to Campaign Planning Studies takes the five basic steps of conducting a study and elevates them through tailored recommendations, insightful deliverables, and a superior experience. The extensive experience and tools that our team can bring to your Campaign Planning Study ensure a best-in-class experience.

In addition to assessing your internal readiness and assisting with the development and testing of your case for support, Graham-Pelton helps your organization maximize the impact of the wealth screening and prospect research conducted during your study. Our tailored recommendations for major gift prospects, including tiered lists of prospects and target ask amounts, show you the exact next steps to take to begin securing the bulk of your campaign’s quiet phase funding.

About halfway through your Campaign Planning Study, you receive an Interim Report of progress and emerging themes. This gives you early insights into the interests and motivations of your stakeholders for immediate next steps and cultivation calls before your study is even complete.

These efforts culminate in a comprehensive and actionable Final Report, delivered to your organization’s leadership or campaign committee.

After delivering your Final Report, Graham-Pelton continues to support your campaign through counsel on how to implement next steps and leverage the momentum generated through the study. This superior level of support gives your organization everything it needs to succeed with its next campaign.

Let Graham-Pelton help with your next campaign planning study.

Wrapping Up

When you’re planning to launch a new fundraising campaign, your Campaign Planning Study is crucial for ensuring that you are prepared to undertake this project.

To get the maximum impact from your study, consider working with a reputable partner so you and your team have the support you need. A trusted partner like Graham-Pelton will conduct a planning study that not only meets your needs, but empowers you to move forward with confidence and clarity.

To learn more about nonprofit development best practices, explore these additional resources from the Graham-Pelton team:

Graham-Pelton's experts can help you conduct a feasibility study that prepares you for capital campaign success.