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What’s in a Name? Why Graham-Pelton doesn’t call it a Feasibility Study.

Vice President, Marketing and Communications

At its most basic, a Campaign Feasibility Study is a tool that you can use to determine whether a fundraising campaign for your organization is viable.

But at Graham-Pelton, we don’t call our most sought-after service a Campaign Feasibility Study like most of our competitors. Instead, we refer to it as a Campaign Planning Study. And for a fundraising consulting firm that prides itself on flexibility and adaptive tenacity, this is one area in which we have put a stake in the ground.

The Campaign Planning Study: our rationale

So why call it a Campaign Planning Study? Because the path to a successful campaign is unique to every organization, and studying how to move forward with a campaign is more important than simply finding out if you can. A Planning Study can help your organization identify how, not whether, to launch a campaign that will be successful.

Words matter – to both your organization and to your supporters. The very definition of feasible is “possible to do easily or conveniently” or “capable of being done or carried out.” Any seasoned fundraiser knows that a multi-year, focused fundraising effort is possible, but it is neither easy nor convenient.

Considering the perceptions of your supporters and stakeholders is even more important. Yes, the concept of a “feasibility study” is prevalent in the for-profit sector. However, it doesn’t inspire much vision, hope, or inventive problem-solving. It is rather black and white versus a colorful spectrum of possibility.

When done right, a Campaign Planning Study can be one of the most crucial and impactful activities you can conduct with your stakeholders (perhaps second only to making the ask!). Consider the difference you can make in your framing of this invitation alone: inviting prospects into a study to determine if a campaign is feasible or not, or inviting prospects into a study to figure out how your organization will reach an ambitious fundraising goal – and what role they might consider playing in it. It is all about instilling confidence, which leads to buy-in.

It also matters when it comes to internal leaders, such as program officers, academic deans, or clinicians. Every day they face unprecedented and significant challenges, from budgetary constraints to the mounting needs of those they serve. When you ask them for their time and brainpower, what might be more appealing for them? Would it be: “Give us your time so we can figure out if this is worthwhile,” or “We know our mission is worthwhile. With your insight, we can strategize how to achieve our support of it.” What captures the imagination and inspires confidence?

A Campaign Planning Study uncovers opportunity and creates change

As well as cultivating stakeholders and encouraging buy-in, a properly done Planning Study results in purpose-driven activities. The Planning Study is only the beginning of a transformational process for your organization – one that goes beyond the dollars you hope to raise. It can inspire action, uncover obstacles to success, and help you prioritize subsequent activities.

Consider these common real-world scenarios, which are a few examples of what can be uncovered during a Planning Study – revelations that clearly go beyond the question of “is it feasible?”

The database analysis reveals tremendous capacity among your constituents, but they have not been properly cultivated.
Constituents do not have a track record of financial capacity, but they offer passion and commitment, including volunteer leadership.
Supporters care about your mission, but they don’t understand your priorities and goals.
A fundraising campaign has been on your radar for a while, but just as you get underway, your advancement leader announces their departure.

 

There is always a productive path forward

Applying client institutional knowledge and our wide-ranging expertise and strategy, we reveal that a bright and transformative future is within reach. Dexter A. Bailey Jr., Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations at Graham-Pelton client Caltech, once put it this way: “Graham-Pelton helped us look in the mirror and see exactly who we were – and then we knew where we wanted to go.”

Achieving positive, meaningful, and actionable outcomes goes beyond feasibility. It goes beyond “can” or “cannot.” And no matter what your Planning Study reveals, it will provide a roadmap that takes your organization beyond where it is now.

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