Why Your Campaign Needs a Planning Study

Editor’s note: The NonProfit Times received the session information from the speakers and this was included.

Campaign, Feasibility, Planning … a study by any other name is still a study of fundraising potential for your organization. Studies help ascertain timing, identify prospective donors, and build awareness about your organization’s vision. Some organizations proceed with a campaign without a study, yet that runs some risks for misunderstanding and mis-reading community sentiment.

Consultant Deborah Eschenbacher of Carter and Melissa Brown, a fundraising researcher, prepared for a “nuts and bolts” session on planning studies. Contracting a consulting firm to do a study has several advantages over a do it yourself (DIY) approach. A third party brings a new perspective to the table. Knowledgeable consultants will assess your board’s readiness to raise significant amounts and delve into your development office practices to identify areas that can be strengthened.

Consultants who do planning, feasibility or campaign studies can explain the board’s role and staff member roles for a campaign and beyond. This can avoid having elements of planning “fall through the cracks” or having too many people focused on the same aspect of a plan. An independent feasibility study will uncover what your prospective donors really think of the plan, good or bad. It will also surface knowledge of other campaigns that are or might be occurring at the same time as yours, according to Eschenbacher and Brown.

Well-done studies position the charity for successful fundraising even if a campaign is not indicated now for this amount for that project. From a study, your organization should develop a greater understanding of your donors’ priorities and find pathways to greater success in major gift asks and possibly even for annual fund appeals. Your organization might also learn of opportunities to collaborate or partner with other agencies or of similar programs in other communities that can be models for your work.

A study will not provide insight into how much a given donor will give, nor will it report what any individual said. Confidentiality for the people who are interviewed is essential for building strong connections. The consultant’s guarantee of confidentiality is the single most important aspect: People will share insights and perceptions they will not tell a staff member or other volunteer. Your board and leadership learn essential information about how the organization is perceived and how it can raise more funds to bring about a better world.