A two-part apologetic for the campaign feasibility study

If the idea of a capital or major gifts campaign hasn’t popped up in a boardroom or staff conversation, wait a day or two and you’re likely to hear it mentioned. Wherever money is tight (and that’s just about everywhere these days), someone is likely to propose a campaign as the financial cure-all. And well it could be. But then again, maybe not. Or at least not at the level proposed.

Before launching head-long into a campaign, it’s a good idea to test your organization’s giving waters with a feasibility study.  Okay, I hear you. The idea of spending money to decide if you can raise money can seem a silly idea for a cash-strapped organization. Isn’t it better simply to get out there and ask?

Again, it could be, but more likely the answer is “no.” At least if you’re concerned about embarrassing yourself and your organization.


If you’re looking for an apologetic for the time-honored feasibility study, let me offer mine, in two parts:

1. A feasibility study can stop you from doing something stupid. Group think can take smart people down some pretty silly roads. Someone throws out a number. Someone else suggests that if “1,000 people will give x, we can do it.” And you’re off and running. Never mind if there are 1,000 campaign-ready donors on the organization’s giving roll or if “x” is a reasonable ask for even a fraction of those folks. It sounds good, so it must be.

A feasibility study verifies the depth of your donor base,
tests your case with your best prospects, and
pinpoints an appropriately great goal
(e.g. doable with a bit of stretching by your friends).

2. A feasibility study can encourage you to do something brave. Group think can also hold smart people back from doing what they should (or could). Someone throws out a number. Someone else cautions that “we’ve never raised that much money before.” And you’re in full retreat. Never mind if the folks in the room have a clue about who’s supporting the organization and at what levels, or what it takes to succeed with a campaign. A bigger than usual goal sounds impossible, so it must be.

A feasibility study gives timid people the facts they need
to courageously stretch themselves and the organization’s support base
in an exciting direction.

Asking wisely, appropriately, and courageously is key to success in raising money anytime, but all the more so when in campaign mode. A feasibility study gives you the facts you need to do fundraising right (which I assume is your goal). And even if the findings aren’t what you anticipated (which is the outcome more often than you might expect), don’t be discouraged. Run with what you’ve learned.

Good results will follow. I promise.

Test your board’s readiness to lead a campaign effort with my free board assessment tool. Then give Basinger Consulting a call if you’d like help in preparing your board for its role in a campaign or if you’re seeking counsel to conduct a feasibility study.



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