When your organization is considering launching a capital campaign, you want to set your cause up for success even before you start.  Once you’ve assessed your organization’s capacity to conduct a campaign and transition into a bigger and/or better version of its mission with some of the questions from To Campaign or Not to Campaign – Part One, it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

In order to pull off successful nonprofit capital campaigns – campaigns that exceed their goals, that build momentum and excitement, that inspire people to get on board – you need some strategic information. It’s time to gather your campaign intelligence and hone in on what your successful campaign will look like. It’s time for a campaign feasibility and planning study.

nonprofit capital campaigns

A campaign feasibility and planning study will not only provide a clear picture of what your campaign will need to be successful, but it will also show you what will and won’t work, what is and is not possible, and what your community will and will not support. The campaign feasibility study answers the question “will we be able to raise the money for this?” If the answer is “no” you have just saved your cause from becoming a visible community failure, not to mention the time, effort, and resources from a campaign effort can now be used in a way that will actually advance your cause.

When the answer is “yes” the confidence in your cause and your campaign soars.

To get the most out of a campaign feasibility and planning study, you need complete and unbiased information. Have your study conducted by someone outside your organization and your organization’s membership. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right person or company to conduct your campaign feasibility and planning study.

  • Will interviews and survey answers be disclosed or confidential? A mix of both? One method of extracting truthful responses from community members is to conduct confidential interviews. People may be more inclined to share their true perceptions over what they think you want to hear if they feel confident any specific answers are not attributed to them.

nonprofit capital campaigns

  • How will the results of the survey be made accessible to the organization? Will the company or individual provide data that can be incorporated into existing systems? How will they deliver their analysis to the organization? What information will be collected quantitatively and what information will be anecdotal?
  • Will the study involve people outside of your organization? To get a true picture of how the community responds to your cause and potential campaign, it is important that the respondent pool includes a cross-section of the community rather than a cross-section of your cause. How will people from outside your organization become engaged in the study process?
  • What are the study’s “deliverables?” Will you receive a list of prospects? A workshop that helps you use the results of the study strategically? Ask your prospective study conductor to show you an example of a study report.

nonprofit capital campaigns

  • How will the study support your organization if a campaign is not the right fit at this time? Will you receive next step recommendations and actions to take to reach your goal thought other activities?

And lastly, you need to be sure your study is gathering the right kind of information for your cause. Ask your prospective study facilitator to demonstrate how your study will answer these questions:

  • Does the community support your organization? How will the study collect information about your cause and the community’s response outside of a campaign message?
  • Would the community support the project for which you are campaigning? How will the study provide feedback specifically about the proposed project?
  • Do you have a compelling campaign story? How will the study test your campaign case statement?
  • Do you have the right mix of campaign leaders on board now or are there other people in the community who could and would be willing to help with the campaign? How will the study provide information about potential campaign leadership?
  • How much should you be able to raise? Will your study deliver a recommended goal range or a definitive amount?
  • What is the timeline to reach the recommended goal?

nonprofit capital campaigns

You know what they say, success is in the planning. It may seem daunting to consider answering all these questions before embarking on a campaign. But when you get the answers you need, you are armed with a very powerful arsenal for campaign success. When it comes time to launch your campaign, a campaign feasibility and planning study can get you to your goal as much as ten times faster than you would without the pre-campaign work. You go farther, faster and create a bigger benefit in a shorter amount of time.

Now your capital campaign is all about transformation!

Photo sources: hardwickresearch.com, cssr.gmu.edu,

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This is a wonderful checklist and I like that you incorporated what to do if feasibility outcomes suggest you wait. Great stuff. Another important exercise is mapping your current donor pool and where they potentially fall for a major gift. What's the potential? What's their current level of engagement? Great post.

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