Planning for a Successful Capital Campaign

Feb 22, 2021

In most cases, you will want to do a planning study (sometimes called a feasibility study) before you decide to proceed with a campaign. The study should be done by a consultant to ensure that the people being interviewed feel comfortable talking about their perceptions of your organization. An experienced consultant will know not only how to ask the right questions, but also how to analyze the results of the interviews and make recommendations for your campaign.

A planning study will generally take between three and six months to complete, and the costs will depend on the size of your constituency base, the geographic scope of the study interview process, and other factors. You should expect a full report from the consultant with recommendations for a campaign goal and timeline, the availability of major donors for your campaign, and any issues that might affect the success of your campaign. Conducting a study will help you prepare for a successful campaign but is not the only factor in determining success.

A planning or feasibility study is the process by which an organization determines the feasibility of its campaign. This includes:

  • The likelihood that the goal can be reached
  • An analysis of donor availability identifying who will support the project at the necessary levels
  • The availability of leadership-level volunteers to serve on the campaign cabinet

The study is done by an experienced outside consultant who will interview prospective supporters, analyze the results of the interviews, and make recommendations for the campaign goal and timeline.

The people to be interviewed during this study will usually be major donors to your organization, those who you feel could be major donors, and those with broad community connections who might be willing to serve on the campaign cabinet. Before engaging a consultant to do the study, you should attempt to determine whom you will ask the consultant to interview. Most consultants will want to interview between thirty and fifty people. If your campaign is larger in size and scope, this number could be greater. Not all the people on your list will be available for an interview, so you should start with a list of seventy-five to one hundred people. The list will then be divided into an A List, a B List, and a C List. A-list people are those who must be interviewed; B-list individuals are those who should be interviewed; and the C list contains the names of those who could be interviewed. Do you have a list of prospective interviewees?

Engaging a Consultant for the Study

If you have not yet identified a consultant for the study, how will you go about this process?

You will most likely want to conduct a study before launching your campaign. However, many successful campaigns have been conducted without first doing a study. Usually the exceptions to the rule are:

  • Time is of the essence and you feel you know the answers to the questions asked during the study
  • You already have leadership pledges committed
  • You have already recruited to-notch campaign leadership

To learn more about capital campaigns and about planning/feasibility studies, take my course, Capital Campaigns: Yes, You CAN Do It. Sign up here

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