A well-run campaign planning study is the launching pad for a successful capital campaign. Many organizations question the reasoning and value behind a planning or feasibility study.
At the Steier Group, we almost always advocate for conducting this important exercise before jumping into fundraising. The goal of a study is to interview or survey as many of your potential donors as possible during the study. The feedback you receive sets the table for a successful campaign. The insights shared by your supporters allows an organization to customize a plan that will be most successful for your community.
Here are five ways your planning study may be the reason your campaign succeeds:
Set realistic goals. An important deliverable of a Steier Group-led study is a realistic fundraising projection. We encourage organizations to dream big during the study, but let your supporters determine the eventual size and scope of the campaign through their feedback. This allows your organization to make informed choices about what goals to include during the campaign. If the projection comes in less than the cost of your goals, tier the campaign to celebrate successes along the way.
Identify key leaders. A planning study identifies your community’s leaders of time, talent and treasure. During the study, we ask an important question: “How do you want to be involved in this campaign, beyond supporting it financially?” Recruiting, training and managing a diverse, passionate leadership team is an important part of a campaign. The identification of those leaders/volunteers begins during the study.
Allow donors to participate in the process. Planning studies allow donors to have their voices heard before they are asked for financial support. When your constituents help shape the campaign plan and refine your organization’s story, they feel invested. That helps when the fundraising begins.
Craft your messaging with donors in mind. After dozens of interviews, trends begin to form. By asking engaging, open-ended questions, themes develop that will be included in the campaign’s communications. In other words, the donors tell us how to best market the campaign plan. A compelling story is the most important part of a campaign. That story gets developed and refined based on the opinions shared by your eventual donors during the study.
Create early momentum. There is always a lot of chatter and anticipation following planning studies. People get excited and you can feel the momentum. It is why the Steier Group strongly urges our partners to go immediately into the work of a campaign following a study. Our data shows that campaigns are more successful when there isn’t a delay between the end of a study and the launch of the campaign.
Capital campaigns are full of activity and excitement, but do not overlook the value of the process and planning that happens early on. Great planning studies will help your organization explode out of the starting block.
Are you wondering whether a planning study makes sense for your organization? Contact me to learn more about what all goes into a planning or feasibility study.