Why do a capital campaign feasibility study?


When leaders at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Osage, Iowa, retained the services of the Steier Group, they hoped a capital campaign feasibility study would answer two primary questions. First, do their parishioners support plans to build a new, handicap-accessible church? And second, can they raise enough money to fund the project?

The answer to both questions was yes, but with a pair of caveats.

Parishioners indicated that they would back plans to replace their 89-year-old church building, but only if the cost was feasible. The capital campaign feasibility study revealed significant financial support – the Steier Group projected that Sacred Heart could raise at least $1.5 million – but not enough to cover the $4.5 million price tag. The Steier Group recommended the parish scale back its project before moving forward with a phased approach.

Parish leaders did just that and, thanks in part to the planning study, the campaign was a major success. To date, the parish has received nearly $1.85 million in gifts and pledges and the first phase of construction is well underway.

Had Sacred Heart parish not conducted the planning study, the campaign likely would have been viewed as a failure. In all likelihood, parish leaders would have embarked on a $4.5 million campaign and fallen far short of their goal, leaving parishioners demoralized and frustrated.

Five reasons why you should do a capital campaign feasibility study:

  • Determine major gift prospects
  • Prioritize goals
  • Identify leaders and volunteers
  • Build awareness
  • Update your organization’s database

In short, a campaign planning study will set you up for a successful campaign.

Determine major gift prospects for a capital campaign: During our planning studies, we aim to meet personally with your top 100 donor prospects. These interviews tell us how your most generous supporters feel about the potential campaign goals and at what level they may consider financially supporting a campaign. Even before a campaign has begun, donor cultivation is underway.

Prioritize goals for a capital campaign: Many organizations have multiple goals or projects they hope to achieve. By aggregating responses, we can determine which goals are the highest priorities and which goals should be put on the back burner. When it comes time for a campaign, goals can be tiered accordingly, with the first portion of funds going toward the most highly prioritized needs.

Identify leaders and volunteers for a capital campaign: Volunteers are the key to fundraising success. Recruiting the right leaders and volunteers is a critical step in setting the foundation for a successful campaign. Planning studies provide an opportunity for prospective donors to self-identify as potential volunteers and/or recommend individuals and couples who would make the best campaign leaders. This creates a strong pool of candidates from which to recruit for a campaign.

Build awareness for your capital campaign: At Sacred Heart, the new church project had been in the works for more than seven years. But many nonprofits need to build awareness about their potential campaign goals before embarking on a campaign. A planning study affords these organizations the opportunity to share plans with their supporters and ask for feedback. If they move forward with a campaign, those supporters will, at the very least, have a baseline knowledge of the campaign goal(s).

Update your donor database: Accurate data is a critical component of every capital campaign. The information received during planning studies allow organizations to update their databases, saving them (and their volunteers) time and energy down the road. A good database allows organizations to hit the ground running at the start of a campaign, while outdated information can set the campaign back.

If you’re considering a planning study or if you have any questions regarding the professional services provided by the Steier Group, I encourage you to contact me at any time. We’d love to help you reach your development goals.

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