Why should our organization conduct a planning study?


There has been a lot of discussion recently, on blogs and in trade journals, as to the value of a planning study for an organization that is about to embark on a capital campaign.

A friend and former client asked for my thoughts on the matter, “Do you think planning studies are still necessary?”

My answer was an unequivocal “yes.” A professional planning study is critical to the success of a capital campaign.

WHAT DOES A CAMPAIGN PLANNING STUDY PROVIDE?
A good planning study involves questioning, measuring, testing and, above all, listening to what your donors are saying about your organization’s plans for the future. At the Steier Group, we feel it is important for our clients to reach beyond the typical 20-30 person “sample size” when gauging support for a campaign. Instead, we design studies that engage hundreds and even thousands of supporters in the process. When you’re about to launch a comprehensive effort, we want every possible donor to share with us his or her thoughts regarding the campaign. That information is incredibly valuable when it comes time to set request amounts and prioritize donor visits.

Planning studies provide key insights, including:

  • What do our supporters think of the proposed campaign goals?
  • Are there opportunities to secure corporate or foundation gifts?
  • Who will serve as campaign leaders? Who will serve as volunteers?
  • Who will consider significant gifts to the capital campaign? And what might those gifts be?
  • Do we have any donors that are considering planned gifts?
  • How should we structure the campaign? How long should it take?
  • What challenges will we face? How can we overcome those challenges?

WHAT IS THE COST OF A PLANNING STUDY?
On average, Steier Group planning studies cost our clients less than one half of one percent of the total dollars raised by the campaign. The studies pay for themselves, many times over. The question everyone should be asking is: How much money is left on the table when you jump into a capital campaign without first conducting a professional study?

DO YOU EVER TELL A CLIENT NOT TO GO FORWARD WITH A CAMPAIGN?
It has been suggested that consulting firms always recommend that clients move forward with campaigns because they want the business. I could not disagree more. Pushing a client into an ill-advised campaign is unethical – and doing so would be detrimental to a firm like the Steier Group that depends on word-of-mouth referrals and a sterling reputation to secure new clients. The truth is that, in some instances, the benefit our clients get from their study is the realization that they are not ready for a campaign and that they have some work to do.

If you, or any leaders at your organization, are questioning the value of a study, I recommend that you reach out to some of our former clients to discuss their experience and ask whether they found value in the process. Call or email me at any time for a list of our client contacts.

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