Preparing for a Capital Campaign: Why You Need a Feasibility Study

A feasibility study, or assessment, is the optimal way to measure the amount of money an organization can raise, at a specific point in time, for a specific project.  It is also an excellent opportunity to explore different issues that affect the ultimate outcome of your capital campaign.  With a campaign assessment in hand, you can proceed with a campaign in confidence, knowing the goal will be both ambitious and achievable.

The Capacity Partners® Feasibility Study is designed to answer these fundamental questions:

  • Likelihood of achieving a specific campaign goal and/or identification of a realistic yet ambitious goal;
  • Capacity and inclination of potential or current major donors;
  • Appeal of the case for support;
  • Identification of campaign leaders;
  • Strength and commitment of campaign leaders and volunteers;
  • Manageability of important issues or concerns.

It is essential to measure the following set of criteria before you launch your campaign so you can achieve success by becoming aware of the potential challenges and areas of strength of your capital campaign.

STRONG INSTITUTION

  • INSTITUTIONAL IMAGE:  Does the organization command the respect and support of potential donors?  How well is it perceived to be serving the needs of primary and secondary stakeholders?  Are there perceptions that might stand in the way of successful fundraising, and can the Executive Leadership and Board overcome any such negative perceptions?
  • SOUND PLAN FOR FUTURE:  Is there a compelling vision and strategic plan guiding the organization and accepted by the community? Is the plan supported by solid financial analysis?
  • PROJECT VALIDATION:  Do potential donors consider the campaign’s objectives to be important?   Would the community be receptive to a capital campaign for these purposes?
  • EFFECTIVE INSTITUTIONAL LEADERSHIP:  Is the Board prepared to offer philanthropic leadership?  Can the Executive Leadership devote sufficient time to her/his leadership role in the campaign?

PREPARED CONSTITUENCY

  • INFORMED STAKEHOLDERS:  Are the key stakeholders and other constituents communicated with regularly and informed about the organization’s plans? Do they feel connected to the organization?
  • MOTIVATED VOLUNTEERS:  Is there a sufficient pool of willing volunteers, within or outside the Board, to build a campaign organization of highly motivated and influential volunteer leaders? Has an individual of sufficient stature and visibility been identified to provide volunteer leadership for the campaign?
  • CULTIVATED PROSPECTS:  Have those individuals most capable of support been cultivated?

   QUANTIFIABLE FINANCIAL SUPPORT

  • IMMEDIATE POTENTIAL:  Are sufficient funds available through donors capable and ready to make pledges of capital gifts totaling the campaign goal over three to five years?  Is there a history of giving, or committed donors, to support such a goal?
  • LEAD GIFTS:  Is there a lead gift of 10% of the campaign goal?  Do the top 10 gifts equal 30-50% of the goal?  Are there likely to be sufficient numbers of major gifts?  Is the current proportion of at least 3 qualified prospects for every gift observed in planning?
  • LONG-TERM CAPACITY:  Does the organization have the potential giving capacity to meet the campaign goals over time, if that potential is cultivated appropriately?

CAMPAIGN INFRASTRUCTURE

  • STAFF:  Does development staff have the range of skills and breadth of experience to lead and support a campaign, with or without the guidance of a consultant?  Have plans been made to add staff based upon the new demands of the campaign?
  • STRUCTURE:  Have preliminary plans for prospect development and research been put in place?
  • SYSTEMS:  Are the appropriate record-keeping systems in place?  Does the software include a prospect management system?  Are databases thorough and up to date?

With a carefully designed and implemented feasibility study, you can prepare your nonprofit organization for a successful, transformative capital campaign. If you'd like to talk to Capacity Partners about a feasibility study or your capital campaign, please don't hesitate to email Mary Robinson mary@capacitypartners.com.


How do you know when you’re ready to do a strategic plan?

Perhaps you and your board have decided your organization needs a new strategic plan. But how do you know if you’re ready to embark on the strategic plan process?  Before you hire that consultant to help you develop a bold yet achievable strategic plan, make sure your key stakeholders – board, staff, and volunteers – have answered these questions.

  1. Is your organization in a state of crisis?  If so, you must deal with the crisis before developing your strategic plan so you have the required mental space and staff time to allow all of you to consider the deeper issues of where it is heading.
  2. Are key board leaders relatively stable?  If your board officers are in transition, it might be wise to wait until they are comfortable in their new roles.
  3. Is the executive director planning to stay?  Are there minimal issues with your CEO? While an organization can do strategic planning without an executive director – and sometimes does, to assess direction and determine the right CEO to hire–for a complete strategic planning process, it is best to have on board the person who will lead the execution of the plan, which is nearly always the executive director.
  4. Do board and staff have time to plan?  While no one has enough time these days, meaningful strategic planning requires a time commitment of at least a half to full day a month for three to six months. The chair of the strategic planning committee and the executive director must dedicate even more time.  Many small nonprofits hope do the impossible – complete a strategic plan in a single half-day planning session, something that’s generally neither wise nor useful.
  5. Do you have someone willing to make the time and energy commitment to chair the strategic planning committee?  It is too much to expect board chair to lead this process while handling their other responsibilities.
  6. Do you want a board or staff-drive process, or some combination of the two? Very small nonprofits tend to choose a board-driven strategic planning process while large organizations with staff members who bring special expertise are often staff-driven. Either way, the board still owns the responsibility for setting the strategic direction, so the board must take the lead on the foundational elements of developing your mission/vision and values as well as setting the strategic direction and goals. Staff can help tremendously with the current situation analysis and creating strategy and implementation plans.
  7. What kind of consultant do you want – a partner to guide you through the entire process, or a facilitator with your team doing most of the work? It is important to interview different consultants and so that your needs match with the consultant’s style.

If you’d like to learn if your organization is ready for a strategic plan, or if you’re ready to start the planning process, call Capacity Partners at 240-462-5151 to learn if our team of experts can help you decide if you are ready to proceed and then discuss next steps with you.


Are You and Your Nonprofit Ready for a Change?

Upon engaging our services — whether it’s for strategic planning, board development or fundraising — most nonprofit staff and board leaders eagerly tell us what they hope we will accomplish for them and how anxious they are to receive our recommendations.

Sometimes they share confidential information about another person or group who needs to improve in some way — by thinking more strategically, working more efficiently, and so forth. Working collaboratively, we do our very best to create the plan or process that will lead nonprofit leaders to their goal.

Inevitably, our strategic planning process or development plan calls for every person involved in the organizational initiative to change in some way, large or small. Some people jump on the opportunity to grow, but for most, change is tough. “Not me,” says the board member with an iPhone full of contacts, “I cannot ask people for money. I volunteer my time.” “Not me,” says the executive director, “I was hired because I have X skills – don’t ask me to do Y.” And so on.

Whether an organization is forging a new strategic direction or raising sights for fundraising, the hardest and most important thing to learn and put into action is the simple truth we all know: change begins with me.

I experienced the challenge of change when it came to creating the new website for Capacity Partners. I solicited professional advice about my decision to launch a simple e-newsletter — and was told by many experts that I needed a new website. Yikes! It took me months to agree. Next I was told I needed new colors. Ouch! Then I was told we really needed a new logo. That was the hardest to stomach.

But more was coming: our messaging needed to improve, our photos needed to be changed, our font was wrong — etc. etc. After resisting every step of the way, I finally decided – THEY ARE RIGHT! And in that moment I opened myself to change and to the creation of our beautiful new logo and website. Many thanks to all those who pushed me to be my better self!

The point of resistance is where one most needs to grow. For me, that point was recognizing that Capacity Partners had outgrown my valiant attempts to do it all myself, and was calling for a more professional approach — and that it is time for me to focus on that which I do best.

Thanks for visiting our new blog! In future posts, the Capacity Partners team and I will be sharing stories of what we do best in nonprofit strategy and development, and what we’ve learned in working with fantastic clients over the past 15 years.


Nonprofit Success Starts with a Clear, Compelling Vision

Recently, a development director for a community-based nonprofit approached me for help. Her boss was pressuring her to come up with a clever, cutting-edge way to raise money – some trick they hadn’t tried. She asked me for a “new” idea.

My first question was this: “Does your nonprofit have a clear vision of what your community will look like when you achieve your goals?”

Her answer was no. They know their mission. They have great activities. They offer innovative programs. They have a dynamic team that can talk eloquently about what their organization does.

However, they cannot describe to others – at least not those beyond their passionate inner circle – how their nonprofit is making a difference for everyone in the community. They aren’t effectively communicating to potential donors why the organization’s work really matters and thus merits support.

I suggested that they start by creating a clear and compelling vision of a better future for the community that their nonprofit supports – a vision that is easy to explain and that immediately resonates with those outside the organization.

At Capacity Partners, we specialize in helping nonprofit leaders move their organizations from vision to action. For us, vision is at the very heart of effective strategic planning and fundraising. In our experience, it’s nearly impossible for nonprofits to achieve sustained success without a vision for the future that motivates and inspires.

Yes, I also ran through some basic development strategies with the development director. For instance, her nonprofit might benefit from a leadership club or a membership program.

However, fundraising tactics like these will fall flat unless they are linked to vision that makes people say, “Yes! – this is the kind of world I want, I believe in your capacity to make it happen, and I want to invest in you.”

People invest in people – and in their vision.


Capital Campaign Insights: Mary Robinson Facilitates a Nonprofit Roundtable for Ten

Mary Robinson is excited to be partnering with Nonprofit Montgomery, an affiliate of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, to facilitate a Table for Ten for development directors on capital campaigns.

Tables for Ten are only open to Roundtable members, and they are one of the terrific benefits of Roundtable membership. They allow groups of nonprofit leaders – especially executive directors and development directors – to join their peers for candid, confidential discussions.

This two-part Table for Ten will give development directors the opportunity to discuss every aspect of running a capital campaign, from feasibility studies to major gifts. She’ll be sharing best practices and proven strategies based on our firm’s extensive experience helping nonprofits design and execute successful campaigns.

Whether they are preparing for their first capital campaign or their tenth, Mary hopes to help the nonprofit leaders around the table feel better equipped to run a great campaign and achieve their fundraising goals. She is looking forward to sharing what she knows and to learning from the conversation.


A quick summary of Organizational Vitality

Click the image below to download a copy of our article on Organizational Vitality!


The First Pillar of Organizational Vitality

As we discussed recently, Capacity Partners has developed a revolutionary program called Organizational Vitality© that can transform your organization.

Organizational Vitality© is the heart of what makes a nonprofit resilient, successful, and beloved. Organizational Vitality is why some nonprofits are superlative in nearly every facet – program, mission, leadership, recognition, and planning. A lack of Organizational Vitality is the reason so many nonprofits struggle with issues they can’t identify, difficulties which prevent them from fulfilling their grand potential.

There are four pillars of Organizational Vitality: vision, goals, leadership, and engagement. Today we’ll focus on vision.

Vision, quite simply, is what inspires people. It is movement and change wrapped up in a single essential sentence. A well-articulated vision is a proven way to engage your stakeholders and steer your mission.

While your mission is pragmatic, an aspirational vision ought to be ambitious and rousing. Let’s say you are part of a nonprofit that feeds low-income people. Your mission might be “to provide nutritious food to people in need in the DC metro area.” Your vision, however, could be “to eliminate hunger in the DC metro area.”

A nonprofit with Organizational Vitality possess both an aspirational vision and a strategic vision that describes where they want to be in three to five years. For example, “to enable 50% of the people we currently serve to become economically stable and no longer need food assistance” might be the organization’s strategic vision. Easily-understood aspirational and strategic visions are one of the keys to being an effective, successful nonprofit organization.

Weaving through every action, every staffer, and every volunteer, vision is both the foundation for a nonprofit and the great change the organization wants to create in the world. An organization with vitality has a vision that is both the beginning and the end and acts as a guiding principle for the nonprofit.

Would you like to learn more about crafting an inspiring vision and becoming a nonprofit with Organizational Vitality©? Contact Mary Robinson, President and Founder of Capacity Partners, at mary@capacitypartners.com today.


Organizational Vitality – The Heart of Nonprofit Success

For thirty years, the talented team at Capacity Partners has consulted with a variety of nonprofit organizations – large and tiny, emerging and established, effective and struggling. We’ve worked with organizations in every sector, including human services, education, advocacy, arts, environmental, health, and international causes.

We recently asked ourselves, what makes one organization successful and another less so? On paper, most organizations have the elements that should cause them to be effective. People, programs, systems, marketing and communication, fundraising, finances, and culture are the foundations of every nonprofit. Yet we all know only a few nonprofits that possess that undefinable “it” factor that makes them not just good, but great. We admire those rare, astonishingly effective nonprofits which seem to easily and consistently fulfill their missions. They have happy staff and dynamic leadership and are revered as top-tier, leadership organizations.

After hours of conversations and even more hours spent pondering the nonprofit “it” factor, we realized we could actually define the undefinable. We discovered that the difference between nonprofits that survive and those that thrive is what we call Organizational Vitality.

Organizational Vitality is the heart of what makes a nonprofit organization resilient, successful, and beloved. Organizational Vitality is why some nonprofit organizations are superlative in nearly every facet – program, mission, leadership, recognition, and planning. A lack of Organizational Vitality is the reason so many nonprofit organizations struggle with issues they can’t identify, difficulties which prevent nonprofits from fulfilling their grand potential.

Drilling deeper into the concept of Organizational Vitality, we have created an entirely unique way to view and assist nonprofit organizations. During a recent seminar, we taught Organizational Vitality to a variety of nonprofits, and both the organizations and Capacity Partners were struck by how quickly the theory of Organizational Vitality resonated with the seminar participants.