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.


The First Steps to Getting Your Fundraising Strategy Right

Here is how too many organizations develop their fundraising strategy. Someone declares we need some strategy around here so off you go with your team to a retreat from which you emerge with slick charts, creative revenue streams, optimistic projections and long to-do lists. Everyone smiles and cheers.

By the following Thursday, the fundraising strategy is forgotten. What went wrong?

Sometimes staff and board members need to be re-energized to implement a fundraising strategy. As a first step getting your fundraising strategy right, put the spreadsheets, donor lists, beautiful charts, and blogposts on hold. (They will be there when you return.) Meet with the kids your nonprofit educates. Serve dinner to the families who come to the shelter night after night. Hang out in the cancer wards your major donors have built. Feel the small everyday victories your fundraising makes possible.

Then, for a fundraising strategy to truly becoming a road map to fundraising success, first you must answer this critical question. What are your organization’s strongest fundraising assets?  A beloved, charismatic founder? A large dedicated base of small donors? A wealthy private foundation that has pledged its support for the next twenty-five years? A unique special event that has delivered results for a decade?

While best practices tout the need to have a balanced portfolio of development – foundations, direct mail, major gifts, special events, planned giving, government funding, corporate donations, online, etc. – most organizations actually have only two or three really strong assets.  A pragmatic fundraising strategy ought to concentrate on what your organization does best and perhaps adds one or two additional revenue streams.

For example, if your nonprofit attracts more than its fair share of foundation funding and has hundreds of donors giving annual $25 gifts, make sure your strategy includes maximizing foundation giving and annual giving. Your strategy may want to include building a major gifts component and introducing planned giving to your donors.

Reminding your team of their mission and creating a development strategy that maximizes your organization’s assets is a winning combination for successful fundraising.


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.


Making the Ask: Keeping the Door Open - Part Three

In my two previous blog posts about Making the Ask, I’ve discussed the importance of asking the right person at the right time and finding the sweet spot. In this final post based on a presentation made by Michelle Keegan, Chief Development Officer, CSIS, and I at the Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference, I want to give you some tips on how to keep the door open.

1) Plant a seed and give it time to grow in your prospect’s thinking. Your pitch should include some unforgettable nuggets that your prospect can ponder after your conversation ends.

2) Remember that if your potential donor cares enough to talk to you, he or she will want to find a way to help you. It just may be that your prospect will choose to help you later rather than now.

3) Turn a “no” or less than optimal gift into a promise of a future conversation. There will be opportunities to talk to your prospect another time, and this current ask is the right time to encourage your potential donor to commit to that future conversation.

4) Thank your prospect in a way that is meaningful to him or her. For some, a heartfelt email is perfect. For others, you ought to handwrite a lovely thank you note. Still others would prefer a small token of appreciation, perhaps some swag with your logo. If you don’t know how your prospect would like to be thanked, you may not know your prospect well enough to make the ask.

I hope this short series of tips for making your next ask a success will make your next ask a home run. If you or your organization wants more assistance with strategic development, please don’t hesitate to contact Capacity Partners at mary@capacitypartners.com.


Find the Sweet Spot - Part Two

Every fundraiser – volunteer or staff – must eventually ask for the gift. This short series of posts based on a presentation given by Michelle Keegan and me at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference will help you find the sweet spot for your ask.

Last week we discussed the importance of asking the right person at the right time in the right place for the right amount. Today’s blog focuses on some of the essential intangibles of making the ask.

1) Remember to listen! Listening is the central tool in your tool box, even more important that the stellar pitch you’ve practiced a dozen times. Figure out what your prospect is really saying and shift your approach based on what you learn. Ask questions that will lead your prospect to articulate their commitment to your organization.

2) Explore both the feelings and thoughts behind their giving. Why do they make charitable donations? What compels them to consider contributing to your organization? Bear in mind that emotions are often more influential than logic.

3) Learn what giving will do for them – not just what it will do for your organization. As much as your potential donor may care about your nonprofit’s mission, your prospect, like most every human, in just as interested in what contributing will do for him or her. Will giving make your prospect feel like a hero or impress his peers? What tax benefits will accrue to the donor when she contributes?

4) Link your prospect’s passion to your vision and impact. For example, if your donor wants to help children break the cycle of poverty, be sure to talk about how your organization does exactly that.

Keep an eye out for Part Three in which I’ll discuss how to keep the door open.


Making the Ask: Tips for Success - Part One

I was honored to speak along with Michelle Keegan, Chief Development Officer, CSIS, at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference about Making the Ask: Tips for Success. The impressive display of nonprofit talent at Gaylord National Hotel reminded me of how much I enjoy collaborating with nonprofit leaders.

If you were unable to attend the Bridge Conference, over the next couple of weeks I’ll post some of our most important advice from the interactive presentation Michelle and I gave at the conference. If you would like more detailed information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mary@capacitypartners.com or Michelle at mkeegan@csis.org.

Think back to a time when you were told “no” by a prospect. Was it perhaps because you asked the wrong person for the wrong amount? Maybe the wrong person had the conversation with your donor? It is critical that the right person ask at the right time in the right place for the right amount.

Remember:

  • The right person is the one your prospect cannot say no to. Is that you? A board member? A volunteer? A special event committee member?
  • The right time is one that makes sense for your donor’s financial situation and readiness to hear what you say. The right time isn’t based on when your organization needs the money; it’s based on when your donor is ready to give the money.
  • The right place is where your prospect will be most comfortable having this conversation. This may not be what’s most convenient for you, but it’s essential that your meeting place is one where your donor can relax and feel at ease.
  • The right amount is one that is at the top of your prospect’s potential yet balanced by their passion and commitment toward your mission, relationship with your leaders, and involvement with your organization. It’s as critical not to under-ask as it is to over-ask. For one prospect, $10,000 is too much while $10,000 is far too little for another. Know your prospect’s level of commitment and involvement with your organization as well as his/her financial situation to reach the ideal amount of your ask.

Keep an eye out for Part Two in which I’ll discuss how to find your prospect’s sweet spot