Recently I had the opportunity to meet with the president of a large family foundation. We had a great dialogue regarding the value of feasibility studies today. He was quite wary of studies that didn’t involve the not-for-profit staff or studies that only tested the viability of the campaign goal.
Rather than get defensive about the feedback, I was relieved. Ten years ago when we started this consulting journey, we set out to reclaim the feasibility study process and methodology. I was pleased to reflect and share how we conduct feasibility studies (we like to call them leadership studies). What do we do differently?
- Involving the not-for-profit’s CEO is critical. Who better to cast a vision for the organization?
- Spending significant time during the study interview exploring leadership for the campaign. As we like to say: “leadership is everything.”
- Involving both staff and volunteers to develop an urgent and meaningful caseto test, pushing staff and volunteer teams to articulate their work and impact in a clear and concise way.
- Involving the interviewee. Through engaging discussion and tactical activities such as playing our “DBD card game” of options, the interview generates informed feedback on the program and capital dreams the organization is testing.
- Reporting back to all of those interviewed. We follow up with all those we interviewed, letting them know the top-line results of the study and the next steps the board and staff will be taking as they move forward.
The president of this foundation went on to give some terrific advice. Every community has more needs than available philanthropic funds. Why is your cause important and why should we be involved? It’s YOUR responsibility as a nonprofit leader to clearly articulate where your agency fits in the fabric of the community.
He went onto say,
“If you don’t clearly define where you fit and why you are critical, we (the donor community) will make that definition and I suspect it may not be accurate.”
When was the last time you visited with a key donor or local foundation – not asking them for support, but rather for advice? I’ve always benefited from these visits. Remember that old fundraising axiom – ask for money and get advice … ask for advice and get money!