Preparing for a major fundraising campaign can be a momentous process in the life of a non-profit organization. Board members, executives, and professionals are excited and probably more than a little anxious as they consider how best to begin the complicated and important process of raising major capital commitments. The objective viewpoint of experienced campaign counsel can help chart those waters.
CDS has extensive experience working with non-profit organizations in planning and conducting capital fundraising initiatives. As campaign counsel, our value to the organization in this effort is in bringing the fruit of those experiences to bear on the group’s particular needs and the character of that organization. There is no more important step in fundraising than getting off to a good start, that is, a well-conducted, comprehensive fundraising feasibility and planning study. Every successful effort must have a definite and focused beginning or it will be doomed from the start. Over time, we have developed and refined what are a clear set of expectations and requirements to achieve that focused beginning.
There are several important considerations in starting a feasibility and planning study. The most important of these are:
- Who will conduct the study on your behalf?
- What will the study be designed to determine?
- When is the optimum time to conduct the study?
- Where will the principals of the organization be during the study?
- How is the study process designed and implemented?
The answers we find to be best are:
- Objective, experienced fundraising counsel is a critical component of a successful study. We at CDS have the experience of hundreds of such studies at our disposal
- The study must test for, and identify, an urgent and compelling case for fundraising
- Appropriate leadership for the effort must be available. Influential people in the community must be willing to step forward
- Sufficient major gift prospects must be identified
- The fundamental elements of an operational fundraising plan must be developed
- The study must be conducted at a time when access to leaders and prospects is optimal and with an eye to the timing of any ensuing campaign that allows for appropriate planning, organization and lead gift solicitation periods
- The majority of the group’s Board must be available to participate as respondents in the study
- Counsel must use an effective and efficient study plan designed to fit the unique circumstances and culture of each organization
All of these conditions can be satisfactorily met if the timing consideration is properly planned. It is our experience that the best time for an organization to conduct a study is an eight-week period during April and May (or finishing in early to mid-June at the very latest). Why? Because the study targets prominent people for interviews, and we can find most of these people readily for one-on-one meetings at this time of year.
Further, conducting a study that finishes before the summer season allows the group to make use of the slow summer months to begin the educational process, the design and development of campaign materials and the cultivation activity. After two months of this organizational phase, the client is now well prepared for the leadership solicitation phase of the campaign. That is premium use of the organization’s time and that of its leaders. It allows the campaign to be up and running in time to take advantage of the best four fundraising months of the year. It could not be planned better.
So many things must be done right to begin a campaign that will succeed. One of the advantages of hiring professional counsel, such as CDS, is that many of these priority activities fall within our area of responsibility to you as fundraising counsel. We are with you, day after day, to help you work through the process successfully. Again, every successful effort must be properly planned and organized to have the best chance of meeting (or exceeding!) the group’s goals. Non-profit organizations considering a capital campaign (and isn’t that all of them?) should give serious thought to these important considerations, especially timing for a feasibility and planning study.
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to email@example.com.