Recently I’ve had several conversations with donors — the kinds of donors who give big gifts to capital campaigns — about their dislike of feasibility study interviews.
Here’s what one of them told me:
These consultants come to my office and ask me questions, but really, all they want to know is how much I’m going to give. It’s unpleasant and mostly a waste of my time. I’m happy to know what campaigns are coming down the pike, but I’d much rather talk to the head of the organization! I don’t want to talk to a young consultant who is just doing his job and filling in his form.
I’ve heard this from donors before. And having conducted dozens of feasibility study interviews myself, I’ve often wondered about the model.
The rationale for traditional feasibility studies is that they offer a way for donors to tell an independent third party things that they would hesitate to tell the leader of an organization directly.
A donor, for example, might have questions about the soundness of an organization’s finances. She may wonder whether the leader is capable enough to manage a bigger building and new programs.
It’s sometimes hard to voice criticisms or concerns to someone in the community with whom the donor will have an ongoing relationship. A consultant opens the door to what might be a more frank discussion of the organization.
A New Feasibility Study Model
I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a better approach to feasibility studies!
So I’m developing a new model that has the head of the organization doing the in-person donor meetings while also proving an opportunity for the donor to voice their concerns in a way that will be held in confidence.
Here’s How it Works
- The ED or board chair will schedule meetings with the top 20 prospective donors. Their meetings will be well-structured and invite open conversation and discussion. They will write up notes from each meeting and review them with the consultant.
- The donors will also be asked to fill out a confidential online survey of between 10 and 20 questions, asking them their opinion about various aspect of the organization. The survey will ask for indication of their inclination to make a gift to a campaign and in what range.
- All survey results will go only to the consultant and will be kept confidential. In some cases, the consultant will schedule a follow up phone conversation with the donor to clarify their views.
- Using the in-person meeting reports, the survey results and the follow-up phone calls, the consultant will then develop a set of findings and recommendations for the organization.
It’s as simple as that.
Better Product at a Fraction the Price
This new model accomplishes three important things.
- The primary contact is between the head of the organization and the donors.
- The donors have an effective, confidential way to make even their most critical and frank views known.
- The process can be done at a fraction the price of a traditional study.
What do you think?
We are currently developing this new model now and would be happy to hear your thoughts. If you’d like to weigh in about these ideas, please leave your comments below. Or, to be on the R&D team, email Andrea with “FS New Model” in the subject line.