There is a lot of talk about whether a feasibility study for a school development campaign is worth the money. But if done right, they are in my opinion worth their weight in gold.
If you are tasked with planning a large campaign for your school and previous appeals have not worked or the school has not conducted a large fundraising campaign before, then how do you know what the potential is within your donor pool?
Yes, with the right stewarding and prospecting, then you should have an idea of who your key donors are. But if this has not been done as part of the development or fundraising strategy, then a feasibility study is a great starting point.
Involving a neutral party detached from your school, rather than doing this mammoth piece of work yourself, is also a godsend. Not only that, they will usually be expert, so you will find that the head and governors listen to the findings, even though you have been saying these things all along.
“Sometimes we are stuck in the day-to-day world of development and it is hard to come out of that.”
This separate body can also look at your offer and create something amazing in a form of a Case for Support — the driver for the study and future giving. Having someone from outside an organisation write this important document is incredibly helpful. Sometimes we are stuck in the day-to-day world of development and it is hard to come out of that. To have someone look from the outside in is very refreshing and allows a new perspective which will resonate with your audience.
I was once told by a wise person in the development world in schools that: “no one likes to back a loser”. This has resonated with me when looking at a feasibility study and ensuring that when we look at targets they are challenging, yet realistic. If you ensure a winning outcome, people are more likely to get on board and ask “when is the next one happening that I can support?” and “What else can I do to support you?” They are motivated by reaching a target and being part of a winning team.
It is not good plucking numbers out of the air, launching a campaign and then not reaching it. A feasibility study gives you a solid base and plan of what’s possible and how to get there as well as showing the leadership what is needed to get there, and this is key.
“It is not good plucking numbers out of the air, launching a campaign and then not reaching it.”
Fundraising campaigns rely on the leadership being behind the campaign and being supportive. A good study will include this as a key part of a campaign and ensure all the leadership are aware of what is needed to drive the campaign or fundraising appeal. It is not good enough for key people to just “be on a committee”. They need to be proactive and get out there, supported by a driven and proactive development team back at the base.
Fundraising campaigns rely on appropriate resourcing both at the leadership levels, volunteer levels and, most importantly, the office. A feasibility study will outline not only the action plan (what needs doing when) but also what resources you will need to do this.
It’s easy to be excited by the campaign and what it can bring in, but this type of fundraising is on top of the annual work that is usually done, and it needs good resources (staff and database support). Donations need to be logged and thanked, campaigns need to be run, donors need to be met, events need organising, literature needs developing. You need to resource this properly or it will fail before it has begun.
So all in all, with the interviews, survey, a 360-look over your collateral and an action plan and support with guides and templates, I would say that anyone considering it should do it.
In the end, fundraising is a serious business and needs investment like anything else if it is to be a success.