YoungAssociates serves nonprofits in a variety of fields, including arts, history, and medicine

15 Things Your Organization Will Learn Through A Feasibility Study

What can you expect to gain or learn from conducting a feasibility study? The following points will illustrate the importance of conducting a detailed feasibility study.

  1. You gain valuable insight into the attitudes of your people regarding the campaign. (It is not wise to assume that everyone is “on board,” and a feasibility study can identify where resistance exists.)
  2. You are able to determine what needs to be done to reach people who are not yet in support of the project.
  3. People tend to say what they really think in an anonymous survey.
  4. A strategic plan flows out of the feasibility study. The insight gained helps shape the needed components for your campaign.
  5. You gain insight into the attitudes your people have regarding the core values of your institution and core values of stewardship.
  6. A financial goal is frequently realized from the information gleaned in the survey.
  7. You gain a real sense of what is financially possible for you and whether multiple phases might be required for your overall project.
  8. You gain insight into who will and who won’t support a major gifts program.
  9. You gain insight into who will volunteer their time to work with your campaign leadership.
  10. You learn what people want and why they are involved with your organization. This is valuable information as you prepare strategies to reach your community.
  11. You will learn how much “marketing” of your campaign may be needed and which groups require greater effort.
  12. Your survey forms the basis for future surveys to enable your leadership to identify “trends” in your constituency.
  13. The survey helps to bring ownership for a campaign to your constituency and gives the individual members of your donor base a “voice” in the campaign process. You gain the confidence of your people as they see you doing serious research. A consultant acting as your coach brings credibility to the project. It says, “We are serious about getting to our goal.”
  14. You gain micromarket wealth analysis and information about whether your people will attend any special seminars pertaining to retirement planning, giving, and financial planning.
  15. You are able to measure your current financial status with your community.

Learn more about feasibility studies completed by our firm or contact us with specific questions about your project and goals.

10 Points on Listening in Solicitations

More than 39 years of experience making solicitations in the nonprofit industry has produced this series of notes for emphatic listening in solicitations. These points are part of our firm’s basic face-to-face solicitation training program for staff and and volunteers.

Listen patiently to what the prospect has to say, even though you may believe it is wrong or irrelevant. Indicate simple acceptance, not necessarily agreement, by nodding or perhaps injecting an occasional “mm-hmm” or “I see.”
Try to understand the feeling the prospect is expressing, as well as the intellectual content. Most of us have difficulty talking clearly about our feelings, so it is important to pay careful attention particularly on matters of donor investment in your organization.
Restate the prospect’s feeling briefly, but accurately. At this stage, you simply serve as a mirror. Encourage the other person to continue talking. Occasionally make summary responses such as, “You think our organization does not have a realistic business plan” or “You feel your plan must be to preserve capital given your life expectancy.” In doing so, keep your tone neutral and try not to lead the person to your pet conclusions or funding opportunities.
Allow time for the discussion to continue without interruption, and try to separate the conversation from more official communication of organizational talking point and long-range plans. Do not make the conversation “authoritative;” you are learning.
Avoid arguments about facts; refrain from saying, “That is just not so,” “Hold on a minute, let’s look at the facts.” You will want to review evidence at the next meeting, but a review is irrelevant to how a person feels now.
When the prospect touches on a point you want to know more about, simply repeat his or her statement as a question. For instance, if s/he remarks, “You’ll never break even with his expense account,” you can probe by replying, “You say you don’t believe we can have a balanced budget with the President’s expense account?” With this encouragement s/he will probably expand on the previous statement.
Listen for what is not said, evasions of pertinent points or perhaps too-ready agreement with common clichés. Such an omission may be a clue to a bothersome fact the donor wishes were not true.
If the prospect/donor appears to genuinely want your viewpoint, be honest in your reply. In the listening stage, try to limit the expression of your views since these may influence or inhibit what the other person says.
BE QUIET. Let the other person talk. With time, prospects identify what they wish to support and under what conditions.
Being real smart can be kind of dumb. Don’t know EVERYTHING. Ask the donor to help you understand. Listening with questions may open up new avenues to agreement or giving that neither of you considered previously.

Donor Communications Checklist

When writing any kind of donor communications (briefing document, letter, brochure), consider a list such as this to review and improve your materials.

  • Are we alive and exciting—or boring and dull?
  • Have we stressed the personal approach in tone relative and proportionate to their giving level?
  • Are we selling the sizzle or the steak? Are we promising benefits instead of touting our mission, core values, vison?
  • Have we gotten to the heart of the matter quickly or are we beating around the bush?
  • Have we singled out our reader to make him/her feel unique? NOTHING in fundraising should make a donor feel they are one of thousands except for the donor wall.
  • Does the document use postscripts and headlines? They are the two most often read parts of a sales letter!
  • Does the entire package, including envelope, enclosure and return card, meet the “Fresh Eggs and Flying Lessons” test? That is, does the artwork give a feeling opposite to the copy? Do the numbers not connect with the public balance sheet?
  • Are there any contradictions? Test the numbers versus the words.
  • Did we clearly ask for the donation? Did we do so several times?
  • Assuming our donor wants to do it, is the donation form a mystery? Is there a place for pledges as well as cash? What logic was used in ordering the credit card list?
  • Are there words prospects or donors won’t understand?