Learn how Aly Sterling Philanthropy can help you with you with your nonprofit feasibility study!

When your nonprofit proposes a new project, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. Before you move forward, however, it’s important to determine whether the project is really in your organization’s best interests.

Nonprofit feasibility studies are specifically designed to assess an organization’s readiness for a large project, such as a capital campaign.

Specifically, nonprofit feasibility studies capture perceptions from key stakeholders regarding your organization and the project in question. Third-party representatives conduct one-on-one interviews with stakeholders to gather information and feedback.

The results are then used to craft a fundraising strategy and determine whether or not the campaign should proceed.

Feasibility studies can reveal tons of valuable information that your nonprofit can capitalize on, if you’re prepared.

That’s why we’re outlining the top 9 tips for conducting a successful nonprofit feasibility study:

1. Understand the benefits of a nonprofit feasibility study
2. Prepare for the feasibility study
3. Hire a fundraising consultant
4. Determine key stakeholders
5. Develop a case for support
6. Cultivate stronger relationships
7. Ask the right questions
8. Accept the results
9. Prepare to move forward

Let’s break down these key points.

Understand the benefits of conducting a nonprofit feasibility study.

1. Understand the benefits of a nonprofit feasibility study

A nonprofit feasibility study is more than a means of determining whether a project is viable; it’s also a cultivation tool that can help you grow stronger donor relationships. After all, you’re reaching out to your most valuable contributors and supporters.

When you ask them to share their thoughts and opinions on your organization and project, you’re demonstrating how much you value their input. As such, a feasibility study can be used to deepen donors’ relationships with your organization and invest them more earnestly in your cause.

In fact, the benefits of a nonprofit feasibility study include the opportunity to:

  • Gather feedback and information. Since you’re speaking directly with key contributors, a feasibility study is a chance to learn your donors’ language and gather feedback before you launch a project to the public. What resonates with them? What fundraising strategies do they respond to, and how do they feel about your project and case for support? With this insight, you can develop and craft your project so it’s as impactful as possible once it’s launched.
  • Create early support and awareness for the project. Supporters who give interviews will often envision themselves as contributors to your campaign. If they can clearly picture their role in the project, then they’ll be excited and eager to offer their support. A feasibility study is the perfect opportunity to generate early excitement for your fundraising campaign.
  • Develop the case for support. In a feasibility study, you can ask for direct feedback on your case for support. A case for support is not only valuable for your project, but for your nonprofit’s reputation as a whole. Any insight you can use to develop your case statement is worthwhile for your organization’s future.
  • Set informed goals. When you know how much your most invested supporters are willing to contribute, you can better determine your overall fundraising goal. Donor data alone can lack context. Speaking directly with donors is the best way to project a campaign’s financial climate.

Clearly, the benefits of a feasibility study transcend the implications of its name.

Of course, nonprofit feasibility studies are adept at their most obvious purpose: determining whether a campaign is feasible in the first place!

Ultimately, a nonprofit feasibility study is a tool that can help you develop donor relationships and other areas of your fundraising strategy.

Prepare for the nonprofit feasibility study.

2. Prepare for the nonprofit feasibility study

If you’re conducting a feasibility study, you obviously have some sort of large project in mind.

You may want to conduct:

  • A capital campaign
  • A project that seeks to grow an endowment
  • A project that seeks to leverage an anniversary for major gift fundraising

Depending on the scope of the project that you’re planning, you’ll need to prepare in advance to make the most of your study.

The first step to conducting a successful feasibility study is determining your overall goal. For some projects, the goal will be obvious, such as completing a building project or renovation.

When your nonprofit has settled on its project and goal, you need to:

  • Determine specific possible routes to achieve the goal and the associated costs with each. For capital campaigns, this step can include consultation with experts like architects so that your nonprofit understands how a building project could be completed.
  • Build the feasibility study into the pre-campaign planning, 3-4 months before the launch date. It’s important to think of the feasibility study as a key step in determining the most viable route for your campaign, as well as the logistics for achieving your end-goal. As such, you’ll need to provide enough time to complete the study and leverage its results for your fundraising strategy.

If your nonprofit is planning to capitalize on an anniversary or grow your endowment, the preparation you need to perform is less extensive. For example, you don’t necessarily need to determine your fundraising goal before the study; you can instead use the information you gather to craft a goal based on donor feedback.

In contrast, a capital campaign might entail outlining three different routes to complete a construction project, with a fundraising goal for each. A feasibility study will help you choose the route that makes the most sense for your organization.

Ultimately, a nonprofit feasibility study will provide more insight if your organization has done the legwork to propose different fundraising strategies and build the study into your pre-campaign planning.

Hire a fundraising consultant to conduct your nonprofit feasibility study.

3. Hire a fundraising consultant

The most fundamental aspect of a nonprofit feasibility study are the interviews. Through interviews, nonprofits will gather the feedback and information they need to complete their project.

While it may be tempting to perform a feasibility study in-house, this strategy is not advisable. It may save on funds, but the cost can be much higher. An in-house interviewer may inadvertently jeopardize the study’s results.

Nonprofits are better served hiring outside assistance in the form of a fundraising consultant.

An objective third-party representative like a fundraising consultant is best equipped to conduct a feasibility study because:

  • Interviewees are more likely to be candid with someone who doesn’t have a stake in the campaign. It could be uncomfortable for a supporter to express any doubts or skepticism to an interviewer who’s enthusiastically gung-ho about the project. As such, supporters may over-promise their commitment.
  • Consultants can approach feasibility studies strategically so that nonprofits can build sustainable solutions from the information they gather. Consultants are experts who can help you identify themes and opportunities from your interviews. Additionally, they can help you target problems and suggest how your nonprofit should address them strategically. Plus, they have the added benefit of being a fresh pair of eyes who can take a step back from your organization.
  • Consultants may be more transparent and honest about their findings than someone who’s closely tied to the organization. Even unintentionally, an in-house interviewer can misrepresent a project’s feasibility and gloss over challenges. Consultants can present the results as they are so that your organization is best poised to achieve successful results.

A fundraising consultant’s feasibility service should be purchased “a la carte” to avoid conflicts of interest. For instance, you wouldn’t want a consultant to push a project forward, despite feasibility results, just to extend their contract for the duration of the campaign.

It’s important that a feasibility study is conducted by an unbiased party and that the results are presented as accurately as possible. Otherwise, the study could be a waste of your organization’s time and money.

Ultimately, a nonprofit feasibility study is best conducted by a fundraising consultant to avoid conflicts of interest and generate the most accurate and honest results.

Bonus: Are you looking for a local consultant in Ohio? Learn more about nonprofit consulting services in Dayton.

Determine key stakeholders to interview during your nonprofit feasibility study.

4. Determine key stakeholders

The stakeholders who will be interviewed during the study should be engaged and invested in your organization.

They need to have a genuine connection to your nonprofit and should “walk the walk.” That is, they should be active contributors who’ve followed through on tangible promises, rather than “community types” who may provide little else than verbal support or spread themselves too thin to make a big impact.

Select interviewees based upon their demonstrated commitment to your organization, including:

  • Current and former board members
  • Current and former major gift donors
  • Planned gift or legacy donors
  • Volunteers in leadership positions
  • Community stakeholders
  • Business owners
  • Recipients of your nonprofit’s services (students, grateful patients)

Consultants usually interview 20-40 people, depending on the scope of the project.

It’s important to choose a variety of supporters who can provide diverse feedback. Enthusiasts and skeptics alike can be invaluable!

Ultimately, the stakeholders you choose for interviews should be invested in your organization and active in service to your cause.

Develop a case for support during your nonprofit feasibility study.

5. Develop a case for support

A case for support, or case statement, is a branded document that explains why a donor should support an organization or project. During a feasibility study, the case for support provides an overview and important details about the proposed project for consideration by stakeholders.

Specifically, a case for support usually follows these steps:

Step #1: The nonprofit outlines key information about their organization and the project. The nonprofit may use a formal worksheet provided by a fundraising consultant to complete this step.

Step #2: The fundraising consultant uses the information provided to help draft a case for support.

Step #3: The case for support is developed based on feedback from the study. As the project changes throughout the course of the study, the case for support will change to reflect these advancements.

To prepare an effective case statement, organizations need to clearly explain why the project is needed and why the organization exists.

Specifically, the case for support should explain:

  • The organization’s mission and story, including the need for the mission and key impacts
  • Need for the project framed as challenges to the mission
  • Proposed project details and costs
  • Projected benefits of the project and how it will solve the challenges addressed

The more specific your organization can be, the better interviewees will be able to respond to what you have to say. Their responses can help you adjust your project so that it truly furthers your mission and solves your organization’s most pressing challenges.

Thus, as your project develops, your case for support will develop as well.

Ultimately, using stakeholder feedback, you can fine tune your project, and case for support, to help ensure a successful campaign (and future for your organization).

Cultivate stronger donor relationships during your feasibility study.

6. Cultivate stronger relationships

It’s a common misconception that feasibility studies are primarily about results. But, as discussed in this article, nonprofit feasibility studies are so much more.

A feasibility study is a chance to steward and cultivate stronger relationships with key donors and organizational leaders.

Nonprofits can capitalize on this opportunity by:

  • Sending invitations to participate in the study that focus on the recipient, not the organization. When inviting a stakeholder to speak with your organization, it’s important to focus on their contributions, not your organization’s accomplishments. Use second person and express how much you would like to hear about their thoughts and opinions.
  • Helping participants envision themselves as contributors to your project. A fundraising consultant can help conduct the interview strategically to stir up early excitement for the campaign. It’s common for interview participants to become eager for the project once they’re asked to imagine its conception.
  • Thanking participants before and after interviews to show your appreciation. When a stakeholder accepts an interview request, it’s important to thank them for taking time out of their day to meet with your organization. After the interview, again, thank them for their time and commitment to your cause!

By actively cultivating donor relationships during your feasibility study, you’re effectively killing two birds with one stone. As cliche as this old adage may be, it’s true!

You’re building steam for your project so that donors are invested and excited before it even gets off the ground. And of course, you’re crafting your fundraising strategy based on solid information gathered directly from your supporters’ mouths!

Take their feedback seriously — showing that you value what they have to say is the best way to make them feel that their contributions matter.

Ultimately, focus on cultivating relationships during your feasibility study to really maximize your potential.

Ask the right questions during your nonprofit feasibility study.

7. Ask the right questions

Integral to the success of your feasibility study are the questions you ask your interviewees. It’s important to know what specific information you’re looking for so that you can best utilize what you learn.

With the help of a consultant, develop questions that determine:

  • How stakeholders view the organization’s reputation
  • Whether the organization has a strong fundraising program
  • Whether the project is perceived as needed
  • If the project is sustainable (for example, can the organization support increased operational costs?)
  • If the timing is strategic
  • The fundraising goal
  • Whether the organization is prepared for the campaign
  • If the campaign is the right strategy
  • Who would take on key leadership positions for the campaign
  • Any questions or concerns that organizational leaders have

With the right questions, you’re not just learning whether or not stakeholders are in support of your project, but you’re also fleshing out the logistical details of how the project would be accomplished. For example, these questions target the fundraising goal and leadership team — essential elements to any project!

At the same time, these questions look to the bigger picture. How do donors perceive your organization and the project? This is information that goes well beyond the scope of a single project; it can help you develop your nonprofit’s image and reputation for the future.

As such, the right questions will help you ask for donations from the most informed perspective.

Ultimately, the right questions will help you determine which stakeholders are in support of the project, how the project would be completed and how you can continue to strengthen your nonprofit’s public image.

Accept the results of the nonprofit feasibility study.

8. Accept the results

After a feasibility study, your consultant should present the results. These results will tell you, first and foremost, whether the campaign should move forward. Additionally, the results should identify problems (or potential problems) that need to be addressed for the campaign to succeed.

Plus, the study can help nonprofits identify specific areas of improvement that can strengthen their organization as a whole. For example, if your study reveals mixed perceptions of your nonprofit from community leaders, then it could be worth investing in stronger branding and messaging, which can solidify your public image outside of the scope of a single project.

No matter what the results of a feasibility study are, they can be used to your organization’s benefit. This is true even if the results determine that a project is not in your organization’s best interests.

It’s important to take your results seriously. A failed campaign can be costly and detrimental to an organization’s reputation. A nonprofit feasibility study can prevent these (usually public) failures from occurring in the first place — whether that means your organization needs to halt the campaign entirely or simply strengthen your infrastructure as you proceed.

Of course, the results may be overwhelmingly positive. In this case, it’s important to take the results just as seriously as if they were negative. Don’t lose steam! Capitalize on the support and excitement that your project is producing and get started right away!

Ultimately, the results of your feasibility study can benefit your organization, even if they’re negative. It’s important to take your results seriously, no matter what they are.

Prepare to move forward after your nonprofit feasibility study.

9. Prepare to move forward

At the end of the feasibility study, an organization should provide a full recommendation to the board and leadership team that includes:

  • The campaign goal. The study should determine the amount of money you can reasonably raise for your project.
  • The intended use of the funds raised. The study should also outline how the money will be divided to complete the project.
  • The best format for the campaign. The campaign should move forward by strategically implementing your results into your fundraising strategy.

Sharing this information with your board is non-negotiable. They’ll be funding your project, after all.

The next steps you’ll take will depend on your project and the results of your study. The steps may be obvious, like continuing with capital campaign planning or arranging budget priorities to pay for a consultant. Whatever your path is, use the feasibility study as your launching point.

If your feasibility study determines that your project isn’t viable, it’s important to move forward by addressing problems in your infrastructure that have prevented the project’s burgeoning. Think of the results as an opportunity! No matter what, your nonprofit will improve as long as you implement what you learn.

Ultimately, you must debrief your board and leadership team on the feasibility study’s results and your plan to move forward with the information you’ve gathered.

A nonprofit feasibility study is an invaluable tool for your organization. It’s more than a litmus test for success; it’s a means of actively engaging your supporters in your organization and developing more effective strategies all around.

By following these expert tips, you can maximize your results!

Learn more about fundraising consultant fees for your nonprofit feasibility study.

Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Over the years we’ve helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars, engage their leaders, hire top-notch talent and grow their missions. Are you ready to move your mission forward? Contact us to get started.
Aly Sterling Philanthropy
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