The Feasibility Study Interviewee – The Confidentiality Clause

CONFIDENTIAL red grunge vintage seal isolated on whiteIf you are considering a feasibility study for a capital campaign, you may wonder how much detailed information you will be able to learn about the individual interviewees. Unfortunately, the answer – if you are using a reputable consultant – is almost nothing. Well, nothing specific.

Interviewees, whether they are current or prospective donors, community supporters or influencers, or friends of the nonprofit, provide information confidentially, based on the idea that they are speaking to someone who is impartial (the consultant) and will communicate helpful insights to the organization doing the study. But nothing the interviewees discuss with the consultant will be directly attributed to them. This is an essential aspect of an accurate feasibility study (and one reason that it is almost impossible to do without outside counsel).

The feasibility study is designed to learn about the community’s support – both emotionally and financially — for the proposed project. Not to learn about the interviewees.

Well consider it from the interviewee’s perspective. Would you want your the leader of the organization to hear through a report that YOU don’t think he is a good replacement for his beloved predecessor? Would the possibility of that disclosure make you more or less likely to be honest? If the latest Boston College/IRA information disclosure has taught us anything – people will provide much more information if they believe it is anonymous (if you do not know the reference click here for the story as told by BBC News). Once the barrier is broken and anonymity is lost – so is the opportunity to obtain valuable data.

So what will you learn from a feasibility report?
I can’t speak for every consultant but at Mersky, Jaffe & Associates we will tell you if there are multiple people who feel they cannot financially support the campaign and why or if there are major issues that will have to be addressed before or during the campaign. We will tell you if the majority of the community is supportive of the project or thinks it is a waste of financial resources. And, we will be able to give you an estimate of the amount that we think you will raise during the campaign as well as a plan how to structure the most effective effort, assuming that you are willing to do what has to be done to achieve success.

Our reports provide verbatim quotes, without attribution that add flavor to our key findings. Often, these extensive, direct statements provide essential information about issues to consider for the campaign or components about the project. Whatever you want to test – we can help you learn more about what your stakeholders are thinking. As long as it is not about the interviewees. For that, disciplined prospect research and thoughtful committee information gathering will have to suffice.