Whether or not a nonprofit needs a feasibility study prior to a capital or endowment campaign is often a topic of discussion. I have heard both schools of thought and I will try to outline both sides for you.
Does Your Nonprofit Need A Feasibility Study?
Pros (Assuming you use a reliable consultant, like MJA, to perform the study):
- A feasibility study shows the community you care about what they think.
- This is the most reliable way to understand your community and whether or not they will support your proposed plan.
- You can learn how much you can potentially raise if you keep the plan as presented. Improving the plan based on the results of the feasibility study can enhance results.
- Interviews conducted by people who are not an integral part of the community lead to more forthright answers and more valuable data.
- Feasibility studies can be an essential step in major gifts solicitations for the project.
- The nonprofit can learn areas of strength and weakness beyond the plan.
- For organizations that overthink projects, it creates a deadline for the proposed plan to be “finalized.” Note: it can be a draft, concept or simply ideas but at some point you have to start showing it to people outside of the inner circle.
- If raising the money is essential to the organization, It may not be worth spending the time and money ask about the project. Just start moving forward on the project.
- Limited resources should be spent on organizing the campaign and strategizing the initial individual solicitations if you have the leadership that can guide you through planning.
- Boards are not willing to spend money upfront to find out you may not be able to raise the amount you want to raise. If you do not have confidence in the project from the start, alter the case and then determine if a feasibility study would be beneficial.
- Questions of the process and legitimacy – how do you know if the consultants’ findings and recommendations will be on target? We can attest to our accuracy, but the board and leadership has to be willing to support the results.
- It may take two to three months of time that could be spent raising money if you are more concerned about time than the “pros” listed above.
I’m sure there are many other reasons that a nonprofit could be for or against conducting a feasibility study but it should be said that I definitely side with the “Pro” feasibility study camp. I have seen organizations improve their plans, increase their opportunity to exceed the goal and enhance their relationships with their stakeholders by taking the time listen, study and plan early in the process. Like many things in life, the more you prepare, the easier the process.