The Feasibility Study Part III:  Interviewees and the Study Process

Amy Schiffman
October 12, 2017

We’re in the midst of a conversation about the campaign feasibility study and what’s involved in embarking upon this important planning process. This post serves as Part III in my 5-part series and will focus on the “who”. Remember - a feasibility study is conducted prior to a capital, endowment or significant major gifts campaign. It is part of the campaign planning process. Feasibility studies are especially critical before an organization begins building or renovating a facility or purchasing land. They are primarily used to test a fundraising campaign goal. Check out last week’s blog if you are wondering what materials we create as part of the study and take a look at the September 27th post if you are curious about why and how feasibility studies are used.

Now, let’s attack the “who” and start with the question of how many. Typically, we undertake somewhere between 20 – 40 interviews. The number of interviews depends largely on the size of the nonprofit, its donor base, and the campaign goal. For larger campaigns, we like to interview a greater number of the organization’s top donors, prospects and key stakeholders so that our estimated campaign goal range is as accurate as possible AND we are able to create a compelling case for support.

Next, let’s discuss the population from which to pull for interviews. Typically, my firm considers the following constituencies:

  1. Top donors (individuals and foundations)
  2. Top prospects (people or organizations to cultivate to be major donors to the campaign)
  3. Key staff members
  4. Nonprofit volunteer leadership (selected board members and volunteers)
  5. People to cultivate to be campaign volunteers
  6. People or organizations who may be able to help the nonprofit connect to donors
  7. Community leaders, government officials or others from whom the nonprofit would like advice about the campaign or feedback about the organization’s standing in the community

The campaign leadership team should generate this list and determine who will serve as the best study prospects. For small to midsize nonprofits, 20 to 30 names should be sufficient. Once the list of possibilities is developed, prioritize the list as follows: people who must be interviewed, should be interviewed, and could be interviewed. From there, choose the top 25 – 40 names from the “must” and “should” lists. You should have more names on the list than you intend to interview because not every interview prospect will accept the invitation to participate. Finally, compile complete contact information for each interview prospect.

Once your list is complete, reach out to prospective interviewees. Whether or not there is a consultant involved in developing your study, the nonprofit (not the consultant) generally does the outreach to interview prospects. It is important that the campaign team agree on the outreach process (letter, email, phone call). We have included a sample outreach letter as this week’s freebie. We hope it’s helpful!

We’ll talk in next week’s post about the study process. Until then, feel free to begin working on your prospect list and send any questions our way!