Timing the Study

In this 3rd of four related posts, I’m offering some guidance on discerning when the time is right to conduct your campaign feasibility study.

The feasibility study should be completed before solicitation begins in support of the project(s) to be funded. The study serves many purposes, including testing the case for support, identifying issues that will shape campaign strategies, and positioning leaders and donors for subsequent involvement.

The study is most effective when the following criteria are met:

  • Organizational plans and goals have been articulated in a preliminary case or briefing document.
  • Awareness-building efforts and presentations have been made to key individual prospects and small groups of prospects, thereby assuring at least a baseline of knowledge among first-tier prospects and influencers.
  • Development staff members have determined their readiness to implement the campaign and have at least begun efforts to fill voids.

Feasibility studies sometimes occur before all these criteria are met. Meeting criterion #1 means study participants will be reacting to a well-developed and well-articulated case for the organization’s desired impact. While still a draft document seeking refinement, this version of the case/briefing document should be as clear and compelling as available information allows. In dynamic environments, it is unlikely that development staff will have perfect and complete information from which to write the case to be used in the study. Despite that, a study conducted around a grossly premature case yields little return on the significant investment of time and energy.

Meeting criterion #2 means that study participants will have become at least somewhat familiar with organizational and campaign plans prior to study participation. In this way, reviewing the case/briefing document in preparation for the study interview is not the first encounter with the organization’s thinking. Rather, it serves to deepen and amplify earlier knowledge transfer.

By meeting criterion #3, campaign planners avoid unnecessary delays in moving from the planning stage (during which the feasibility study is conducted) to the implementation phase. Anticipating requirements of staff, budget, communication, and leadership should have allowed the organization to resolve those issues prior to commencement of the study.

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