Review – Feasibility Studies: An Essential Practice or Unnecessary Expense?

On Wednesday, Andrea Kihlstedt from Capital Campaign Masters hosted a great conversation about feasibility studies. The webinar featured Tim Winkler and Jim Bush of The Winkler Group and Jon Yarian from Sea Change. The format was meant to be a debate about whether studies are an essential practice or unnecessary expense.

A sizable number of capital campaign consultants were on the line but the audience was definitely nonprofit-heavy. When the full audience asked what they believed about feasibility studies, 40 percent of them said: “not sure.”

What Does this Mean for Consultants? 

Back to Basics

During your conversations with potential clients, you need to extol the power of a good interview. The interview process is the unique selling point of a feasibility study and the most important reason a nonprofit should hire a consultant. It takes practice and experience to lead a successful conversation about merging a donor’s passions with a client’s project. Your potential client won’t want to leave this conversation to chance. A study has the opportunity to excite donors, involve them in the vision, and give them an opportunity to speak frankly about the organization in a way that they might not be able to with a nonprofit staff member.

Someone asked the question during the webinar, “Why do we need to bring someone in to tell us what we already know?” The answer? Don’t make assumptions. Sell the campaign process before you sell your firm.

You’re Signing up for Both

It seems to be widely accepted that the firm that does the feasibility study should also serve as counsel for the capital campaign. After you have had a successful experience with a client during the feasibility study, your client gets a lot of value from you staying on as counsel. Once the campaign begins, you have already built relationships with the campaign committee and other top donors.

Donors are Savvy

It’s likely that the people you interview have already participated in other studies. They probably can name their favorites and not-so-favorites. Consider how your firm might differentiate itself even in the study interviews. As you know, interviewees for feasibility studies are often folks who serve on many boards. A spectacular interview not only leaves the donor excited about the future of the organization but could also turn into your next lead. Your firm’s brand and reputation are on the line with every project and interview.

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