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The Capital Campaign Planning Study

By Tom Watson on January 23, 2006No Comment

The Capital Campaign Planning Study
By: Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, 01/23/04
Two things can help determine the success of a campaign-an internal assessment of the organization’s readiness for a campaign, and an evaluation of the community’s willingness and ability to support the campaign.

Internal Readiness

Internal readiness issues should be considered first, before testing the case with the public. The factors assessed in the Planning Study:
- Is the organization a 501(c) (3) organization?
- Is it registered with the states in which fundraising will be done, if those states require registration?
- Is there a compelling case for support?
- Is the development staff experienced in running a campaign?
- Is there adequate support staff?
- Is the Board of Directors supportive of the campaign plan?
- Is a donor database system in place? 
- Are gift policies and procedures in place?
External Readiness 

The next step is assessing the external readiness to conduct a campaign.

The basic question of whether or not the community will support the proposed campaign should be answered in the study report. The planning study addresses questions about the public awareness and support of the organization, and helps determine a realistic goal and timeframe for the campaign. The planning study also assists in identifying and cultivating volunteer leadership and potential major donors.

One of the first steps in the study is to develop a preliminary case statement — what is needed and why is it needed?  The case answers the following questions: 

- Who is the organization and what does it do? Why does it exist? 
- What is distinctive about the organization? 
- How will this campaign address the needs of the community?
- How can the donor become involved?  Why should they give to this effort?

The case needs to be both rational and emotional. The case should be compelling, but not too emotional.  There is a fine line between urgency and desperation – a line that the case statement cannot cross. 

The planning study process usually requires between 35 and 60 interviews and will generally take about three months to complete.  Interviewees include present and past Board members, major donors to the organization, key volunteers, key prospective donors, and community leaders.  The preliminary case statement is “tested” through this interview process.  The study interviews are conducted one-on-one, in a confidential setting. The interview process helps build support for the case, determine community awareness and acceptance of the organization, determine a reasonable goal, and identify potential support for the campaign. 
The Planning Study report provides:
- An analysis of the potential for a successful campaign;
- A revised table of gifts, if needed;
- A proposed campaign plan and organizational chart;
- A recommended dollar goal;
- A suggested campaign timetable and budget;
- A list of potential donors;
- A list of potential volunteers.

An outside impartial third party conducts the Planning Study. When interviewing consulting firms, be sure to ask if the study will include both the internal and external components of assessing campaign readiness. Be sure that firms being considered adhere to a code of ethics and are registered as fundraising counsel in the state in which the organization is located, if such registration is required. 

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