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TSG Education Series: The Capital Campaign Feasibility Study

Updated: May 16

Three people meeting with a consultant, representing the idea of preparing to conduct a capital campaign feasibility study.

Let’s say your organization has just completed its strategic plan. You’ve assessed your past performance, engaged key stakeholders, and determined that, to meet your goals, you’ll need to win significant philanthropic support by launching a capital campaign. But deciding to run a capital campaign is not as simple as jotting it down on your to-do list.

That’s where a capital campaign feasibility study comes in. This study allows you to assess whether your organization is ready to conduct a capital campaign and identify adjustments to your strategy that will maximize your results.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about capital campaign feasibility studies, including:

  • Capital Campaign Feasibility Study: FAQs

  • Conducting a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study: 6 Steps

  • Common Capital Campaign Feasibility Study Questions

  • How to Hire Capital Campaign Feasibility Study Services

A successful capital campaign can raise considerable funding for your most ambitious projects, strengthen your major donor relationships, and provide your organization with long-term financial stability. Because of this, completing a nonprofit feasibility study before you start is a worthy and indispensable investment.

Capital Campaign Feasibility Study: FAQs

Whether you’re new to capital campaigns or are hoping to improve your strategy for the next time around, explore the following frequently asked questions to get your whole team familiar with the ins and outs of a capital campaign feasibility study:

What is a capital campaign feasibility study?

A capital campaign feasibility study is an assessment tool that nonprofit organizations use to determine their readiness for a capital campaign and the likelihood of success.

Typically, nonprofits will enlist a capital campaign consultant to examine their case for support draft, interview their stakeholders, and engage in prospect research to identify major donors.

More specifically, a feasibility study will provide your organization with:

  • An objective evaluation of your current development program and your development team’s ability to support a capital campaign.

  • A specific, achievable campaign goal and a comprehensive operating plan.

  • A better understanding of the public sentiment toward your campaign’s potential.

  • Identification of potential challenges and how to overcome them.

  • The likelihood of securing enough major, or leadership-level, gifts.

  • The probability of recruiting enough volunteers to power your capital campaign.

Performing a feasibility study comes with additional opportunities to raise awareness of your mission, steward donors, and build momentum for your upcoming campaign.

What does a capital campaign feasibility study include?

At the end of your nonprofit feasibility study, your capital campaign consultant will present you with a detailed report containing information such as:

  • Findings and suggestions related to your internal campaign readiness.

  • Quantitative and qualitative analyses of each interview question presented to stakeholders.

  • A list of campaign leaders and major gift prospects.

  • Recommendations for public relations and marketing activities to support the campaign.

  • Areas to focus educating supporters on, such as planned giving or your organization’s programs.

Using this report, your consultant should put together a campaign operating plan that acts as a blueprint for your success, outlining a quarterly timeline, campaign roles (for volunteers, staff (new and recommended) and, if warranted, ongoing counsel), a budget, and a monthly task summary.

Should you hire a consultant for your nonprofit feasibility study?

Since capital campaigns are such significant, high-stakes initiatives, most organizations find it best to turn to professional consultants to execute their feasibility studies. Some of the key benefits of hiring a capital campaign consultant are:

  • Objectivity. A consultant can provide an unbiased, third-party perspective into your organization’s readiness and campaign potential so you can approach your capital campaign with a realistic mindset.

  • Experience. Capital campaign specialists have years of experience dedicated to carrying out feasibility studies and planning fruitful campaigns. They know how to work efficiently and make effective use of all the tools at their disposal.

  • Better insights. Major donors, prospects, and other important members of your community may be more open and forthright with their feedback when speaking with a neutral outside party rather than an internal member of your organization.

  • Stakeholder buy-in. Bringing in a professional consultant for your feasibility study can add credibility to your capital campaign planning, helping you secure buy-in from key stakeholders like board members and major donors.

Whether you’re seeking funds to construct a new building, launch a program, or establish an endowment, a capital campaign expert will equip you with the necessary tools and insights to accomplish your goal.

How much does a capital campaign feasibility study cost?

The cost of a capital campaign feasibility study will vary depending on your organization’s prior campaign history, your board’s and development staff’s fundraising experience, the number of interviews (normally 30-40), and the existing level of engagement you have with your key stakeholders.

To fund your study, consider tapping into reserve funds or soliciting early campaign gifts from board members and major donors. Think of this investment as a small downpayment on your campaign success down the line.

Conducting a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study: 6 Steps

Hiring a capital campaign consultant ensures you don’t have to go it alone with your feasibility study. At the same time, it’s important to understand the basic steps involved so your team knows what to expect:

Six steps involved in conducting a capital campaign feasibility study, explained below.

  1. Develop a case for support. Before jumping into the feasibility study, your organization should draft up a preliminary case for support that outlines your capital campaign goals, its projected impact, estimated project costs, and the rationale behind each of your priorities. Your consultant will then test whether your case for support resonates with stakeholders during the feasibility study.

  2. Perform an internal campaign readiness assessment. Completed at the outset of the study, this assessment provides your internal team with an opportunity to examine your organization’s current strengths, areas that need improvement, and any other internal factors that need to be addressed before launching a multi-year capital campaign.

  3. Develop an interview candidate pool. Your capital campaign needs the support of various members throughout your community to succeed. To collect feedback from those who will be your most important contributors during your campaign, your consultant will work with you to develop a pool of interview candidates with the capacity to give, the ability to lead and influence, and a strong affinity for your organization.

  4. Complete one-on-one interviews. You’ll next send out interview requests to your candidate pool. Then, the consultant will conduct confidential interviews to assemble their thoughts on your case for support and determine the level of buy-in it has among these essential stakeholders.

  5. Research recent trends and prospects. To further inform your capital campaign planning, your consultant should perform detailed research on recent philanthropic trends, economic conditions, and market share. They’ll conduct in-depth prospect research to measure the potential support of existing major donors and identify potential ones to cultivate based on wealth and affinity markers.

  6. Assemble findings and present them to the board. After completing all of these activities, your consultant will assemble everything into a capital campaign feasibility study report, including their recommendations. They’ll first review it with your staff and then present their findings to your board for approval.

At the end of your feasibility study, your consultant should deliver a detailed campaign operating plan and budget for your board to discuss and approve. If it looks like you’re ready to launch a capital campaign, you can retain the consultant to guide you through the initiative. They can help with campaign leadership recruitment, refine your case for support, develop a strategy for your top prospects, and offer additional operational support along the way, as needed.

If the capital campaign feasibility study suggests that you’re not ready for a campaign yet, your consultant should present you with a campaign readiness plan and timetable for making the necessary preparations to start one.

Common Campaign Feasibility Study Interview Questions

During a feasibility study, capital campaign consultants develop a variety of questions to evaluate an organization’s fundraising potential and campaign readiness. Some common questions they’ll ask your stakeholders include:

  • What is your connection or involvement with the organization?

  • How would you describe the organization’s mission and reputation?

  • What are your thoughts on the proposed project? What elements are you most drawn to?

  • What questions do you have about the project?

  • To meet the campaign goal, the organization needs to raise $[Project Cost] over the next few years. Do you think this is achievable?

  • Who would be able to provide the most effective volunteer leadership for the campaign?

  • Given what you know about it at this point in time, what range of support would you envision committing to the campaign?

In order to maintain a strong relationship after each interview, be sure to send a sincere and personalized thank-you from your organization.

How to Hire Capital Campaign Feasibility Study Services

Since a capital campaign often takes multiple years and significant effort to complete, it’s essential to find the right consultant to ensure that all of your efforts pay off in the end.

Follow these steps to find a reliable and experienced capital campaign firm:

  1. Research local, regional, and national firms. Use resources such as the Association of Philanthropic Counsel to start building a list of potential consultants. Additionally, check with other organizations in your network to see if they have any recommendations. Once you’ve identified several promising options, review your organization’s specific goals and budget to start narrowing them down.

  2. Select approximately half a dozen firms and issue them a detailed request for proposal (RFP). Your RFP should outline your specific needs, objectives, and requirements for a consultant, including details such as necessary qualifications and submission guidelines. Ask for examples of previously completed feasibility studies and their campaign outcomes. If requested by the consulting firm, meet them for an informational interview to provide more information about the RFP.

  3. Review submitted proposals and select your finalists. Meet with your team and identify three to four proposals that stand out according to your goals and priorities. Schedule interviews with these consultants and request references from similar organizations for which they’ve recently completed a feasibility study.

After you’ve chosen a consultant to support your capital campaign feasibility study and beyond, sign a contract and meet up to discuss your expectations in more detail. Doing so sets your partnership up for effective communication and collaboration throughout your campaign and beyond.

At The Sheridan Group, our team has dedicated more than 40 years to providing fundraising and capital campaign assessments that set nonprofits of all missions and sizes up for success. We’ve supported more than 250 associations, independent schools, colleges/universities, healthcare institutions, and arts and culture organizations over the past four decades.

Reach out to our experienced team if you’re looking for support in your next fundraising campaign or have any questions about conducting a feasibility study. We would love to learn more about your goals and point you to the best resources for your needs.

Wrapping Up: Setting Your Capital Campaign Up for Success

A capital campaign is no simple feat, but it can be an inspiring and transformative process with the right preparation and strategy—starting with your feasibility study. To produce this essential resource, it’s important to tap into professional expertise and leverage best practices to map out the most effective path to your success. Contact The Sheridan Group to chat about your capital campaign aspirations!

If you’d like to learn more about successful capital campaigns and how to plan one for your organization, check out these additional resources:


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