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Conceptualizing & Preparing

Creating Capital Campaigns, Recognition Programs, Major Gifts Programs, Special Events, or Bequest Programs.

Planning any major campaign requires diligent research, strategic planning, and implementation. The most important first step is to find out if your prospective or current donors or constituents would be interested in supporting and participating in your planned program(s). This means that you must find out what it is that motivates them about your organization and its efforts. Once you have a strong understanding of this, you can more easily approach them in a manner that will inspire them to participate in and/or support your goals.

Planning Study

How do you find out what motivates them and what it is that they find most inspirational about what your organization does? This is where you will want to implement a Planning Study. A Planning Study is an information gathering effort that may consist of surveys, interviews, and request their advice regarding a “potential” program you are considering (or have already decided to do). Asking them to participate in this kind of study informs them that their advice is valuable and that what you decide to do may or may not be impacted by what they say or don’t say. Gathering ideas from multiple sources makes your planning more effective and it also makes those who participate feel valuable and appreciated.

This is not the same thing as a feasibility study. Feasibility studies are testing to see if something is possible and financially viable. Planning Studies focus on a broad range of subjects; the findings of which are then utilized for implementation with the full support of the organization’s constituents. The Planning Study should be the first step in the generation or expansion of any program as it cultivates the support necessary in order for the program to be successful.

Asking for advice translates to your contributing parties that their insights are valuable, appreciated, and important for your organization’s success. A Planning Study is a highly effective strategy to ask for advice.

“If you want advice, ask for money; if you want money, ask for advice.”

What Do You Want To Accomplish?

  • Begin the panning study process by identifying the study’s main goal(s).
  • Create a list of people you are interested in seeking support and advice. List length is irrelevant, just be sure potential participants are realistic and accessible. Choose people who will likely have an impact on your ability to successfully implement your goals.
  • Create a thorough questionnaire relating to the organization’s mission, fundraising goals, programs, and the study’s goals. Questions need to use language that avoids the suggestion of questionable feasibility, necessity, or success.
    • Sample interview question ideas:
      1. On a scale of 0-10, how would you rate the importance to you
      (and to your family/company) of “this” aspect of the organization’s mission?
      2. On a scale of 0-10, how would you rate the importance to you
      (and to your family/company) of “this” program?
      3. What would interest you in taking a leadership role for a major fundraising effort?
      4. What would inspire you to want to be a major donor for
      such an effort?
      5. What do you recommend we do to get other potential leaders/donors enthusiastic?
      about the project/activity we’re considering?
      6. When do you recommend is the best time to kick-off the program/campaign? Why?

The Planning Study: Implementation

Select an interviewer who has strong people skills. This means that they must be able to read people in order to select appropriate questions from the list. Not all questions will be asked to every interviewee. This also means that they need to know when to “jump off sheet” and hold a conversation with a constituent who might like to contribute more insightful suggestions about the organization’s issues and possible future.

Interview objectives:

  • Implementation of program/project/activity strategy and issues.
  • Cultivation of support for the program/project/activity.

Interview Strategy:

Due to the serious nature of the implementation of any new program, project, or activity, it is essential that all serious development activity interviews must be done face-to-face. Exceptions should only be made if it is physically impossible. In this event, attempting connection via telephone interview or video interview would be the next choice. Body language is harder to decipher over the telephone, so video would be preferred. Not all constituents will have technology skills or access to people who could help them with this. If that is the case, then use telephone interview. Only do telephone interview with someone who has a strong ability to “hear” what someone may or may not be saying. Interviews by mail should be avoided. In all honesty, anything that is not in person risks not being taken seriously. They also don’t offer as much freedom for the interviewer to digress or go off script to nurture the interviewee’s self-inspired narrative.

Face-to-face interviews demonstrate respect, importance, process, and ensure that the interviewee knows how important their contributions are to the larger organizational efforts.

Interview Steps

  • Send each potential interviewee a succinct personal note letting them know that they may be called to schedule an interview appointment.
  • Use an external study consultant who can design the study and conduct the interviews. Outside consultants are perceived by the interviewee as objective, not attached to any particular outcome, and not holding an agenda. They are seen as information gatherers for the organization’s planning efforts.
  • The interviewer generates a report summarizing each respondent’s thoughts, attitudes, and suggestions for next steps. This should be done after each interview. Suggestions should also include how to further cultivate each interviewee further.
  • The organization sends (via snail mail) a thank you letter to each interviewee for their participation.
Fundraising Campaign Planning & Implementation