Is The Time Ready For A Pre-campaign Study?

Is Now The Right Time For A Pre-Campaign Study?

There is an abundance of important questions being raised today, such as:  

“What activities should we minimize or eliminate?”  

“Should we postpone or cancel events?”  

“Should we press forward with donor asks or pull back?”  

One important question we at The Timothy Group have been hearing frequently is:  

“We were planning to conduct a Pre-campaign (or Feasibility) Study over this Spring and Summer, with a Capital Campaign planned in the Fall. Is this a good or bad time to try to do this?” 

Unfortunately, at this time, there is no simple answer to this question. States and non-profit organizations will begin re-opening activities and group gatherings on varied schedules; about a dozen states have begun the process as of today. Each organization will also be impacted differently. For example, a school must consider the upcoming summer vacation and uncertainty about the Fall: while a rescue mission may experience higher demand for services now than normal. So, know your organization and begin steps now that will allow you to “jump-start” it once you get the green light. 

Donor Research: The first step in a Pre-campaign Study is identifying who you want to hear from to determine your readiness to conduct a successful campaign. You want to know the “buy-in” for the project and the potential available support from your constituents, both financially and in a volunteering capacity. So, identifying who you need to talk to is important. Who are your top 10, your next 20, and your next 200? Regardless of whether you launch a study next week or in two months, you can get your lists in order. Our advice is to get it done now! 

Case for Support Development: In your Pre-campaign Study, you will “test” or measure the interest in, and support for, what you plan to accomplish in your Capital Campaign. Your “Case for Support” is a document that lays out that plan in a thorough and compelling way, so your closest friends and donors can realize your vision and thereafter share their level of interest. You will need a strong Case at some point, so start writing it today. We often complete several reiterations of this document before we finalize it, so why not get started on a draft now? You’ll be a step ahead when the time comes.  

Your Calendar: A well thought through Pre-Campaign Study takes about 90 – 120 days to plan and carry out. We can often finish a Study in 3 months, although the timeline is heavily dependent on communication  between parties. Here is a typical breakdown we would recommend: 

Month 1: Preparation of all documents. This includes the Case for Support, the Questionnaire, and the Cover Letters, envelopes, etc. and the segmentation of potential interviewee lists.

Month 2: Data and input collection. This includes the mailing of materials, the completion of personal interviews, and the return and compilation of mail and online surveys. 

Month 3: Results analysis. This month consists of breaking down all the compiled data and creating a written Report of the results of the Study. 

Month 4: Report presentation. This consists of preparing and presenting the final Report to the Client. This month also includes plenty of Capital Campaign pre-planning and often results in a decision regarding whether to move forward or not being made.  

One additional crucial factor to weigh is a little more subjective – when will your donors and supporters be ready to give input and make any Pre-Campaign or Campaign decisions? We have heard that some donors may need time to recover and therefore, may not be ready to make any financial commitments before the year’s end. Others we know are ready now as this time has not affected them as adversely. So, this is a question only you can answer, as you know your constituents best. We don’t believe you should hold off just because you’re unsure of what donors will say. That is, after all, one of the main reasons to conduct a Pre-campaign Study in the first place. 

In summary, you may be more ready than you think. We talk about a “season of recovery” which we believe will begin by late Summer or early Fall, when normal fundraising activities will resume. If these factors line up reasonably with your long-range plans, that makes this Summer a great time to conduct your Pre-Campaign Study! 

Who Is Ready? To put your mind at ease a bit, we have a client who is currently pushing forward with their Pre-Campaign Study. They will be mailing out their Case Statement this week and plan to conduct face-to-face interviews, likely virtually, in late May. Their long-range plan is to complete the Study by early June with an anticipated Capital Campaign launch this Fall. The factors, for them, are aligned at this time. 

We encourage you to walk in faith and have full confidence that God is with you. Here is a Scripture passage we often share with anyone pondering a Capital Campaign for ministry growth:  

“All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the LORD’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan. Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.” I Chronicles 28:19-20

Article Submitted By: Kent Vanderwood, Vice President, The Timothy Group, April 30, 2020

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