Do you have a dream to raise big money for an important cause? Are you wondering where do you start?

Assessing financial strengths for fundraising or a capital campaign

Given the increased competition for charitable dollars, both in not-for-profit and municipal sectors, development activities and functions must be examined closely for their effectiveness and efficiency.

Giving has bounced back after the Great Recession from declines in 2008 and 2010. The non-profit sector and philanthropy have had a resurgence to pre-recession giving which had topped out in 2007, fell in 2008 and 2010, but has seen dramatic returns of giving to more than $373.25 billion in 2015.

The first step in any large fundraising effort is determining and analyzing the importance of the project. During initial work with fundraising clients, this stage  is sometimes referred to a feasibility study of a capital campaign.

Feasibility is defined as “capable of being done, effected, or accomplished.”

However, the term feasibility does not accurately portray the most important role of such a study, which is determining the unique strategy necessary to reach success for a specific community, project or organization.

Through growth of the fundraising sector over the last 20 years, other terms began to embody the full capacity of this critical step. Those terms include planning study, community assessment study and strategic study, development audit and advancement audit which are comprehensive research studies to determine not just philanthropic support but a host of important elements.  Whatever term is used, the key roles of a planning study for a capital campaign are:

-Introduce the project to key stakeholders in a professional and non-biased manner.

-Establish a first front connection to the consultants to provide credibility for the project under review.

-Cultivate major donors.

-Identify favorable factors

-Identify the potential for challenging circumstances or obstacles to reaching the proposed goal

-Assess an attainable goal or range a campaign may meet with proper cultivation of donors

-Define recommendations outlining strategic steps for a capital campaign

The role of the planning, community assessment or strategy study is not just IF an organization has the potential relationships with philanthropic donors to raise a certain amount of the goal. The role of the planning study is to provide a strong, overall strategy for the campaign – the campaign roadmap.

But before we get to the “How” part, let’s discuss the “If” part of the question of whether your community or organization can fundraise a certain goal amount.

First, if you are fundraising for a municipal entity, you must consider how many people are impacted by this entity over the course of a year or years? How many people utilize your recreational center, pool or library? How many more people could you serve if your library was more functional and large enough to serve your community needs? What if you had a second gymnasium in your recreational center? How many more people could you serve if you had a second sheet of ice to meet the needs of those who play hockey and figure skate in your community? Is your facility up to par mechanically? Is your pool leaking and losing money? What could be done to upgrade or totally revamp your pool into a functional aquatic center attracting enough interest to provide an important quality of life amenity for your community and providing cost effectiveness?

An organization has different parameters to assess during a study than a municipality including the role of the Board of Directors, which is a volunteer-driven group of individuals who support a cause or mission with their time, talent and relationships to help secure a strong fiduciary function for the organization. Questions asked during an organizational audit include important aspects of volunteer management, committees and their roles/functions as well as financial security, fundraising elements emanating from the strategic plan, and long-term and short-term goals with objectives.