This posting by: Tony Poderis
We know that a Planning Study (see: What is a Planning Study) is a tool a non-profit uses to determine whether it should go ahead with a Major (capital or endowment) Fundraising Effort.
Such a Study is essential for an organization in order to assess the likelihood of success before entering into a campaign. An organization that does not do so puts the campaign, the project for which the money is to be raised, and even the non-profit itself at risk.
Sad to say, however, when many such studies are conducted, and when the Study Reports are completed and presented to commissioning organizations, all too often their leaderships balk and resist implementing the Study Recommendations simply because the study may tell them what they don’t want to hear.
Those leaders find it so hard to believe, though they must, how their “family-and-friends” — the interviewees they’ve suggested, may actually be critical of the organization’s operation under their leadership.
For those leaders, let me say, “I understand. I do know where you’re coming from – and I empathize, but your rejections of fact can be seriously counterproductive.”
You suggested that those people be interviewed in the first place — you knew they cared and supported the organization, or had influence in the community you serve, and you wanted their input.
The Study Report, then, provided you with their thoughts and perspectives, and you must, therefore, give serious consideration to what they said.
And you must ... make sure that you take the time to go over every element of the Study Report. Don’t skip over any of the negative … that on first reading may seem minor. Be even tougher in your analysis than the person who wrote the Study Report and made the Recommendations.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to go ahead with the campaign, you must give credence to the thoughts/perspectives/recommendations you solicited.
It would be folly to take the time to conduct a Planning Study, spend the money on it, then risk alienating people important to the organization by ignoring their input.
An organization that ignores some or all of a study’s findings makes a mistake that can fatally damage the campaign, the project, and even the organization.
The study might recommend against proceeding with the effort until the nonprofit first repairs the (perceived) “faults” and/or installs new elements of its basic infrastructure – an updated strategic plan, a better defined mission, a strengthened board, or a myriad other things. Diligence is essential in carrying out such recommendations.
I am still awaiting the final payment for a Study from an organization that didn’t like what the 25 people they chose, and whom I interviewed, had to say.
In another instance, I had to fight tooth and nail to get an organization’s executive director and president to share the results of a study with their own board – as they had promised to do going into the process. The more negative a study’s results, the more important that they be heeded.
If the Study’s results tell you so, it is far better not to start a campaign, even if it means postponing or giving up on a project, than to begin a campaign that fails.
The decision whether or not to go ahead with a major effort is one that the organization makes in relative privacy. A failed campaign is a public event that reflects negatively on:
• Campaign leadership
• Campaign volunteers
• The organization’s board
• The organization’s staff
• The organization’s image
A failed campaign makes it harder for future campaigns to succeed. People give to organizations they perceive to be competent. The best volunteer leadership for both fund-raising endeavors and governance is drawn to organizations that are perceived to be winners.
If a Study tells you what you don’t want to hear that was said by those having the influence and affluence that would affect your campaign and your organization, don’t blame them or the people who conducted the study and don’t try to hide the results.
Listen to and act upon what your organization’s family and friends tell you. Fix what must be fixed, explain what can’t be fixed, and at least acknowledge and explain what may be mistaken impressions and opinions.
If you have a question or comment for Tony, he can be reached at Tony@raise-funds.com. There is also a lot of good fundraising information on his website: Raise-Funds.com
Have you seen The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??
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