by Ted Grossnickle
We are often asked by clients and prospective clients to help them determine if they are ready for a campaign. We’re also asked – somewhat less frequently – if we believe they are ready to have a feasibility study conducted. We are almost never asked if we believe they are ready to write a preliminary case for support.
Yet, I believe that last question needs to be asked more – by nonprofits and by us.
If it is true that a strategic and well-conducted feasibility study is critical to organizing for success in a campaign, then I submit a good preliminary case for support is even more critical to both a good study and the campaign which may follow.
A preliminary case puts on paper – in compelling and coherent language – why gifts will make a difference – more for our region or world – than for the nonprofit. And it is more than a document. Much more.
A preliminary case is the “first draft of the future” for the next time period for your nonprofit. It causes the first shared set of assumptions about causes and how to achieve it to be put on paper – and agreed to by leaders on staff and the board. Put simply, a good preliminary case is all about a unified vision for the future.
So…how do you know if you’re truly ready to create a preliminary case for support? Here are some key indicators:
- Do the board chair and the CEO/President agree on the top two or three goals that have to be accomplished in the next five years?
- Can you show – in a 1 to 2 page format – what the fiscal implications are of the proposed campaign?
- Can you clearly illustrate what will be different as a result?
- If you were to achieve immediate funding of the key components described in the document, would your board and staff agree these are the most important to do?
- If your preliminary case describes a facility, can you show renderings, floor plans, and describe what will happen inside that facility? And do you have solid, sensible estimates of cost?
This is not exhaustive but these do get to key questions you’d better be able to answer. If not, then do some more preparation and analysis – and deciding. If so, take pen and paper or put hands to a keyboard – and get started!