Whistling in the Dark Before a Campaign

Whistling in the Dark Before a Campaign

June 13, 2013 by jga_admin

by Ted Grossnickle


A recent Guidestar post by a long time colleague in the field illuminates a question that seems to arise with regularity. Andrea Kihlstedt responds to nonprofit volunteers and at least one consulting firm which seriously question whether feasibility studies have any value. Some of the questions she hears – and which JGA also hears from time to time - include:

  • Why ask donors their thoughts about a hypothetical campaign with a hypothetical goal?
  • We know we need to raise this money; we have to do it? Why ask people what they think about it?
  • Why have an outsider, some third party, come in and talk to our most likely generous donors? Will they even confide in the consultant?

Andrea’s article meets these points and responds to them eloquently.

What I wonder about is the lack of curiosity some of the questions suggest on the part of nonprofits?

In other words, if you’re seriously considering a major campaign, likely the largest effort you’ve ever undertaken and one with both potential for great upside if you succeed and major problems if you don’t, why would you not want to know what your top donors think? And in just as objective and authentic a way as you can hear it? Why believe you know what your prospective donors think? Do we honestly believe they have told us ---- and that we have truly heard --- what they believe about our mission, our work and what they might do to financially support it?

I sometimes wonder if it doesn’t take more effort to close ourselves off to hearing what our closest friends and donors would tell us than it does to just have them talk to someone impartial.

Experience has shown my colleagues and me that even those institutions which do a really fine job of meeting, talking with and engaging their friends and donors still frequently have donors who have questions or concerns that they hesitate to share with a CEO, President, Dean or Vice President.

Why not be sure and find out?