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When the demand for your charity’s services is growing, it is tempting to set ambitious goals for growth without always doing the reality check first of whether they are achievable or not.
We recently saw an example of this, where a client set a big top down target without evidence of how this would be achieved and then, almost as an afterthought, asked us to conduct a feasibility study to see if it was possible or not.
We established that some growth was possible by looking at each area of fundraising and building a more realistic target bottom up. It turned out that the original target was totally unrealistic and had been set by a board of trustees without real scrutiny of what was possible. In other words, an ambition or aspiration had been set with no evidence it could be delivered..
Fortunately for the fundraising team, we did the reality check before the target was adopted as a formal goal for the organisation. Otherwise, the team would have been set up to fail – damaging morale, careers and organisational reputation.
There are two lessons here. Firstly, that it pays to do your homework first before launching into major fundraising initiatives.
Secondly, that it is worth seeking external help where necessary. A little advice can go a long way in averting disasters and in making sure fundraising plans are realistic.
Questions that need Answering
This is especially the case with major appeals, where a charity is looking to raise considerably more than usual, perhaps for a capital need. In such scenarios, a funding feasibility study really is a must and not a luxury. Without it, how do you know that the target can be reached? Is the money actually out there for what you want to do? Where will it come from? Is the case for support strong enough and how do you know? Have you got the right people in place to help you raise funds (staff and volunteers)? How long is the appeal likely to take? What will it cost and how should it be structured?
All these questions and more need to be answered before you launch a major appeal, so doing your homework first is vital. And do seek help with this if you need it. An objective, external study gives everyone a reality check and can increase confidence before you commit to a major appeal. Sometimes, of course, it can also conclude that such an appeal is unlikely to succeed. This is never welcome news, but far better to know in advance than face the scenario of a failed appeal.
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