I recently read an article on npEngage about the value of planning studies. And while the author makes some very interesting and relevant points, one thing to consider, however, is:
What information will you get back from this process?
Many years ago a consultant decided that these types of interviews would be done confidentially and the industry has just blindly followed suit since. This means all of this good data that counsel is collecting from your top donors cannot be shared with you (ethically at least).
At Alexander Haas, we no longer conduct studies in this manner.
NonProfit Fundraising Campaign Feasibility Studies
We are clear with those we interview that we are collecting information to help the organization make informed decisions about their way forward and that in order to make informed decisions we need to be able to share the information we gather from these conversations. We also make it clear that if there is anything we discuss that they absolutely do not want repeated to the client, we will honor that request completely.
Those we interview tell us they find this approach refreshing and that if they are going to contribute an hour or more of their time to this process, they surely want the information to be useful to the organization. They also tell us that they always suspect that consultants are going to share the information with the organization, even when it was supposed to be a confidential conversation, and that made them very measured in what they said.
Our approach is much more open and transparent and does not put us in some ethical gray area as it relates to confidentiality and client best interest. It allows us to collect valuable information and to share it with our clients so that we are all working together to develop strategies and tactics with the same knowledge base.
The full npEngage article on best practices is here: