Choosing the best feasibility study interviewees is critical to producing a valid study. It is important that interviews include certain representatives of your institution and community. A study must include many people who know your institution well and how you respond to challenges. Because successful campaigns depend heavily on major donors, interviewees must have substantial giving potential and a demonstrated willingness to support you. If you’ve not done so in several years, this may be a great time to perform a wealth screening on your database.
JFSG recommends the client use the following criteria for gathering names for the interview process:
- Influential — Those who can convince others of the positive ripple effect created by the institution in the local community and state
- Those with an established giving record in support of the institution and who are invested in its success
- Supporters of projects that enhance the community’s attractiveness to outside industry
- Local, regional and possibly nationwide foundations, businesses and corporations
- Businesses and vendors currently conducting business with the institution
The quality of the feasibility study will only be as strong as the quality of the interviewees. It’s important to review your pool to determine the strongest candidates. Putting forth the time and effort required to identify the right candidates for a feasibility study provide a smoother and faster transition into a potential campaign. The following three-step process will provide a good outline for selecting the right interviewees for your study:
Step 1: Gather Data on Potential Feasibility Study Interviewees
Review your entire database in order to analyze the interview pool. Pull the following data from the database:
- ID number; name; spouse name; city; state; zip
- Primary affiliation (board membership; staff; etc.)
- Date of the first gift
- Date of the last gift
- All-time cumulative amount given
- Single one-time largest gift
- Total number of gifts
Step 2: Analysis of Prospective Feasibility Study Interviewees
Assuming all data from Step 1 is available, conduct an RFM analysis to identify your top prospects. Obviously, an RFM analysis will only consider previous donors. An RFM Analysis is scored using a 100 point scale (see below). An RFM analysis is commonly employed in the retail industry to determine a company’s best customers. In fund-raising, it’s used to identify top donors by analyzing an individual’s giving history to your organization. If you can’t obtain all the data in Step 1, detailed wealth screening is the only information available for use in Step 2.
- Recency – looks at how long it has been since a donor has given in years. Those with the most recent gifts receive a higher ranking than those with older gifts. (20 Pts)
- Frequency – measures the number of gifts made since the donor’s first gift. (30 Pts)
- Monetary – this element is scored by ranking both the donor’s cumulative giving and their one-time largest gift. Each category of the monetary score could receive the up to 25 Pts max. (50 Total Pts)
Sort the scores from highest to lowest and identify the top donors after the rankings are established. Depending on the philanthropic culture of an institution’s donors, the monetary category can be adjusted and scaled appropriately to create separation. Finally, review the feasibility study interviewee list to assign inclination ratings.
Step 3: Assign an Inclination Rating
Next, estimate an individual’s inclination rating to qualify him or her as a prospective feasibility study interviewee. This 1-5 rating (5 is highest) is based on institutional involvement and community influence. The rating scale is as follows:
- 5 – a person holds a position on the board/ high-level volunteer (decision-making position) and this person attends all primary events with the institution.
- 4 – a person who occasionally attends events of the institution and holds a volunteer position. (Non-executive decision-making committee, i.e. planning committee, development committee, advisory role).
- 3 – a person with a direct affiliation with the institution (alumni, parent, student, etc.) and has volunteered within the last five years.
- 2 – a person identified by a board member with no direct affiliation who receives regular communications from the institution.
- 1 – a person has limited or no connection with the institution.
Review the Results
After reviewing the results, determine if it’s appropriate to add additional names with high inclination scores to the list. You can also consider adding non-donors or small donors who may be on your radar due to their capability to make a leadership gift. However, they should still have some connection to your organization if they’re a non-donor. Next, re-sort the prospective interviewee names. Sort them highest to lowest by inclination ratings, then RFM scores within that tier to yield a high quality, final interviewee pool. The final pool is typically a list of your top 250 prospects. The pool can be larger depending on the size of the institution. Absent a full RFM Analysis, the top 250 prospects are determined using factors such as the inclination ratings and other criteria from wealth screening including a three or five-year estimated giving capability, property values, and any historic, philanthropic indicators that are found.