midwest studies group

In just the past 6 months we have been asked many of times at Midwest Studies Group . . . "We want to do a capital campaign. Should we do a strategic plan or feasibility study first?"

What a great question this is, as it has a good "chicken or egg" feel to it. As with anything else in life, there is more than one way to look at this. If you choose to do a feasibility study first, there certainly are plenty of examples of nonprofits who were able to have successful campaigns going this route.

However, we would suggest that you consider doing a strategic plan first, and here is why:

  1. It gives you some direction. Taking the time to strategically think about what a campaign will look like, will give your feasibility study more depth with more details. A successful study is about asking the right questions to the right people. The more details and planning you can get done beforehand, the better . . . ALWAYS.
  2. It gives your feasibility study more clout. When we talk to interviewees during feasibility studies, we often get asked if the organization did a strategic plan first. The reason why some funders like to ask this question is because of the relation to number one above. They want to make sure the organization has taken the time to really think about what they are doing. That the idea of having a campaign is not just something that feels like a rushed decision.

The tough thing about capital campaigns with organizations is that they are so exciting. Staff members and board members are feeling the energy of wanting to get started. Although it means it might take a little extra time, it never hurts to start out with a strategic plan before moving forward with your campaign.


For more information about Annual and Planned Giving, Strategic Planning, or Capital Campaigns contact us today.

We get asked by clients all the time about how they can get their nonprofits better known in the community. Usually the purpose is because they want to expand their fundraising abilities. If your nonprofit is looking to be seen more in the community, here are just a few tips we give to our clients:

  1. Leave your office - Stop gazing at your computer or taking care of needs your staff can handle. Visit businesses in your area, join a local service club, meet people for coffee, volunteer with your local chamber, etc. Studies have shown that the chances of you shaking hands with a new person you never met, increases, when you are actually in front of new people. OK, we made that stat up, but when you think about it, it sorta makes sense.
  2. The "Ripple Effect" - Start by asking your current donors, board members, and staff to connect you with people they know. Build relationships with those people and after time, those people will connect you to others they might know. Rinse and repeat. Also consider getting more people to join your board, committees, or volunteer in other ways.
  3. Be authentic - In all you do, be authentic. If your idea of meeting a new person is to make it a cash grab, then people will see right through that. Always think long term and always be willing to meet a new friend whether they give you a donation or not right away.
  4. Be SMART with your goals - When you create your goals for how many people you want to meet, how many new donors or volunteers you want to find, how much money you want to raise, etc. be sure to always create SMART goals. There are plenty of internet resources which can help you learn what SMART goals are but it all comes down to setting realistic expectations with your staff and board.
  5. The Do's and Don'ts of social media - Do use social media. Update it, share it, embrace it. Don't use it as a magic pill to build new relationships. Tips 1 - 4 above combined with a social media presence, make for a peanut and jelly experience (In other words, they go well together).

If you do these things, we can promise that your organization will be seen with even more visibility.

For more support with fundraising or strategic planning needs, please reach out to us at info@midweststudiesgroup.com.

If you are a nonprofit leader, then this video is for you. Midwest Studies Group had the pleasure of being joined by Dr. Brian Davidson, from MindVue, who shares his thoughts on mental wellness for leadership, things to pay attention to, and strengths leaders can focus on which help to overcome stress. https://www.midweststudiesgroup.com/nonprofit-leadership-mental-wellness/


To learn more about fundraising or strategic planning support, please visit us at www.midweststudiesgroup.com

During my (Chuck Rowe) time as CEO of a nonprofit, our organization went above and beyond to make sure our spending was done was transparent as possible. Building and keeping community trust was a priority. At first going through the steps below felt strange. It felt like extra work and that board and staff might not trust each other. We quickly learned that it was not about us. It was about securing the trust of the community for decades to come. No mishandling of funds were going to happen on OUR watch.

Enjoy our poem below, on steps we took on making sure we stayed on task with having clean audits every year. If you have more questions please contact us at www.midweststudiesgroup.com.


When I was CEO, we set the gold standard, auditor said no other non-profits could've handled, Our clean spending, transparent and tight, every dollar in the light, no shadows in sight.

Checks every two weeks, we made it a breeze, CEO and a board member signed, yes please, Doesn’t matter ten bucks or ten grand in hand, Accountability strong, together we stand.

Some CEOs hate, think it’s a hassle, But we took the work, wore transparency’s mantle, Credit card logs showed every spend, Finance Committee checked monthly, questions in hand.

Purchase requests in the budget’s lane, But unexpected wants, board approval gained, Some think it’s a bind, a hassle to find, But I’d trade that for clean audits, peace of mind.

Petty cash was a thing of the past, checks and credit use instead were cast, Staff might gripe, think it takes too long, But transparency’s rhythm is our song.

Oversight’s on us, CEO and the board, Stories of mishandling? We can’t afford, Did we go above and beyond? Oh yes indeed, Clean audits, community trust, that’s our creed.

So take those steps, build trust, not just a façade, Protect the organization, for future squads, It’s not about you, it’s the legacy’s tone, Transparency today, secure the unknown.

We can't tell you how many times we come across organizations who have a grant writer, who get frustrated, and then contact us at Midwest Studies Group about taking over their grant writing.

When talking with potential clients, we often end up suggesting that perhaps their grant writer is better than they might get credit for. Consider this:

- A 60% success rate is considered "good" as long as you have a relationship with the group you are writing the grant to. If you don't have a relationship and randomly send an application to a group? That number dives to 10-20% or worse.

- Is someone from your organization taking the time to contact the funder before you apply? Ask questions, see what else has been funded, talk about your project idea, etc? Taking the time to do those things can help make a difference.

- Simply put . . . did you hire anyone with any experience? If not, then perhaps it would be fair to give that person the tools and training they need in order to be successful. Just like any other job, you can't just toss someone new into that role and then say, "OK, go do your job and pass with flying colors".

Far too often, organizations see a grant writer as some sort of magic pill that will bring in money left and right. So before you get frustrated and choose to part ways with your grant writer, make sure you take the time to consider the items above. The person might be better than you think.

For more support with fundraising or strategic planning, be sure to visit us at www.midweststudiesgroup.com.

Fundraising is unpredictable, often dictated by the calendar rather than your preferences. While November and December are prime fundraising months, it could also be said that January and February are often slower times, which you don't want to bother people too much because of "donor fatigue", that could set in. We also tell organizations all the time, NOT to wait until the end of the year to do all of their fundraising . . . or even worse . . . only rely on mailings.

March presents an ideal opportunity to kickstart your efforts.. THIS is the time to get your Annual Giving Plan in shape. Who are you going to ask for gifts this year, when, how much, who is going to make the ask, who is going to be asked in person, who is going to receive a mailing instead, etc . . . these questions and MORE are important to consider when creating your plan.

Take care of these important things now because we PROMISE you that the end of the year will get here before you know it. The last thing you want to do is suffer through the typical end of the year revenue stress. Get your plan together now, start talking to donors now, and good things will happen. Midwest Studies Group can even help with your plan, marketing, and more.

For more information about Annual and Planned Giving, Strategic Planning, or Capital Campaigns contact us at info@midweststudiesgroup.com today.

The idea of being on a private island by yourself is captivating—tranquility, sunlight, and relaxation. While it's a dream for some, it can turn into a nightmare for others due to loneliness. Similarly, nonprofits often isolate themselves, whether out of fear of resource loss, a sense of superiority, or difficulty connecting with others. Regardless of the reason, we urge all nonprofits to forge relationships with other organizations, and here's why:

  1. It's beneficial to have allies. Discuss successes or brainstorm solutions when facing challenges. Two heads are better than one.
  2. It's advantageous to collaborate. Your organization can't excel in everything, so partnering with groups can fill each other's gaps, resulting in better programs for clients.
  3. It's beneficial for public relations. Just like knowing about an unknown private island, nonprofits remaining isolated may go unnoticed. By sharing spaces or collaborating, your organization becomes a topic of conversation, attracting donors, volunteers, and funders who appreciate strong inter-organizational relationships.

So, if you're on a nonprofit island, let this inspire you to invite others to share it with you and explore theirs.

For more information about Annual and Planned Giving, Strategic Planning, or Capital Campaigns contact us at info@midweststudiesgroup.com today.

At Midwest Studies Group we get a number of questions all the time, and we try to post them on here once in awhile so that we can help as many people as possible.

The question we are sharing with you this time is, what software should we use to keep track of our donors?

This is tricky because there are so many options out there AND every nonprofit person we run into has a different thing they are looking for. So to give you ONE suggesting or even a list of top suggestions, would be subjective at best.

What we would like to do is share a list with you from Center for Major Gifts. Although the list is a little old, it does a great job at naming off the big players, and giving a short description to each . . . saving you a lot of time doing this all yourself.


The realm of software options is vast, but finding the best fit for your needs is a journey worth taking. As you navigate through the myriad choices, consider your specific requirements, budget constraints, and long-term goals. Remember, the best software is not always the most popular one; it's the one that aligns seamlessly with your unique workflow. Embrace the process of discovery, stay informed about updates and innovations, and empower yourself to make informed decisions that will elevate your efficiency and productivity.

Happy December everyone. Time to bundle up and do our best to stay warm (Well, at least in the Midwest and North). It's a Friday and you might be wondering, what could you possibly be doing right now to make a difference in your organization today?

We have an easy answer to you for that one. A simple challenge. Something that is SUPER easy, takes very little time, and can be a huge difference maker.

1) Check our your donor database

2) Find 5 people who you have not spoken to in awhile

3) Call them (Not text, not email, not carrier pigeon)

4) Don't ask for anything

5) Just thank them for being awesome

That's it. Getting a phone call from the leader of an organization, of sincere THANKS can make a difference.

*Want to take this challenge a step further? Set aside a few minutes every Friday to do this.

My father plays the trombone and absolutely loves it. In fact, it would be fair to say it is probably his number one passion in life.

When it comes to instruments, the trombone is so recognizable that most people know what it is by simply seeing a photo of it.

On the other hand, there is an instrument called the English horn. Ever heard of that? Google it and see if the photo matches up with what you thought it would be. There are musicians who don't even know what the English horn is.

When it comes to running a nonprofit, some staff and board members have the assumption that they are a trombone. They believe that when people see and hear their name, they know exactly who and what they are. So when it comes to doing a feasibility study, they think their capital campaign is going to be automatic because they have a great mission and everyone KNOWS who they are.*

The truth is that a lot of nonprofits THINK they are trombones when they are actually English horns. How do you know if you might be an English horn? Go around town and see how many people have heard of your organization. Look at your donor base and see how many higher-end donors you might have, or even how many donors you have in the first place. Examine your success in local grant writing compared to other organizations.

If you are looking to have a successful feasibility study, make sure you are a trombone. Putting these analogies aside, the point is this . . . too many times, a nonprofit will want to do a capital campaign, starting with a feasibility study, in the hopes that the interviews will magically bring in dollars to the project.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. If there was one piece of advice we would want to give to any nonprofit looking to do a feasibility study, it's to look at your donor base. Examine your support. See if you have donors who would support you at the level you are hoping for*

Taking the time to figure out if you are a trombone or an English horn will make all the difference in your upcoming feasibility study.

*Please note that this topic has nothing to do with the size of an organization. We run into small organizations who have a strong donor base and large organizations who don't have any donor base. If your organization is in need of strategies in becoming more visible in your community, MSG would love to be of service to you.

CALL US AT 319.961.2865
Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Midwest Studies Group. Website by IFC Studios.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram