I read somewhere one of the giants in fundraising said the Case for Support must “have whatever stuff is needed to warm the heart and stir the mind”. Which got me thinking about why this is not so.
Much of what passes for a “Case” today reads like a collection of program and services, numbers of people served and statistics about the problem an organization is involved in solving. Might have a few heartwarming stories about satisfied customers, but does it really make the argument for donor support?
When I read a Case for Support, I want to know what the problem is and see a creative response: big, bold, meaty statements about how an organization is moving the needle on their mission. Which is the point of the Case for Support.
What you do, where and when you do it are on the website. Or in a brochure. Nice to have for visibility, but no one expects this kind of website copy & pics to independently move anyone to action.
Why you do what you do, however, is the stuff of engagement and the sweet spot for serious fundraising. And it is what the Case for Support was designed for.
Do Not Misuse This Tool
Well crafted, the Case for Support is a strong tool to tell a story worth paying attention to. It is because of misunderstanding that it is most often misused. Fails to hit the mark.
- Numbers served is like burgers sold. No one cares anymore. Changing life conditions so family, friends, and neighbours can live to their fullest is the secret sauce everyone wants the recipe for. What donors want to know is how did you change lives for the better and how can they get in on the deal?
- Paragraphs about programs and services is information and only inspiring if they are accompanied by outcomes. You are not the only charity sheltering, feeding, teaching. Figure out what makes you different and write your Case in terms of cause and effect.
- Stop cluttering up your Case for Support with the dire consequences of the gap between income and expenses. Every organization has the same operating problem so you are in good company. “Save us” messages are only good once and never in a Case for Support.
- Or how little you spend. Only a small part of your donor base respects the drive to the bottom that has become so imperative in the non-profit world. Anybody can do things cheaply but being frugal does not always mean impactful. Aim high instead and decide what you want to be known for.
Your Unique Selling Proposition
Decades ago, it was enough to persuade donors to give because programs and services outnumbered those of a rival organization. Sheer volume demonstrated worthiness and it worked in the 1980s. Then donors started getting smarter about investing their dollars in charitable work. The questions shifted to, “what happens to someone?” then, “how do we know?” and “can we do more?”
The worth of an organization is defined by its ability to solve the world’s most complex problems. What differentiates one charity from another is not the number of people using services or the number of programs on offer. What sets organizations apart is if there is true improvement on hunger, shelter, employment, safety, self-esteem, relationships, bonding, and any number of other human and social metrics.
Do not be fooled, writing a stellar Case for Support is not easy. It is hard work. But it can be done. First, get authorized to take on the project. That would involve the Executive Director and/or the Directors. Recruit them to the project along with a couple staff members who are smart about what your organization is attempting to do. I have had luck finding these people in Operations or Program Services. They are expert in what happens day to day and often see what impact looks like first-hand. Then put your current Case for Support aside and do this:
- Review your Mission and Vision for nuggets of your organization’s purpose
- Think deeply about the cause you serve and what you think needs the greatest attention
- Write them down and map them against your Mission and Vision nuggets
- Write statements about critical necessary outcomes your organization wants to achieve
- Write about what you are doing to achieve them
- Tell donors how they can be responsible for these outcomes
- Rewrite your Case for Support
- Sell it internally and deliver it to your top donors
Your organization has a brand. Stripped right down, it is what comes to mind when people think about you. More important, your brand is whether anyone bothers thinking about your organization at all. Your Case for Support gives donors bullet proof reasons to invest their hard-earned dollars and assets in your organization. They will do it because your Case demonstrates why and matches their philanthropic interests.
The Case for Support is not just a bunch of words. We cannot fool donors into thinking the more words we use the better. The power of a professionally written Case for Support is when it demonstrates, defends, proclaims, and proves impact and outcomes. Mission means everything. Your purpose is a promise. Keep it.
John Phin, CFRE, is the Regional Manager Western Canada with BNP GOLDIE Canada. We know each Case for Support is unique. No other organization can make the same claims for support. Your Fund Development program rests on the strength of your Case for Support, and we are expert in its design, and implementation. Serious fundraising is hard and deserves professional attention to do it right.