Building A Case For Support – What You Need to Know
Building a new case or updating your current case for asking provides a great opportunity to engage current donors and cultivate newer ones. The process of case building should be as inclusive as possible – engaging volunteers and other leaders in the process creates ownership opportunities and helps your organization develop a work product that reflects its history, culture, and mission.
Remember: donors give to your organization because of your everyday good work.
What is a case for support?
A case for support is a document, about 10-pages long, providing donors with an understanding of who you are and what you do, and any upcoming projects requiring funding. The content will lay the groundwork for language used in all briefing, cultivation and solicitation meetings, documents and marketing materials related to fundraising, or a specific campaign.
Every single not-for-profit organization should have a well-developed case for support.
Before you start, speak with your donors.
Prior to drafting your case for support, speak with your target audience – donors. Meet with 10-15 key leaders, board members and donors for feedback and advice. Understand why they give to your organization, and their perception of your work. Gauge their response to any proposed fundraising campaigns or new projects. In our experience, these conversations surface information critical to the development of the case. These discussions can also surface new intelligence from the participants themselves and their interests.
Questions to ask during these discussions would include:
- Why do you give to our organization?
- Do you believe your gift has impact?
- Is there something specific that compels you to give?
- What are your goals for our organization? Where would you like us to head?
- Is our overarching strategy clear?
Now, with key information from stakeholders, the writing process can begin. Below are six key ideas to consider as your case for support starts to take shape.
1. Provide a compelling opening paragraph. Capture donors’ interests from the start with a concise and compelling opening paragraph. What would make a donor want to continue to read? If you are with a human service organization, you could add a brief story about a family who received a donated Thanksgiving meal. For a health care or educational institution, you might share a recently achieved service landmark (6,000 babies born; 100,000th graduate).
2. Provide a history of your organization. Donors like longevity. They want to learn about your organization and its history, and its accomplishments programmatically and philanthropically. Demonstrate progress over the years by building in a timeline of landmark achievements and key events.
3. Celebrate your organization’s good work. Include compelling facts and figures demonstrating your organization’s important everyday work. If you’re with a hospital foundation, identify how many patients use your facilities every year, how many physicians and nurses serve at your location, and impressive outcome statistics. You might also wish to identify awards and recognition you’ve received in recent years.
4. Demonstrate impact. By using quantifiable data, share how philanthropic giving has driven your organization’s mission in years past. If you are with a research institute, demonstrate how your findings, funded by the annual appeal, influenced public policy. A school might highlight the amount of money given in financial aid last year thanks to alumni gifts.
5. State your organization’s mission and plans for the future. Include detailed descriptions of immediate and long-term goals, and how these goals will affect and enhance your mission. A hospital foundation might share how an increase in population has led to a need for greater capacity in the emergency department. To better serve the community, a proposed building plan could serve five times the number of patients in need of care.
6. Identify funding needs. Clearly illustrate funding needs, and how these needs fit into your organization’s strategic plan and future goals. If you are fundraising for a school, you might share your plans to raise $10,000,000 for endowed scholarships to maintain the institution’s long-term commitment to a socioeconomically diverse student body.
7. Communicate the importance of donors’ giving to your fundraising program. Include a clear indication of each gift’s immediate and long-term effects on your organization. A religious organization might share how each endowed gift will provide training for next generation leaders over a 10-year span.
Test a draft case with the insiders.
Now that you’ve drafted a case for support, send it to the leaders you spoke with at the beginning of the process. Your board’s development committee should also have an opportunity to review and provide input.
The case is a working document. At Averill, we recommend continuing to update and edit the content as you reach milestones, complete and/or add projects.
Good luck building your case for support!