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The Case For The Case

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So why should I support you? Why does your organization merit a gift more so than the other million plus charities registered in the United States? And why now? These are questions that any advancement professional should be able to answer effortlessly and convincingly about their NPO. An organization’s case for support should concisely and compellingly document this information. The important word here is should. As fundraising consultants, we often speak with nonprofits that “sort of” have a case, or seem to improvise their funding pitch based on whatever fire they are currently trying to extinguish. Are you “sort of” guilty of this as well?
Your organization’s case for support is the cornerstone for any advancement strategy, including annual giving, major gifts, foundation, planned giving, and event related efforts. It insures that funding priorities are clearly articulated, and that everyone is on the same page with the organization’s raison d’être. And, as most people have a yearly checkup with their physician, your case statement should also be subject to an annual wellness review. Here are a few things to consider:
Clarity. Is it crystal clear to the uninitiated world… what you do, why you do it, and for whom you do it? It is easy to get caught up in industry specific jargon and “inside baseball” references. But your audiences for the most part are outside of the industry. Words are very important here. One easy way to test your clarity is to read key sections of your case for support out loud to a few individuals who otherwise would not come in contact with it – like some smart teens, friends of your parents, or colleagues in industry or finance. Then, ask them to state in their own words what your organization does, and why it is worthy of support. This provides a “reality check” as well as the possibility for new ideas and insights. Such an exercise is also a good excuse to call your most valued stakeholders to ask for their reaction to the evolving case statement.
Niche. What unique offering, population served, or cause can your organization claim? And /or – do you fill a specific gap not addressed by other agencies or organization? “Ownership” is key here, regardless of the scope or scale. In many regards, ownership equals leadership… and most people want to fund a leading organization.
Quotes. Third party validation is a very solid technique for adding credibility as well as interest to your case statement. Grateful patients, students or alumni, or program participants are always good choices for these testimonials. However, if your organization provides more esoteric services, such as consultative work, inter-agency collaborations, facilitation, or IP management, consider using a partner, vendor, or client for these words of support. They can sometimes explain your organization’s value better than you can.
Timeliness. Keep your case for support current with the times, and with your current fundraising needs. Make sure that your document does not include references to a campaign, project, or program that has concluded. On the other side of the coin, it is perfectly appropriate to reference current larger scale financial, political, or industry trends and their impact on your organization in your case. For example, a recent case we authored for a health institute referenced challenges to government funding and increased outcomes measurement expectations.
Location. Consider your service or mission reach. Is it local, statewide, national, or even global? Positioning is very important here. It is easy to have the appearance of being a very small player – or even a very large one – based on how you frame your impact area. If you are trying to grow, use more general geographical terms than simply naming local cities or towns. If you are quite large, and afraid of appearing too impersonal, create more regional versions of your case, calling out reach areas that would be relevant, and of interest, to prospective donors.
A solid, well written case for support is like money in the bank – literally. Although it can be challenging to author, it is time and effort well spent. Once in good form, it can be repurposed for all fundraising purposes, eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel for every ask meeting, grant application, or annual appeal letter. It also serves as a great organizational rallying and recruitment point, as well as a critical orientation document for new employees, volunteers, and trustees. Given its essential role in your role as a fundraiser, isn’t it time you took a critical look at your case today?
Your takes:
  • If you have not formalized and documented your organization’s case for support, make it a priority to do so immediately.
  • Keep your case updated, relevant, and fresh by reviewing it at least once a year. Include your development committee in the process if you are looking for greater inclusion and broader insight.
  • Make sure your entire organization is familiar with the bones of your case for support. Include mentions of it – especially updates – as a routine part of your all-staff meetings.

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Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.