Does your non-profit have a written case for support? If so, there’s a good chance that you should rewrite it this coming year. (If you don’t have a written case for support, then you should definitely write one as soon as possible.)
Your case for support (sometimes called your case statement) is one of the most important tools in your organization’s fundraising arsenal. In this post, we’re going to take a quick look at what a case for support is and how to use one, and then we’ll see why you should think about rewriting yours to make it more appealing to donors.
What is a Case for Support?
Simply put, a case for support is your non-profit’s donor message. It casts a vision for your donors and tells them who you are, what you do, and why you matter as an organization. Your case statement isn’t a “mission statement” or a history of your non-profit… it is much more than that. It is the emotionally-compelling story that tells your donors why they should donate, and then invites them to do so.
Great case statements include:
- An emotional opening
- Your mission and vision
- A brief history of your organization
- A description of your programs
- Information about your outcomes and proof of impact
- Why you need to raise money, and how much you need to raise
- An ask / invitation for donors to support your work
Most case statements are between 3-10 pages and are written for prospective donors, not those who are already intimately familiar with your work… meaning that they are free of jargon, non-technical, and easy to understand.
How Do You Use a Case for Support?
Your case statement should form the foundation of all of your donor communications. Because your case for support casts the big-picture vision of your non-profit, you can refer to it often for inspiration, or to pull phrases and concepts for your donor newsletters, appeal letters, e-mails, website, and more. Many non-profits also use the case statement in its entirety (or only slightly modified), as a sort of fundraising prospectus for major donors, or as a leave behind for in-person donor meetings.
Small non-profits usually only need one case for support for the entire organization. Larger non-profits may find that they need multiple case statements to cover a multitude of programs, campaigns, campuses, etc. That being said, every non-profit – no matter how large – should have a master case statement for the organization as a whole that gives an overarching vision and ties together all of the programs and services offered by the non-profit.
Why You Should Probably Rewrite Your Case Statement
Now that we’ve reviewed what a case statement is and how you should be using the case statement at your non-profit, let’s take a look at why you almost certainly should rewrite your case for support this coming year:
It’s Not Emotional Enough
Most non-profit case statements simply aren’t emotional enough. Remember that when deciding whether to make a gift, donors make the decision with their hearts, and then backup that decision with their heads. This means that it is your vision and stories which emotionally compel donors to give… and then, having made the decision based on emotions, they look for facts to confirm that they made a good choice.
For that reason, your case statement should lead with emotions. You should cast a vision and tell stories about your work… stories where the donor is the hero, working alongside your staff (and often your clients) to make the world a better place. Then, once you get the reader to feel the importance of your work, you can describe your programs, include statistics about your outcomes, and show how you will use the money raised in furtherance of your mission.
It Doesn’t Cast a Big Enough Vision
Another problem with the average case for support is that is doesn’t cast a big enough vision. When I am presenting tips for writing great case statements at fundraising conferences, I often ask, “How is your non-profit saving lives? How is your non-profit saving the world?” Inevitably, a number of fundraisers raise their hands to say that there is no way to cast their work in that way. I beg to differ.
Your non-profit is making a huge difference in your community. It is saving lives. It is changing the world. Your school is educating the leaders of tomorrow. Your shelter is keeping families warm and fed. Your performing arts center is offering new perspectives to the citizens of your city.
In short… you’re making a huge difference. Don’t be shy about your vision. Donors don’t want to invest in a small vision… they want to get involved with something much larger than themselves. They want to leave a legacy. Use your case for support to cast a big vision and to invite your donors in.
It’s Not Donor-Centric
The final reason why you should probably rewrite your case for support this year is that there’s a good chance it is far too organization-centric. Great case statements are always donor-centric. This means that they put the donors in the center of the action, and make them the heroes of the story. They talk about how donors are an integral part of the team that make everything possible, and they directly ask the donor to get engaged with the non-profit. If your case statement is focused solely on your staff and clients, you’re missing an essential ingredient in your success: those whose financial support makes it all possible.
Take a good look at your case for support. Is it emotional enough? Does it cast a big enough vision? Is it truly donor-centric? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then make plans to rewrite your case statement this year!
Photo Credit: Caleb Roenigk