If you want to supercharge your non-profit’s fundraising, you need an amazing case for support. Your case for support (sometimes called your “case statement”) is one of the two most important documents for your development program (the other being your fundraising plan).
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the elements of a strong case for support, then give you a sample case statement you can use as a template for your non-profit.
What is a Case for Support?
Simply put, your case for support is your donor message. It’s an emotionally-compelling document that casts a vision for your organization and tells donors why they should invest in your work. If you’d like to learn more about what a case statement is and why it is so important for your fundraising program, read Here’s Why You Should Rewrite Your Case for Support This Year.
In this article, we’re going to be focused on the content of your case for support: telling you exactly what to include in your case statements, and giving you a sample case for support that you can download to guide your efforts.
The Components of a Successful Case for Support
There are lots of different ways to write case statements. I usually structure my cases for support around 7 key components. That being said, every non-profit and consultant has a different way of writing their cases.
You may use all of the same components I use… or perhaps add or subtract one or two. Or you might put things in a different order than I do. That’s ok – do what feels right for your organization. The important thing is to make sure that your case statement tugs at the heartstrings and makes donors want to write a check to support your work.
Here are the 7 components I use when I write a case for support:
#1: An Emotional Opening
A great emotional opening is crucial to the success of your case for support. Donors and prospects will use the first paragraph or two of your case statement to decide whether or not the rest of the document is worth reading. For that reason, you will need to use your opening paragraphs to hook your readers and make them want to keep learning more.
Avoid the temptation to start with something like, “The history of our non-profit began in 1973 when Mary and Eugene Clark…” and instead start with something like, “The children were hungry and cold, and Eliza had nothing to give them. Each day, she cried from hunger… silently, so her two daughters wouldn’t hear her sobs.” Your opening should make the reader feel.
#2: Your Mission and Vision
Next, your case for support should move from the emotional opening to the reason your organization exists. This is the “why” of your non-profit, answering questions like: Why does our organization exist? What is the problem we are trying to solve? Why should people care? What is our big, bold vision for the future?
When outlining your mission and vision, think big. Remember that donors want to invest in big visions for the future. If your ultimate goal is a city where no child ever goes to bed hungry, say that. That’s an inspiring vision, and one that will get donors excited.
#3: Explanation of Your Programs
You’ve told the reader why your organization exists and explained the problem you are trying to solve (as well as your ultimate goal in solving that problem). Now, your case for support should tell the reader how you are solving the problem… what are you actually doing to meet that big picture vision for your non-profit?
This is where you tell the reader about your organization’s programs – including the programs you are currently running, as well as those that you would like to run in the near future. Include a short explanation of each of your programs. Avoid the temptation to include jargon… instead, write in clear and easy-to-understand language.
#4: History of the Organization
Now that you’ve explained your programs, give a brief summary of the founding of your organization and a short history of its work to date. This adds proof and credibility to your case for support. If you’ve been successfully running programs to address the problems you are trying to solve, then say so, even if your organization has only been in existence for 2 or 3 years.
If you are writing a case for support for a new organization, that’s ok too. Use this section to talk about why the non-profit is being founded, and give some details about the people who are on the founding board or team. Either way, including some information about the history of your organization will help build trust for donors and prospects.
#5: Outcomes, Stories, and Proof of Impact
Donors want to know that they can make a real difference in the world by supporting your non-profit. Your case for support should show proof that what you are doing is not only working, but is worthwhile as well. Use statistics and charts, but more importantly, tell the stories of those you have helped, and use testimonials from your clients, community leaders, and other supporters.
You may have a section in your case for support specifically reserved for outcomes, statistics, and stories. More likely, you will pepper these items throughout your case statement to help keep your readers emotionally engaged and interested.
#6: Financial Needs
Near the end of your case for support, it’s time to talk about money. How much money does your organization need to raise this year? How about over the next 3 years? Why does it need to raise that amount (what will it be used for?) Why do you need to raise it now?
Be specific. Tell your donors what the money will be used for, and how it will impact your programs and those that you serve. Many non-profits also include some mission-focused giving levels in their case statements. For example, a homeless shelter may say that $1,000 would provide 20 beds and hot meals for one night… $5,000 would provide a full day on-site medical clinic… and $25,000 would provide much-needed equipment to expand the shelter’s kitchen facilities.
#7: Means of Support
Last but not least, tell your donors all of the different ways they can financially support your non-profit. Do you have a leadership giving or major donor program? What about an annual giving campaign? Do you offer planned giving opportunities? What about monthly giving, online donations, or donor giving clubs? Briefly spell those out here, and ask for your reader to make a donation to support your work.
A Note on Sections and Section Headings
Remember, your case statement’s sections might be different than those listed above, or in a different order. That’s ok. It’s also important to remember that the section headers you use shouldn’t not be technical, like those listed above. You should use emotional and mission-focused headings in your case for support.
Thus, in the outline above, there is a section called, “Outcomes, Stories, and Proof of Impact.” But in your case for support, you might call that section “Saving 1,000 Lives Per Year… Thanks to You,” or perhaps, “Keeping Your Town Safe Today, for Our Children’s Tomorrow.”
The Sample Case for Support
You can click here to download the complete sample case for support. This case statement is for a fictional non-profit called The Montreal Children’s Home. Please feel free to use this sample case for support as a template for your non-profit’s own case statement. If you have any questions about this case for support, or would like help with writing a case statement for your non-profit, please click here to contact me.
Photo Credit: Dee Ashley