Create a Visual Tool to Engage Your Donors
I've coached dozens of clients, helping them draft their cases for support. Quite frankly, it's always frustrating. Everyone finds it challenging to articulate clearly and in compelling terms what their campaigns will raise money for and why it matters.
I keep looking for new ways to help them. And when I remembered the engagement tool that my friends at For Impact developed, I decided to try that model with one of my coaching clients.
This tool is brilliant! (So brilliant, I'm jealous I didn't think of it!) Let me tell you what it is and why I think it works.
For Impact's altitude framework and engagement tool
The folks at For Impact use an "altitude framework." That is, they look at your organization from different levels. From 30,000 feet, you see the vision. From 14,000 feet, you see the strategy. And from 3 feet, you see the execution—both how you will do it and how your donor can help. They capture the three altitudes in an engagement tool.
This is a big 18x24" printed sheet. On one side, it lays out the purpose, priorities and plans in a simple graphic form. The other side can be used for images, building plans or other material that brings the concepts to life.
There's enough white space on both sides for drawing and inserting words and lists as you talk to your donor.
How do you use the engagement tool?
The folks at For Impact print enough copies of the engagement tool to have one of these large pages for each donor they will visit. And when they talk to a donor, they'll unroll it and put it on the table.
Then they sit or stand next to their donor and use pens and markers to capture some of the key points of the discussion right on the page.
Because it's graphic and not paragraphs of text, the solicitor and the donor can look at it together, discuss it, tinker with it, add to it, scratch it out, draw on it, etc. Together they make something that reflects the essential ideas about what the organization is doing and what the donor wants to do to help.
Four reasons to love the engagement tool
1. It's not a written document! One of the challenges of a traditional case for support is that it's dense. Even just three or four pages of writing with headings is dense and takes close reading. And frankly, people don't read that way anymore.
2. Simple three-part structures make it easy to digest. The engagement tool is laid out in threes. Three sections top to bottom and three sections across. That's about what most of us can easily comprehend. Have you tried to retain a set of five things recently? I'll bet you had trouble. Most people do.
3. It's visual, but not fancy. It's not a brochure, but it's designed clearly for ease of comprehension. You can look at it in the way you'd look at a board game and get a quick understanding of what it's about. Think about a Monopoly board. One glance and you've got a sense of what it's about.
4. You'll have side-by-side conversations. I've long railed against the phrase "face-to-face solicitation." Because really, it should be "side-by-side." And if you have a big, simple, graphic case for support that you can comprehend at a glance, then you can stand next to your donor as a partner.
That's the sense we want to get. Our donors are partners, not pockets!
Your case for support is a set of ideas
I've always believed that a case for support isn't a document at all. It's a set of ideas arranged in a clear and compelling way. And the For Impact engagement tool is the best expression of this I've ever seen.
Yes, you're going to need a written case, too. You'll want a well-written document that explains your case for support in words.
But first, try developing and working with the engagement tool. It'll help get you set up and make writing your case easier.
What do you find most challenging about preparing your case for support? Tell us in the comments below.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.