Developing Your Case for Support
During a recent orientation session with two new major gift officers, one individual asked me to define the term “case for support.” He was very eager to learn what I thought about the concept.
Immediately, I thought of my colleague’s 2001 book “Developing Your Case for Support,” which is part of the Excellence in Fund Raising Workbook Series dedicated to the late Henry A. “Hank” Rosso, and edited by Dr. Timothy L. Seiler with the assistance of Dr. Eugene R. Tempel and others. In the opening pages, Tempel noted that Rosso often would say, “You can raise a lot more money with organized fundraising than you can with disorganized fundraising,” along with, “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”
The workbook series pointed out that nonprofits intuitively seem to know why they deserve charitable contributions. The specific “Developing Your Case for Support” workbook provides a methodology for gathering the information essential for developing a case for philanthropic support for nonprofit organizations.
The workbook helps the fundraising professional identify and express compelling reasons for people to give money to his or her organization. Identifying those reasons and clearly establishing a case for giving are the first steps in the process of soliciting gifts. The workbook also noted that development of the case is the foundation upon which the nonprofit organization is built.
Nonprofits must have a sound and developed case for giving or they will not generate success in this endeavor. Having the case is the gasoline that propels the vehicle.
Seiler noted case for support components must include things like a mission statement, goals, objectives, programs and services, and finances, among others. He also said one must test the completed case internally and externally, as well as provide an annual review of the case. The external case expression articulates the cause typically in the form of brochures, foundation proposals, direct mail letters, website materials, face-to-face solicitations and other means. Once the case is agreed upon, it becomes the playbook for the entire team to use.
“The case for support is the statement of your cause explaining what your nonprofit does, why it’s important and, most importantly, why people should support you,” according to the nonprofit software company Sumac. You need to have a case for support that is inspiring, logical and emotional.
In order to develop such a case, Sumac suggested nonprofits:
- “Write with passion” so others can feel it.
- “Appeal to readers on an emotional level” because people give to people.
- “Make the problems real,” and show how you solve problems with urgency.
- “Make it brief and interesting” and relevant to the readers.
- “Make it visually appealing” by using many pictures and graphics.
- “Improve, improve, improve” the case by having many hands and eyes in its development.
Nonprofit author Joe Garecht, who has more than a decade of fundraising experience and shares his expertise and knowledge through The Fundraising Authority, makes a number of key points in his article, “How to Write a Case for Support for Your Non-Profit (Part 1)”:
- “A case for support is one of the most important documents in your nonprofit’s fundraising arsenal.”
- The case for support is a two- to seven-page document that provides the donor with your total framework for giving.
- “Every single nonprofit organization needs a case statement.”
- The case statement will be utilized in all of your nonprofit communications.
In “How to Write a Case for Support for Your Non-Profit (Part 2),” he walked through a step-by-step plan for writing the perfect case for support.
“A case for support is, quite simply, the most important document your organization will ever write,” he wrote. He believes it is the rationale for supporting your work based upon your organization’s credibility and integrity, and that “it must answer any question anyone could possibly raise about your organization.” After reading a case for support, you want donors to say, “How can I help?”
According to Stanois, a case for support also is:
- “A communications tool.”
- “A marketing tool.”
- “A training tool.”
- “A planning tool.”
- “An inspirational tool (to motivate staff [and] board, and recruit volunteers).”
Ironically, just before I wrote this post, I read the first draft of a new case for support for my organization. My organization, like yours, needs and wants new dollars and donors for a variety of worthwhile reasons. Writing this post has helped me rethink how I will approach reading this case statement a second time.
Ask yourself what makes your organizational story important, relevant and timely in the community you serve. If you do not have a well-developed case for support, you will be history.
As Rosso said, you can raise a lot more money through organized fundraising. It all begins and ends with a dynamic case for support.
Are you ready to ask for more significant dollar amounts? If so, you must have a case for support that is well-developed and appealing to many potential donors.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.