Looking at Fundraising Through Fresh Eyes
One of the (several) things I enjoy about teaching fundraising courses at a couple of universities is the opportunity to explore fundraising with people who have little or no experience in the field. Things I take for granted and view as "just the way things are" suddenly appear in a different light. Students ask, "Why?" and I'm challenged to think back to when I was new in the field and remember the reasons.
Some of the lessons I teach my students—and have to relearn from time to time myself—are ones that can help make me a better fundraiser. Have you forgotten any of these?
A case statement that explains—in simple language—what your organization does and why it does it is an important tool. The AFP Fundraising Dictionary defines the case for support as "the reasons why an organization both needs and merits philanthropic support, usually made by outlining the organization's programs, current needs, and plans." Writing a case statement is often part of a capital campaign but can be seen as "nice but not necessary" for everyday fundraising.
And yet, a good case for support helps fundraisers—and board members, volunteers and leadership—articulate what your organization does that is distinctive from all the other similar nonprofit organizations and how a donor can help you achieve your goals. Taking the time to figure out that it costs $XX to accomplish this and $YY to accomplish that sheds light on direct mail offers, major gift proposals, even grant requests.
Not sure where to begin? Do a search online for "sample case statements" and you'll find some great examples to get your own creative juices flowing. But don't give up when you see the graphically exciting examples being shared. Start with what you can do; a Word document is a huge step up from people just making it up as they go along.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.