As fundraisers, we tend to know a lot about our respective organizations. Sometimes, this extensive knowledge can lead to us making assumptions about what our donors already understand about us. As a result, we may miss including crucial information that helps donors to fully comprehend what we do, or alternatively, we may overwhelm them with so many details that our key messages get lost.
By asking yourself a few simple questions, you can ensure that your Case for Support is focused on the most important points, the points that help your donor to feel enthused, passionate and confident that you are the solution to a problem that is concerning them, and one that you both seek to address.
What will it be used for? Will your Case for Support be used directly with donors? Or is it intended to be more of a resource document for your development team (board members or volunteers, for example) from which campaign material can be drawn? As a resource document, you may choose to include supplementary information that helps your fundraising team to confidently answer any additional questions that donors may have. As a direct gift solicitation tool, content is likely to be succinct and focused on impact, while inviting the donor to ask questions if they need to know more.
Who is your target audience? As with all fundraising communications, the language and content within your Case for Support should be tailored to the audience that you intend to reach. What are their motivations for supporting you likely to be? What content is most likely to inspire them? Donor understanding of your cause, and reasons for giving, can vary from person to person. Therefore, carrying out solid donor research is an important part of the process in order to get your messaging right.
What if you didn’t exist? What would the impact be if your organization ceased to exist, or didn’t exist at all? Who, or what, would suffer as a result of your organization not being there? By asking yourself these questions, you can focus on what really matters about the work you do, and the specific need in society that you address.
How do you demonstrate impact? Your Case for Support should demonstrate, rather than simply state, both the impact of a problem as well as the solution. Statistics and stories are great for doing this.
Statistics help donors to understand the breadth or depth of a problem, as well as the reach of your program, but they can also turn people off if they are overused or complicated. Making your statistics relevant to your donor can help to create a greater connection to the cause. For example, it is far more impactful to say “out of every four people you know, one is likely to die from cancer,” than it is to say “29% of men and 24% of women are expected to die from cancer.”
Stories and quotes are great at connecting donors to those you help. It encourages them to understand what it means to experience the problems that your beneficiaries face, and to understand how your organization makes a difference. If a donor is able to visualise and feel, through storytelling, a level and depth of change in a person’s life because of their intervention through your organization, they are more likely to want to invest in you.
Your unique solution. A Case for Support should include details of the program for which you seek support, while clearly articulating how it addresses the need you have identified. A common mistake I see is when an organization talks about its specific need, and then about its funding requirements, without clearly linking the two. Ensure that your reader can unmistakably understand how the program that you are asking them to fund, will solve the problem that you say exists, in an effective way.
Why you? With so many organizations doing great things, it’s not enough to be the only organization doing something in a particular way. Your uniqueness matters! What is it about your approach that has a bigger or better impact than others? Consider how you can talk about your achievements in a way that convinces donors that you will succeed if you have their financial support.
Why now? Urgency in a campaign can make all the difference between you receiving a gift and not. If a donor doesn’t not feel compelled to act right away, they may never get around to writing you a cheque. Urgency can come from several angles. For example, it can come from showing that the need is so great that one must start now to avoid further suffering, or where completion within a certain period is crucial to the campaign’s success, such as with a capital campaign for essential building works to a care facility.
What do you need? If you have managed to tell a good enough story about the need, programs and impact, then you are ready to talk about money! Donors need to believe that you have everything in place to solve a problem, and the only missing piece is the funding. That’s where they come in. Be as clear and accurate as possible when discussing your budget. If you ask for too much, donors may become concerned that your organization is inefficient. If you ask for too little, you won’t have the funds to be able to deliver on your promises (which definitely won’t please your donors!).
A clear call to action. Finally, ensure that what you are asking for is clear, and that this ask is linked to making an authentic impact. Noting specific examples of what different gift levels can do helps donors to visualise the difference their contribution can make, such as buying a goat or feeding twenty children. It is also important to ensure that the levels you include are appropriate to the donor and within their capacity to give.