Over the years, I’ve seen some amazingly powerful Case for Support examples – but I’ve also reviewed a number that miss the mark. Here are some of the most common mistakes that can significantly affect the impact of a Case for Support document and as a result, the chances of running a truly successful fundraising campaign.
1. Not having one at all!
The Case for Support can be an extraordinarily powerful tool. Whether your focus is on major gifts, or you are trying to figure out how to write a fundraising letter, it helps to ensure that you have everything in place to enable you to present your program effectively. It also provides the language, stories and information that your team needs to speak authoritatively, accurately and passionately about your work.
If your Case for Support doesn’t hit the mark, or if you don’t have one at all, your fundraising advocates – from your Board to your staff, including your fundraising team – will lack confidence and impact in speaking about your organization when they reach out to existing and potential supporters.
2. Trying to educate, rather than persuade, your audience.
Often I see Case for Support documents that are bogged down with way too much detail about how an organization goes about its business. Since the Case for Support is intended to persuade people to give, that should be its key focus. Your readers are not looking to learn about your operations inside out. If they want to know the details, they will probably ask. What they DO want to know is why it matters that they support you and how they can have a real and lasting impact.
Ultimately they want to make a difference, so your Case for Support should tell them how your organization is the right conduit to help them do just that!
3. Not including the RIGHT stories
Storytelling in your Case for Support is one of the most impactful ways to get your message across. As we often hear, people give to people. They want to know who would benefit from their support, and what it would be like to change someone’s world in a positive way. Stories of the people that benefit from your organization can do this very effectively, by demonstrating how your organization meets a real need and helps people to overcome challenges.
This does not mean just any story will do. Your stories must be relatable. Donors must be able to empathise with the person that they are reading about if they are to be persuaded to give. Your stories must also support and reinforce the other messaging in the Case for Support. In essence, your stories have a powerful role to play: they must persuade donors of both the need for your work, and the positive impact of your organization in addressing it.
4. Not taking donors on a journey.
Not only should your Case for Support include stories, but it should also have its own story arc. The Case for Support should take donors on a journey by first focusing their attention on the dire situation that your organization is addressing, and an urgent need to do something about it. Then the Case for Support should educate donors about a solution to this problem, and impart a sense of hope and optimism. The point is to help donors feel that there is a solution, one that they can provide through you, and therefore that they can also BE part of the solution, by giving generously to your organization.
5. Worrying more about length than impact.
I am firmly of the belief that the flow of information in a Case for Support matters far more than length. I have seen very short Case for Support documents that were trying so hard to be “to the point” that the language was disjointed and difficult to read, while others have been so long that I got lost in the details. Others have lacked such important, compelling information, that they left me with far too many questions about why I should give my support.
The best Case for Support examples I’ve seen are those where I can read the document easily and smoothly from beginning to end, and feel that swell of emotion as I move towards that conclusion where I am compelled to act, then the Case for Support has done what it needs to do. With that kind of document, length is much less of a factor.
For part 2, click here!
First published for AFP Toronto.