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.
6. Not focusing on what matters to your donor
Donors’ perception of your organization, what you do and your impact is often different from what you think it is. It is a mistake to assume that what staff members value is the same as what your donors, and sometimes even your Board, actually think is most important about your organization’s work.
When you develop your Case for Support, really think about your reader and what fires them up. What do they care about? What moves them, or makes them angry? It might be different from what drives you to do your work. And if you are not sure, ask them! Think about ways you can get to know your donors better, whether it is meeting them face-to-face, or looking at your donor data to see what they respond to. Then make sure that what you learn about your donors’ motivations is reflected in your Case for Support.
7. The case is not urgent.
One of the most crucial elements of fundraising success is how quickly people are compelled to act and make their donation. If there is any hesitation, or no compelling reason to act NOW (even if there is some interest), the act of making a gift may get lost in the course of people’s day to day lives. Once you lose that opportunity, you may not get it back.
The key to a strong Case for Support is that it compels people to act. In other words, the need is so great and urgent, and the solution to the problem is so clear and persuasive, that donors feel that they must do something, and do it now.
8. Lacking a clear call to action.
I’ve often seen Case for Support documents where the funding need is vaguely mentioned, but the actual ask for donations is very unclear or even unsaid. It is as if the writer is frightened to ask the donor for money outright, and is instead hoping the donor just “gets it”.
Once you have told your story, you need to make it clear what you want the donor to do next. If your ask is vague, or not direct enough, your donor might not know what you want from them. They might even feel frustrated that they’ve been taken on a journey towards the ask, but it’s not obvious how they can make a difference, even though they now want to give.
9. Not testing it.
Once you have a draft Case for Support, make sure you test it! Find some donors and other supporters that you trust for their opinion. You want to know:
- Is the need clear? Is it compelling?
- Does it make them want to act (i.e. to make a donation/gift of the kind you’re asking for)? If not, why not?
- Is there anything missing in terms of the logic and presentation that impacts the reader’s journey? Are there things that are missing that could impact a decision to give/not to give?
- Is there too much information? Does the reader feel overwhelmed or bored?
- After reading the document, would the reader be able to speak confidently and accurately about the funding need?
This learning can be invaluable in helping you to refine your document and make it truly persuasive, before you reach out to the majority of your donors.
10. Waiting for the Case for Support to be “perfect” before using it.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is that organizations feels the Case for Support is never “ready” to be used as a fundraising tool. People feel nervous about completing it, with a view to making it “perfect”, so it remains unused. In the meantime, fundraising is stalled and donor relationships start to drift.
It can be okay to keep a Case for Support in draft form, at least for a while. An unfinished Case for Support is a great reason for a deeper conversation with your donors and within your organization at all levels, since it provides an opportunity to seek feedback, while at the same time finding out what motivates your supporters. Then when you do go back to make an ask, it is much more likely to be in line with their interests.
First published for AFP Toronto.