In our previous posts in this series, we covered many important aspects of creating a powerful Case for Support, from how to make the case donor-centric to storytelling in your document. Now that you have your Case for Support, you may be asking yourself how you can best use it?
The benefits of developing and having your Case for Support can be significant. Let’s look at a few of the ways in which creating a case for support can make a difference to your fundraising program!
As a way of highlighting the gaps
The process of developing your Case for Support can be extremely illuminating. It can highlight where there may be gaps in your program logic, or even in just how information is presented. The Case for Support requires a logical flow of information that tells a powerful story, backed by strong evidence of both the needs and successful outcomes. If you have any gaps in this logic, or in the evidence, this will become apparent when you try to put a Case for Support together.
An example of this occurred when I worked with an organization that provided recreational programs for children. The organization claimed that they were having considerable impact on increasing young peoples self-esteem and confidence, and therefore their future wellbeing, which included improving their grades in school and the ability to later find employment. As a result of not effectively collecting the appropriate data and evidence to prove these claims, when it came to making the case to donors, they were falling short!
The Case for Support exercise led the organization to re-evaluate their programming, and then to establish rigorous and meaningful outcome measurement. In fact, as a result of their new systems, they discovered that they were having an impact in ways that they did not even know, including how young people were more positively interacting with family and developing their personal relationships!
As a resource
Of course, your Case for Support is an excellent tool for fundraising! Not only does it give you the polished language that makes your programs sound compelling and urgent, it also clearly collects valuable evidence of success that you will need for all of your fundraising communications. Collecting this data supports the development of your direct mail, grants and proposals, as well as helping your advocates, from board members to even other donors, know what to say when talking to supporters face-to-face.
While the tone and content may be a different in various communications, (a grant proposal will be written differently from a direct mail piece, for example) the most effective messaging will still be consistent in terms of who you are and what you intend to achieve. By using your Case for Support as the basis for all your communications, you can ensure that your messaging is always on-point and effectively communicates the impact you’re intending!
For your advocates
The Case for Support is an essential tool to support the people who are out there advocating on your behalf. This includes your Board members, your staff, as well as your volunteers. Time and time again, I have seen how Board members who have, in past, been reluctant to engage with fundraising, become more confident talking about the organization once they have seen a Case for Support.
A well-written document that is passionate and filled with powerful stories that demonstrate the importance of your work, serves not only to enthuse your ambassadors, and hopefully to the point where they are compelled to want to tell their friends about it, it also empowers them with the language and information they will need in order to be well prepared when questions are asked of them!
As well, be sure to give your Case for Support to your non-fundraising staff too! By helping other people in your organization understand fundraising, and how to talk about the work you do to donors and the outside world, you can begin to build a culture of philanthropy within your organization!
For your donors
While you, your team, and direct engagement with your donors will always be your best fundraising tool, your Case for Support can really help to move the conversation along when face-to-face with donors.
I have often used the Case for Support, even in its draft form, to engage in a conversation with donors to understand more about their motivations, what inspires them (and indeed, what does not!) about our work. By making a donor an “insider,” by asking for their views on the Case for Support, not only can you gather some very useful feedback, you help the donor feel that they are part of the team and that they have a special role in making a difference.
As a refresher, here are some ideas on how to get started with creating the Case for Support.
- Determine your goals. What are you looking to do? Reach and engage with major donors? Create a resource for your team so that they know how to talk about your organization? By understanding what your goals are, you can create the right document to meet your needs.
- Gather your information and identify your gaps. When you know what you want to achieve, think about the information that you need to tell your story. Do you need more evidence of impact? Do you need a better way to breakdown your costs making them more manageable chunks for donors to fund? Or do you need to find a way to gather more powerful stories?
- Determine who your audience is. Your Case for Support should be tailored to the audience that you are trying to reach, so what you say within it should match with your reader’s interests, aspirations and potential level of support. Stakeholder consultations can help you to understand what your potential donors might be looking for from you.
- Stakeholder consultation. Who would be best to consult to gather relevant feedback you will need to inform the development of your Case for Support? What questions do you need to ask to enable you to make decisions on what to include and what to leave out?
- Figure out who can help you. Can you do this on your own, or do you need help? Who’s help might you need to gather the stories and statistics that make your message compelling? Do you need confirmation that a certain project is going ahead, so that you can fundraise for it?
- Have a buddy! Once you have written your first draft, test it out on people that you trust to give you some honest feedback. It can be good to test it on someone who knows your work well, to ensure that the information reflects your work properly, but also someone who does not know you at all, to find out if the language is both compelling and easily understood.
- Test with your donors! When you have a strong enough draft, consider testing it with some of your closer donors to get their opinions. Not only can this help to draw your donors more into your inner circle, it can elicit some extremely valuable feedback that can help you to refine the document before it is used more widely.
- Have a strong design. Good design, with attractive and thought-provoking pictures, well-highlighted quotes and plenty of white space can make all the difference in how easy to read your document can be.
- Go out and fundraise! You now have one of the most useful tools in your toolbox to go out and fundraise! When you have a moment, let me know how you make out!