What Makes a Great Case for Support?
By Sharon Danosky
A Case for Support explains and documents the compelling reasons for a donor to give significantly to your organization. It is a unique document, specific to fundraising. And it is a very difficult document to prepare. I’m not sure why that is so, though I do suspect it has something to do with clearly articulating why you are raising funds and how those funds will be used – and the type of impact raising the funds will have.
Most organizations refer to their mission when raising funds. Which is certainly a very good approach. However, if you are going to ask a donor to make a significant investment – more is expected. Which is why a case for support is similar to a document that might be used to convince people to invest in a for-profit venture – except that it should have more soul and even more accountability.
Developing a compelling Case for Support is one of the first tasks undertaken when considering a capital campaign. It should lay out all the reasons people should invest in your organization by making a substantial contribution. There are many different approaches to developing a strong Case for Support. I am going to share mine here.
First, start with your vision – what do you want the world to be like and how to you want the people (animals, plants, wildlife, etc.) to live in that world? The first tenet in fundraising is that people give to lofty visions – not needy organizations. If you want to inspire magnificent philanthropy for your cause – you must have a magnificent vision.
Then there is the reality check – why aren’t people living their best life, what are the challenges they face and how does your organization address those challenges? Share your history and your track record of success. Also, share your challenges and difficulties. After all, that’s why you’re raising money.
Eventually, you need to get very specific – if you raise $1, $2, $5, or $50 million or more – tell your donors how you will use the funds you raise and how will it make a difference. This is often the most challenging part, I know, – getting down to the basics and identifying the potential impact in real terms.
A good place to start writing your Case for Support is with your strategic plan. What are your over-arching goals and how will you fund them? As you – and your Board – begin to put the meat on the bones of your Case for Support, it will begin to evolve and create consensus around the reason for your campaign. This is a great thing – because your entire organization needs to be behind this plan.
Many Cases for Support have multiple items that require support. A typical Case may have a capital component, a program component, and even a reserve or endowment. It provides donors with options and each should be thoroughly spelled out with how much money is needed for each and how the funds will be allocated. Having these options does not necessarily mean people will designate their gifts (though they could) but usually is just a way of explaining how funds will be used. Most donors still prefer to give “wherever the need is greatest” in a campaign.
A Case for Support is usually a pretty lengthy document. I know there are some who differ with that approach. I am a strong believer that a Case is not a marketing piece – but a thorough discussion of your plans so that donors to a campaign can learn about the details, provide input, ask questions, and be assured that if they make a significant contribution it will be well-invested. It can also serve as the basis for future marketing pieces, grants, etc. Therefore, whatever space, whatever addendum items you want to include – go for it. As long as it is well-written and not redundant. And, of course, there should be a good Executive Summary so if someone only wants the highlights – they’re there. Better too much information, than too little, in my opinion.
What Makes a Great Case for Support? When the donor finishes reading it, they say “I get It. My questions have been answered. I want to invest!”