We focus a lot on digital fundraising and nonprofit marketing in this newsletter. In this article, I wanted to get back to my fundraising roots and discuss the nonprofit case for support and a nonprofit case statement – including some tips for the new digital age.
The terms case for support and case statement are often used interchangeably, but they are very different.
A Nonprofit Case Statement
A case statement is your request for support. It is an external document that is shared with donors. It gets into the specifics of the fundraising campaign you are promoting. You take key messages from your case for support and flesh them out into a narrative for the specific request you will present.
We use case statements for everything from full-blown grant applications and capital campaign packages to direct mail, email, or even a social media campaign.
A Nonprofit Case for Support
A case for support is a reference tool for internal use by your staff, board, and volunteers. It is much like a warehouse for your key messages. It is a living document that is constantly changing. It is a massive document that holds all the great information about our organization we draw from when creating individual case statements.
Writing a Nonprofit Case for Support
When I start with a new organization, I always begin by taking every document and publication I can get my hands on. I pull out all the key messages and information, such as history, mission/vision, key stakeholders, and program or project details. I organize these into a new document, which will become my warehouse.
I also include measurements, indicators, and financials sections because I know I will need these later when we do grant applications!
Next, I draft an outline that answers some of these questions:
What needs does our organization meet
Whom do we serve
What makes us different
What are our funding needs
What impact do we make for those we serve and for the community
How are we addressing sustainability
What are we asking of the donor
The final step is to gather pictures, videos, quotes, stats, and compelling stories.
TIP: Sometimes, a grant request may ask a question that is not answered in my case for support. I take what I write and add it to the case for support. Or maybe I am feeling inspired and on fire and re-write a section, and I add that back to the case. Again, the case for support is the warehouse for all our key messages and content.
You can probably already see that having a case for support as a living document can help in two main ways:
1) It keeps your key messages consistent.
2) It can also save a lot of time when creating a case statement because of good old copy and paste.
Writing a Nonprofit Case Statement
There is a ton of information on the web about how to write a case statement, but here is how I do it for a FULL case statement. If I were creating something simple like a social media ask, I would scale this down, but the same rules still apply.
First and foremost, we need to get inside the head of the person or organization we are sending this request to. I often create donor personas. It is imperative to identify your target audience's motivations, pain points, and demographics so you can speak to them in their language.
We want to create an introduction. As with any introduction, it must grab attention and draw the reader in (or viewer, video case statements are the hot new thing). I often add the introduction to the title page of my document with a quick who we are, what we do, what we are asking, and the impact it will make. Tip: Watch our video on Crafting a Nonprofit Elevator Pitch for information on building a concise, abbreviated version of your copy that is drilled down for digital campaigns.
Next, we want to include a brief history of our organization. I often include links for media coverage and essential stats and milestones we have achieved over the years. You can also include your mission, vision, and values.
Present the need. This section is where we outline the problem, but we want t to make it tangible. Whom will this help? Why is it so important? What are some stats that back up your claims? We also want to outline the impact meeting this need will make—again, making it tangible. Why are you the best to solve this problem? What is your track record? What will the results be? We then connect that need and impact back to our organization's objectives and summarize any future goals. Tip: Include information on sustainability. Donors nowadays love to know how you plan to make the program or project more sustainable.
We add a section for leadership to our full case statement and financials, such as budget and campaign goals. How will you use the money, and how will you report back to the donor on the use of funds?
You can add a chart for gifts and benefits. You've all seen this where you have the different gift levels and what the donor will receive at each level regarding recognition. Tip: Here in Canada, we have stringent rules about recognition and tax receipts, so be sure to follow CRA guidelines.
We close with a conclusion, hitting the key points – and asking for their support. You must ask. You can't leave it open-ended. We always ask for what we need – based on the research we did to determine the perspective donors previous giving history.
Finally, add your contact info and the next steps.
Some Pitfalls to Avoid:
Creating copy that is too long or using complicated language (always remember your target audience and write at their level).
Pleading instead of asking or using guilt or shame.
Making big, grand claims (we need to back any claims we make).
No real purpose or need or being too vague in your request.
Using jargon or being too politically correct. I might take some heat for this, but if the word says one thing, but your organization says another, the word won't know what you are talking about.
In summary, your case for support is your warehouse for all your organizational information. Your case statement is where you do exactly that, state your case for support.
I hope this is helpful and as always, feel free to comment with any questions or topic suggestions.
Prefer to watch, check out our YouTube video on Writing a Case for Support.