Developing Your Case for Support

The Importance of the Case

Sometimes development professionals only think about the importance of having a case for support when they are preparing to launch a capital campaign. However, you need a case for support for all your fundraising activities. The case has been defined by some as "the reasons why an organization both needs and merits philanthropic support….," (AFP Fundraising Dictionary); ….a clear, compelling statement of all the reasons why anyone should consider making contribution…. (Harold J. Seymour) and "… an internal database …of information that will support the preparation of various documents and publications…" (Henry A Rosso). The case is all of this and more.  

You need to develop your case for support first, before designing a brochure, developing a website, preparing grant proposals, developing speeches, PowerPoint presentations, DVDs, and any other material used in your fundraising activities. The reason for having the case in place first is that it is crucial to present a unified message and a consistent look and feel in all your fundraising materials. Too many times someone in your organization decides that you need a brochure, a website, or video and someone heads off to develop that material, while other individuals are preparing grant proposals and fundraising appeal letters, and still others may be out making presentations to groups and individuals. If these people are not a working from the same source document, the case for support, the messages they deliver will be inconsistent and sometimes even contradictory.

The steps to developing a case are:

  • Develop the organizational case for support

  • Develop individual case statements for various fundraising activities

  • Test the preliminary case statements

  • Prepare final case statements

  • Translate final case statements into fundraising materials.

In other words, development of the materials is the last step, not the first!

Read more about the case in Fundraising for the GENIUS

Campaign Policies and Procedures

In addition to staffing and software, internal policies and procedures are another essential ingredient that must be assessed.  You should have gift acceptance policies in place, which will provide staff and volunteers with guidelines on what type of gifts will be accepted during the campaign, from whom gifts will be accepted, and how these gifts will be recognized and, in some cases, how they will be disposed of.

You'd be surprised at how many gifts you might choose not to accept. It could be because of who is offering the gift (tobacco or alcohol industry, convicted felons, gentleman's clubs,  a socially irresponsible company, a donor whose gift will cause mission drift) or the gift itself (a warehouse full of lead-based paint, a plot of land which requires $500,000 in soil remediation, a gift of art that does not meet a museum's collection standards). I could list dozens of real-life examples. I think my personal favorites are a gift of a horse, and a gift of a painting of Elvis on black velvet.

Internal procedures should also be in place for the accepting, recording and acknowledgment of pledges gifts received.  For instance, who opens mail, photocopies checks, makes the bank deposit, and signs the acknowledgement letters. These procedures should be in place for all your fundraising but will be especially important in the campaign since this may be the first time you have accepted multi-year pledges in addition to one-time gifts.

Read more about capital campaigns in my two books listed on this website. Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know and Are You Ready form a Capital Campaign?


Managing Your Campaign

One of the things that will make campaign management and stewardship flow more efficiently is a good campaign software package. You will need to access past giving history of donors because you will use this donor history, combined with additional research, to qualify prospective donors and assign them to an appropriate solicitor.  Donor history is an invaluable resource in the preparation for a capital campaign since, in most cases, the major gifts in a campaign will come from those who are already supporting the organization.

 If you’re preparing for a campaign, you will need to have specific fundraising software in place that allows for campaign coding structure, recording of multi-year pledges and generation of campaign reports. The coding of the software system is essential to be able to sort prospects by the division in which they will be contacted (i.e. leadership gifts, major gifts, etc.) and assign a solicitor to every prospect, so the campaign director can sort prospect names by solicitor in order to track the success of volunteer solicitors. 

 Another important function of your chosen software system will be to generate the campaign reports that will be needed for your board, the campaign cabinet and committees, and lending institutions.  For example, the board will want to track pledges received and cash received against those pledges; the campaign cabinet and various committees will need to see overall campaign progress reports and reports within their division by solicitor.  If interim financing is going to be sought to finance the construction costs while pledges are being paid, the lending institution will want to see a cash flow projection showing how many pledges are outstanding and when it is anticipated those pledges will be paid.

Sometimes organizations feel they can do all this by customizing a program like Access of Excel; however, it is often “penny wise and pound foolish” to resist purchasing a software designed especially for fundraising which will provide all the tools necessary to manage a campaign with little or no customization. And purchasing fundraising software provides the added benefits of having support from the software company, manuals explaining the various functions of the software, and a group of users who are operating the same system and can provide an additional means of support for staff. One thing that is important is that a designated data base manager is in place who can devote the time to managing the campaign aspects of the development program, and that this person received the training and support they need to assure accurate data entry and reporting.