How to Get the Information You Need for Your Case for Support

First, we’d like to stress the importance of having one author of your case. That staff member or consultant should be the same person interviewing others, reading all source material, and then synthesizing everything. In other words, insuring that all of their information is first-hand.

 If you are the chief development officer this process will probably fall to you—and it will probably take a lot of your time for a month or so. If a consultant is hired to write the case, try your best to be part of these interviews. You will gain valuable first-hand information about your organization, the people who serve it, and your donors.

 Space your interviews so you have time to go over your notes while everything is fresh in your mind. Don’t run overtime during the interview. If you ask for twenty minutes, keep the interview to twenty minutes—by the way asking for twenty minutes of someone’s time sounds better than taking a half hour. Bring a piece a candy, pretzels, or a bottle of water for the person. They’ll remember that you thought about them before you came.

 Quick Tip - Interview Skills

The interview process requires nothing less than the skills you would use when meeting with a donor, finding out what the donor needs, and asking for a gift. Bring your talents with people to the forefront for each interview.

So, now you’re ready. Take a deep breath, step back, and listen. That’s the first thing you’ll do. Ask open ended questions. Don’t suggest answers--this their time not yours. And never put words in their mouths. What if you don’t agree with what they are saying? Keep taking notes. This is their time and you need to hear their perspectives.

 As you follow through with these questions you will begin to walk away with the words that become motivators. The answers to the whys, whats, hows, and tell mes will give you words that motivate individuals to do something extraordinary for your mission. Start to list them or circle them. These are the words you’ll want to use in the case statement.

 In between the interviews you’ve probably identified several documents-old and new-for information. Start to circle common threads. These are words that are used over and over to communicate your organization’s mission. Did things change? If not, why not? If yes, why? Take a look at the environment. What happened in this year or that? Some of it may have nothing to do with you directly but maybe indirectly. This is important.

 You’ll Need to Answer These Questions:

  •  Why does this organization exist?
  • What are some adjectives you would use to describe this organization?

  • Tell me about your best day here and why it was.

  • If you could ask for one thing to move our mission forward, what would that be-and why?

  • How does this organization impact the community/clientele?

  • What one thing are you dying to try?

You’ve finished your interviews and reading of documents so our next blog will discuss telling your readers who you are.

Homework for the Author

What information do I need? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Who has this information?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How long will it take me to get this information?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What documents do I need and where are they? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

To buy my new book, CharityChannel’s Quick Guide to Developing Your Case for Support, visit http://bit.ly/qg-case-linda.

To get a 20% discount, order by September 1, using this promotional coupon code: qg-case-20-linda

 

Who Writes the Case for Support for Your Nonprofit?

Many organizations miss the mark because they have the wrong person or persons writing the case for support. Often the writing of the case is relegated to the marketing department. Or, perhaps a marketing firm is engaged the write the case. While there may be some great writers in your marketing department or marketing firm, these staff members or consultants might not be familiar with fundraising. So, although they can tell a good story and their grammar will probably be perfect, they often overlook a critical part of your case—making the ask. Or they might not understand the levels of giving you are seeking. Or the benefits to the donor, or the legal disclaimers that might be required on fundraising materials.

You must have one author, and that author must be familiar enough with your organization to transfer the information succinctly, yet powerfully. At the same time, this person needs to be able to get input from the staff and others who can add the compelling stories to your case. Plus, this author must have knowledge of fundraising methods and the psychology of philanthropy.

 Sharing the Workload Isn’t Always a Good Idea

 One university decided to develop its case for support with the intention of sharing the workload. So, one person was assigned to develop the mission, vision, and values; another was assigned to write the history; a third, the needs; a fourth person, the scale of gifts and named giving opportunities; and a fifth, the “ask.” As you can probably predict, the result was a mishmash of different writing styles, different perspectives on the needs of the organization, and a complete failure to address the needs of donors. In the end, they decided to engage a fundraising consultant to work with the various people who had valuable input. The consultant became responsible for being the sole author of the case.

While it is critical to have one person write the case, it is equally important to make sure that person has access to the people and the information needed to write the case. The author also needs to be familiar enough with your organization to tell your story. An outside consultant can be engaged, providing you give this person the information and access needed, and the consultant is willing to learn your organizational culture and history.

 It is also important to remember that the purpose of your case is to help you raise support for your organization, so the person usually charged with this task will most likely be your chief development officer, or a consultant, with input from that officer.

 

So, as you have seen from some of the instances where it went wrong, you can save yourself a lot of time, and money, by thinking through the process of creating the case before you assign someone to write it.

What Happens When the Wrong Person Writes the Case

One organization decided to engage a consultant to help with its capital campaign, including the creation of the case for support. Unfortunately, the consultant hired was a grant writing consultant with little experience in capital campaigns. The resulting case for support, had several major flaws:

  •  the need was presented from the viewpoint of the organization, not the needs of the community
  • the named giving opportunities were not well thought out

  • there was no disclaimer about the organization being registered with state authorities (this state required that this declaimer be printed on all fundraising materials.

Sad to say, a large quantity of full color case statements had been printed before a more experienced consultant came in and rewrote the case, resulting in a huge unnecessary expense for the organization.

Some things you should determine, in addition to who will write the case, include:

  •  When will our case be completed?
  • How will the author get the needed information?

  • Who has the information needed by the author and how and when will they get this information to the author?

Allow enough time for reviews by the appropriate people and of course the “teacher check” for grammar, spelling, free from jargon, etc. In a future blog we’ll talk more about testing your case!

 To buy my new book, CharityChannel’s Quick Guide to Developing Your Case for Support, visit http://bit.ly/qg-case-linda.

To get a 20% discount, order by September 1, using this promotional coupon code: qg-case-20-linda

Develop Your Case to Inform and Shape all Your Fundraising Activities

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 reason for having the case in place before creating any materials—brochure, website, grant proposals, speeches, PowerPoints, DVDs, and more—is that it is crucial to present a unified message and a consistent look and feel in all your fundraising materials.

If the people who write brochures or develop the website or compose fundraising appeal letters 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!

The Content of the Case

The case should answer these questions:

    • Who is the organization and what does it do? (mission statement)
    • Why does the organization exist?
    • What is distinctive about the organization?
    • What is it the organization plans to accomplish? (vision statement)
    • How will the fundraising appeal or campaign help accomplish this mission?
    • How can the donor become involved?
    • What's in it for the donor?

Your mission and vision motivate the donor to become involved. A history of success will help donors understand that you can successfully implement the programs you want to fund. Listing staff and board members will help build credibility for your organization. It will also be crucial to demonstrate a compelling need for funds; however the difference between being compelling and looking desperate is a fine line that you cannot cross.

Donors will not support an organization whose case sounds like a desperate appeal for funds to keep the organization afloat. Donors, instead, want to invest in a winning cause, an organization that has support from other sources, and one that shows it is filling a need in the community, not one that stress the organization's needs.

The case also needs to provide options for donors to become involved. Outright gifts, pledges, gifts in kind, matching gifts, group gifts, named gifts, group gifts, and planned gifts are all options that should be described to for the donor.

Above all, the case needs to present both emotional and rational reasons for the donor to contribute. Emotion usually draws the reader into the case, but before they write out a check, most donors will want to analyze the rational reason to give.

Who Prepares the Case?

Generally the chief development officer will prepare the case for support, although often a consultant may be brought in to accomplish this task, particularly if the case is for a capital campaign. Sometimes public relations staff may be involved in the final product, especially in preparing the final fundraising materials from the case.

Whoever is charged with developing the case, however, must be someone who understands the need for and the uses of the case, has good knowledge of your organization and its constituents, and must understand basic fundraising principles.

The case should always be tested before the final materials are prepared. In the case of a capital campaign, the preliminary case for support is usually tested through the process of the planning (or feasibility) study. If the case is for more general use, other ways to test the case may be by meeting individually with donors to ask their opinions, holding a focus group of donors, or posting the case on a section of the website open only to invited guests whose opinion you value.

Translating the Case into Fundraising Materials

Remember that the case serves as the source document for all your fundraising materials and that although the message is consistent and uniform, the way it is translated may vary greatly for different audiences.

Before translating the case into written or electronic materials, you’ll want to do a stakeholder analysis and determine what materials will appeal to each constituency. Also various types of organizations will have different looks expected by their constituents. In general, a small human service may turn off donors if these donors feel the materials are too "glitzy" (and are therefore perceived as too expensive). On the other hand a university, major health center, or museum may have donors who expect very sophisticated materials. In any case, your materials should be professionally done and presented in a way that is consistent with your organization's image.

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE has authored more than a dozen books and serves as acquisitions editor for CharityChannel Press and For the GENIUS Press. Contact her at Linda@LindaLysakowski.com. CharityChannel Quick Guide to Developing Your Case for Support is now available. Get a 15 percent discount if you order before August 15. Use code linda15.