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Your Case for Support is a Cultivation Tool. Use It.

A case for support is an essential fundraising tool. It communicates the “raison d’etre” for a major fundraising initiative: asserting a strong, consistent rationale for why an organization is launching an initiative at a particular moment in time, and why donors should invest. It is the guiding document that informs all messages and materials related to the initiative: from talking points to website content to major donor proposals.

The case for support can–and should–also be a powerful tool to engage and cultivate donors. By inviting supporters to help shape the case for support, organizations demonstrate how highly they value donors’ insights, stories, and experiences–embracing them as important partners in the journey.

The Benefits of Involving Donors in the Case Development Process 

It’s common to want to finalize your case for support quickly. After all, the faster you pull together fundraising assets like the case, the sooner you can begin securing support. Right? 

While moving quickly can feel like the right way to accelerate campaign progress, taking the additional time to build a donor-informed case will yield far greater long-term success.

What are the elements of a strong case statement? Who is the appropriate audience? And what steps should you take when crafting one? Get answers to these and other commonly asked questions in this helpful guide. 

Your Guide to Developing a Strong Case for Support

What are the elements of a strong case for support? Who is the appropriate audience? And what steps should you take when crafting one? Get answers to these and other commonly asked questions in this helpful development guide.

Nurture Stronger Relationships With Donors 

By encouraging donors to help build or refine the case for support, you invite their wisdom, abilities, and expertise – you recognize them as true partners in advancing your organization’s mission. 

In addition, the case for support is built on questions like: why is this cause important? Why now? What impact will it have? Asking philanthropists to reflect on questions such as these–or to share what their relationship with your organization means to them–deepens their bond, fosters a “warm glow,” and increases their excitement for fulfilling the vision. 

Build Consensus and Address Misconceptions Early 

Involving donors in the case-development process enables you to hear and address questions stakeholders may have about your initiative. Our team witnessed this with a client pursuing a capital campaign to construct a new home for their mission. The feasibility study revealed strong support for this vision–but also uncovered a number of questions and misconceptions about the specific project plans. In response, we utilized the case development process to pose–and answer!–these questions in partnership with key donors and stakeholders. The case was made stronger by this process. As an ancillary benefit, the involved donors became true champions for the project’s vision, advocating for the plans with their peers and colleagues.

Spark New Ways to Talk About Your Organization

Listening to donors talk about why they care about your cause is a great way to collect fresh, relevant stories and craft stronger messaging. After all, donors, community members, and beneficiaries experience nonprofits in a different way than staff. They can offer new, powerful perspectives and insights. One client we worked with noticed that a donor used particularly elegant language when describing what the organization meant to her. Her words actually became the inspiration for the campaign’s tagline!

How To Elicit Donor Input That Is Useful and Appropriate

As impactful as it is to collaborate with donors on a case for support, there is a right and wrong way to do so. Feedback, input, and advice must be solicited carefully. We’ve found the following strategies help clients maintain control of the process while engaging donors in positive, authentic ways. 

1. Interview Donors to Shape Future Messaging 

When asking donors for input, specificity and structure are key. Avoid open-ended questions such as, “what do you think about our nonprofit?” Guide donors by asking questions like:

  • What do you see as this organization’s greatest strengths? 
  • When have you seen the organization at its very best? Can you tell me a story about when you were exceptionally proud to be a part of this organization?
  • Why should people trust this organization with their philanthropic investments?
  • In your view, why is [this initiative] urgent? Why must this vision be fulfilled now?
  • In your words, when this vision is fulfilled, what will be different and better?

Note that these questions adhere to principles of appreciative inquiry. This approach helps the donor articulate what your nonprofit does best and identify opportunities to build on those strengths.   

2. Ask Donors to Share Their Stories

Storytelling is such a powerful tool. When donors tell their stories, they tap into a reservoir of memory and emotion that can be quite profound. However, asking thoughtful questions is key. Doing so breaks the ice and makes donors feel more comfortable opening up. Examples include:

  • Tell me about your relationship with this organization. When did you first become involved — and why? What has kept you involved over the years?
  • Tell me about a time you saw this organization have a positive impact in our community. A time your life was impacted? A time you saw others’ lives impacted?
  • What is the most meaningful way you’ve been involved with our organization over the years? Tell me more about that experience.

Statistics, strategies, and plans are important, but they’re easily forgotten. Stories are what stick in people’s minds and make a lasting impression. Therefore, be sure to infuse your case for support with facts and emotion.

3. Invite Specific Feedback About the Draft Document

Up to this point, you’ve asked donors to help shape future messaging. Once you’ve developed the first draft, consider inviting donors to weigh in on your progress. Keep in mind: the goal is not to have a donor rewrite the entire draft. Nor should they simply react with a quick “looks good.” Helpful feedback is focused, actionable, and specific. To that end, ask donors — individually or in groups — to respond to pre-set questions like: 

  • Does this case statement substantiate, or prove that our organization is capable of achieving this vision? Why or why not? Are there ways we should strengthen our argument to be more convincing?
  • Does the case for support evoke a sense of urgency for completing this vision now? If not, how can we create a stronger sense of urgency?
  • Does this case statement resonate, or make you care? If not, what’s missing?

Guardrails like these help you to steer away from micro-editing or writing by committee, and instead gain useful and direct feedback.

Leverage Your Case for Support From Start to Finish 

The case for support is just one component of a successful fundraising initiative — but it’s a significant one. Writing a strong case will help communicate a strong, consistent message to your external audience. 

To get the full value out of your case for support, don’t put pen to paper immediately. Instead, invite the donors who will be instrumental to your campaign’s ultimate success into the process.

If you need some guidance on how to develop a strong case and leverage it from start to finish, Benefactor Group can help. Just reach out.

Megan Simmons joined Benefactor Group in 2017 after graduating summa cum laude from The Ohio State University, where she studied both Economics and English.

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