Every nonprofit—even those that aren’t in a capital campaign—needs a case for support. Without a case, how can you answer a prospective donor who asks, “why should I give to your organization?”

Part elevator speech, part mission statement, part vision for the future, a good case for support clearly and succinctly tells donors why you exist, what you do well, and what you hope to accomplish (with their support, of course!).

Cases come in many shapes and sizes, from a well-designed glossy document to a single page spit from your laser printer. The size and formality don’t matter as much as the message.

The Five Steps:

If your nonprofit, school or organization lacks a case for support, or if yours is covered in dust, here are the five steps I follow when I write a case for support—plus some of my favorite tips.

Step 1: Background

Pull out your mission and vision statements. Write down your elevator speech. Don’t have one? Create one—it’s a worthwhile exercise, I promise.

Determine the answers to the following questions:
• What need do we fill in the community?
• How are we successful at what we do?
• What do we hope to accomplish in the next 2, 5, 10 years?

Step 2: Interview

Interview your director, board chair, and significant supporters to get their answers to the questions in step 2. It’s important to hear from them—especially if you’ve been in your position for years.

Interview prospective donors. Ask them why they don’t support you now and what would make them give to your organization.

Step 3: Research

Research the need your organization satisfies in your community or for your constituents. Demonstrate how an investment in your organization benefits the entire community. Look for statistics and data that support your claim.

Step 4: Write

Follow your high school English teacher’s recommendation and start with an outline. Once you’ve clearly mapped your approach, start writing. Add in charts, graphs, quotes or photos to bring your case to life.

Step 5: Review

Make sure your case resonates with your supporters by asking them to review it. Better yet, ask a non-supporter to read it and see if it compels them to give.

TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Humanize your report with a profile of someone or something your organization has impacted.
  • Your organization wants to build a new building, but does it really need to build a new building? A good case passes the “so what” test by turning wants into needs.
  • Think ROI. As donors become increasingly more sophisticated, it’s critical to show them a return on their investment in you.
  • Have your spouse, friend or neighbor read your case. They’ll tell you if you’ve used acronyms or jargon only insiders understand.
  • Include visuals with long captions. People process information differently. Some will read each word, some will only look at pictures and read what’s below them.
  • Avoid numbers numb. Statistics are powerful, but too much data puts your reader to sleep very quickly.

Once your case is finished, don’t put it back on the shelf. Disseminate it to your board, your staff, and your volunteers because a strong case serves as both a rallying cry and a reaffirmation of your existence.

If you have questions I didn’t answer here, or if you’d like to learn how the Winkler Group can help you develop or refine your case for support, please email me at JBrowning@winklergroup.com.

For more resources:

The generous will prosper: those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
(Proverbs 11:25)

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