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The Right Stuff: Creating a Strong Prospectus for a Successful Campaign

Every successful campaign requires a good strategy, dedicated volunteers, intelligent counsel, and two important documents: a case prospectus and case for support.

By Jessica Garrett, Winkler Group Consultant and Donor Communications Specialist

The case prospectus is a critical part of your campaign feasibility study, a two-to-three-page document that succinctly outlines your strengths, the reasons you are considering a campaign, and the priorities you hope to fund.

The case for support is written after the campaign study and undergirds the public phase of your campaign. Think compelling images, glossy paper, and stories about the people you serve, designed to inspire people to give and give generously. Unlike the prospectus’ business-like feel, the case for support is full of emotion and casts the prospective donor as the hero.  

While both are custom documents, there are steps you can take before you begin a study or campaign to make sure they are both as strong as you need them to be.

Let's start with the prospectus.

The prospectus is mailed to every prospective donor you are inviting to participate in a study interview.

This is their primer. It reminds them why you are so good at what you do, explains why you are considering a campaign, and describes what you are looking to fund.

A prospectus has four sections: an introduction, call to action, description of the priorities, and a conclusion. Scattered throughout the document are quotes—from staff, board, and at times, constituents—that vouch for your impact on the community and add credibility to call for a campaign. I’ll briefly describe each section.

  • Introduction: What’s your mission? Your vision? What key successes do you want to remind your constituents of? The prospectus is not a brochure of your services or an admissions piece. It should not be weighed down with data, but it should clearly articulate why you are good at what you do.
  • Call to Action: Why are you considering a campaign? Has the community’s need for your services outpaced your ability to provide them? Has student enrollment outgrown your space? Are you falling short of your mission? Does your pursuit of excellence demand innovation? Be prepared to be up front with your interviewees.
  • Description of Priorities: As part of the campaign study, we ask interviewees about their interest in and support for each priority separately. Whether it’s expanding existing programs or scholarships, constructing a new facility, or growing your endowment, you need to be able to explain what you’d like to raise money for and why each priority rises to the top of your list of needs.
  • Conclusion: Consider your priorities together. Why are they the next right steps for your organization? Why will making them a reality help you better fulfill your mission or help you come closer to achieving your vision?
  • Quotes: The only way to end up with strong quotes is to make sure you have identified the right people for background interviews. Think about who has seen your institution or organization make a big impact, who is the most passionate about your current work and the opportunity for a campaign, who has already clearly articulated why your organization and the work you do is essential to your community.

One of the most important jobs of the prospectus is to elicit accurate feedback from prospective donors about your potential campaign and the priorities you are looking to fund. We take that feedback and turn it into messaging that will stretch your donors’ giving levels. We determine which priorities need more explanation and what your donors need to know before they will invest. By seeing the priorities clearly outlined, donors are also able to provide an initial range of gift they will consider which is then used to determine a campaign goal.

The feedback generated by the prospectus enables us to create a campaign strategy that stretches donor giving and maximizes the amount of investment that can be raised during a campaign. In part two of The Right Stuff, we will discuss the case for support that grows out of the prospectus and its distinct role in the campaign.

About the Author

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Jessica Garrett specializes in donor communications and grant writing. She is recognized for her donor-centric style and ability to tell an organization’s story in a way that encourages donors and funders to maximize their investment levels. Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn.

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