Building an Effective Case for Support
A solid case for support is perhaps the most important document you can write for your non-profit. It is critically important to everyone who is involved in soliciting donations on your behalf. They should all know it, be comfortable speaking to it, and be ready to share your message whenever the opportunity arises. The best case for support balances being emotionally compelling with hard facts that back up your worth.
Once a strong case for support is crafted is should become the basis of all communications for your organization. Its message should be infused into your website, emails, newsletters, direct mail, event scripts, etc. Train your board, volunteers and staff on it – don’t take it for granted that they will know it.
What is a Case for Support?
A comprehensive and concise reflection of your organization that states your vision, projects your organization’s culture, and provides compelling insights as to how you are achieving your mission. It must answer to your donors’ questions – Why should I give? Will my donation be invested wisely? Can I believe in the people in charge of spending my donation? It should be specific to your organization vs pointing out more universal truths.
How do I Write an Effective Case for Support?
- Make a bold, strong statement. Establish the issue or problem you are trying to address – qualify why it matters.
- Build in emotional triggers. Leave out too much internal or industry jargon. Tap into the values they already hold dear. Make sure it is about those you serve, not you. Then cast your donor as the hero.
- Without calling out your ‘competitors’, differentiate your organization from any other organization with similar missions – what are your credentials and strengths? If you weren’t here tomorrow, why would the world miss you?
- Assure your donors you have a plan to address the specific issues identified. Speak to your history, the strengths of current programs, and offer specific proof of impact.
- Make the ask. Be specific on the amount needed and why. Offer several different ways someone can support your mission – monthly donor, one-time giver, stock gift, as an ambassador. Spell it out.
- Edit. Edit. Edit. Be short and to the point – Say only what matters. They will often ‘hear’ more with less being said.
Sample outline for a Case for Support:
- Strong emotional opening paragraph that tells the story of why you exist in real human terms. (Sally fell ill at 17. She bounced around between doctors for 3 years, seeking a diagnosis and qualified care. She fell into a life of illness and isolation until she found us. When she engaged in our programs, she felt empowered and no longer alone. Today she is living a life forever changed because of her illness, but one with connection, contribution and hope.)
- Second paragraph that speaks to your organizations mission and vision, identifies how you are targeting the problem. (Since being founded 20 years ago, we have impacted thousands of other’s lives like we have Sally’s. Through our programs and services, we educate, empower patients today while we work towards a cure for tomorrow.
- Bullet points of specific programs and service, where possible include impact of each. (i.e. Monthly education meetings that engage hundreds of local patients and thousands more online, ensuring no one has to continue to feel isolated and alone because of their illness)
- Identify the need – How much? By when? To do what? (We have come so far, but there is an urgent need for us to do more. Too many are still searching for the hope we have to offer. We are seeking to raise $100,000 by December in order to fund the critical expansion of our programs in order to ensure no one is ever turned away.)
- Effectively Expand the Package – Assess your audience and your needs. If warranted, create additional documents that dig deeper into each of the bullet points on specific programs and services, providing the more salient details a major donor or corporate partner would want to know prior to investing. Then customize who gets what based on what you know about the donor’s preferences and priorities.
Weak: We believe our community needs a healthcare provider committed to effectively treating all of those in need of care, regardless of their geography, economics or demographics.
Stronger: We believe everyone in our community deserves great healthcare.
Weak: Among all the ways we can invest in our university’s future, the endowment is the most important, ultimately surpassing the impact of capital and program investments.
Stronger: The endowment is the most important investment we can make in our future.
Weak: As a nonprofit, community-based organization, we rely on the generous philanthropic support of our donors and neighbors to make our work possible.
Stronger: Your support makes our work possible.