The beating heart of fundraising – the Case for Support
First the heart, then the head! There are many technical elements in fundraising but they will not be successful unless rooted in an emotional engagement. Behavioural psychology shows us that people make decisions first with a gut feeling and only then look for arguments, facts and figures which support the decision which, in reality, they have already taken. This means that we must first tell compelling stories and then be ready to follow up quickly with hard information. A Case for Support is essential for major donor fundraising but helpful for donor fundraising at any level.
What is a Case for Support?
Case for Support is a document, ideally one page long, which explains why you are important, unique and necessary. It strips away all of the additional words, figures and explanations found in fundraising communication and reveals the DNA of your organisation, the essence of why you exist (in fact, why you must exist!). If you do your job well in creating the Case, it will not change for many years. There are basically three parts to a Case:
- Why are we special?
- What will we do with donations?
- What part can you (the donor) play in our story (this part is often forgotten!)
The Case for Support is an internal document which means you do not give it to your donors and prospects. Rather, it as the base from which marketing materials are created, such as website text, leaflets, videos, detailed booklets and so on.
The top-level Case for Support shows why your organisation is special and how the work it does is essential and full of impact. You will probably also want to have a Case for Support each of your major projects too.
Behind the Case for Support there must be detailed information on your organisation and your work. You should also find personal stories (from donors, beneficiaries, field-workers etc.) to enhance the emotional appeal.
The Case for Support must link closely with the vision/mission and brand of the organisation but serves a different purpose.
Creating a Case for Support
It is often difficult for people working every day inside an organisation to see through the forest of details and it can be very uncomfortable to leave out information is important but not essential. There is also a danger that creating the Case can become a political issue with an organisation. For this reason, it can be helpful to get outside help in creating a Case. Whether you choose to get assistance or not, the steps are the same:
Step 1 – produce a first draft based on research and initial conversations
Step 2 – show the draft to many different people, including some existing donors (this is very important!), and ask for comments
Step 3 – produce a final version and have it approved by senior managers and the Board
Step 4 – Extract some ‘killer’ phrases from the Case and circulate them widely
Step 5 – Ensure that any communications, not only for fundraising, are consistent with the Case
Many people in the organisation should be familiar with the key points of the Case, including fundraisers, marketing colleagues, volunteers and board members. This means it is not just the ‘property’ of the fundraising team – it must be ‘owned’ by the whole organisation.