The ‘case for support’ is the cornerstone of any fundraising activity. It captures who you are, what you do, what your goals are and why people should join with you to achieve these goals. It is informative and inspirational and is the touchstone for all the communications that support your fundraising.
The very process of developing a case for support can be used to engage your stakeholders as you invite their input. A case for support can:
- Inspire support both internally and externally
- Be a communications tool acting as a discussion document with prospects
- Be a marketing tool
- Be used to train and motivate staff
- Assist in the fundraising planning process
- Be a resource document when developing proposals
Most institutions develop an overarching case for support that sets the context for the creation of individual, project-based cases for support.
Before you start to write
Before you can capture the essence of what you are trying to achieve, you need to understand the bigger picture.
To do this, gather as much information as you can about your institution so you can establish its credentials as a viable cause. This includes information about its heritage, impact on the world, past and current achievements and the current vision and priorities of the institution. You must be able to substantiate any claims you make (e.g., you can’t claim to be ‘excellent at research’ without providing proof with details about the volume of research papers you publish, the number of world-leading professors you employ and the impact your research is having on the world).
Alongside this information gathering, you need to determine exactly what goals and aspirations you want your case for support to relay and how these aspirations relate to the overall external profile of your institution. Clearly and passionately articulated goals and aspirations will inspire your supporters.
Writing the case for support
When you begin to write, you are telling the story of your institution – where it has come from, where it is now and where (with additional support) it will be in the future.
A case for support should not be a dry, academic presentation of facts and figures but a balanced argument that clearly and concisely identifies a plan of action and describes, with passion (and a few powerful statistics), why achieving that plan is important. It should not be sentimental and overly emotional but inspiring and engaging.
Above all, it must have a ring of authenticity. Think about what information you want to convey to your stakeholders, and make sure you cover the basics of: who, why, what, where, when and how.
Case studies, quotations from beneficiaries and existing supporters, statistics and images all help to add personality to your case for support and engage the reader, though they should add to and not dilute the central argument.
Use language that is concise, positive, professional and easy to read. Avoid jargon, acronyms, wordiness and talking down to the reader.
Draft, consult and redraft
Once you have written your first draft, you can use it as a discussion document with stakeholders – both internal and external – to inform your second draft. This review process is a great opportunity to both engage stakeholders in what you are trying to achieve and to improve your understanding of how your organisation is perceived. Ask your stakeholders:
- Does it make sense?
- Is it easy to read?
- Is anything missing?
- Is anything unnecessary?
- Did they find it inspirational?
Listen to the feedback you receive and redraft until you think you have an effective working document.
A case for support is never really finished but continually tweaked and revised as fundraising activities evolve and it is presented to different stakeholder groups.
The case does not have to be a glossy brochure. It needs to be able to adapt to different modes of communication – web, print, face-to-face – and be easily updatable.