You know why you need the donor dollars—and how much—but do you know what will most motivate and persuade your potential supporters to make a significant contribution? 

Understanding and articulating your Case for Support to donors can be challenging—we can suffer the curse of too much knowledge or, alternatively, be too close to the coal face to see the broader scope of our vision. Yet getting this step right is not only critical to our fundraising success but can make our role as fundraisers so much easier.

What is a Case for Support and why do you need one?

Your Case for Support is essentially your donor prospectus: the argument you put forward to prospective supporters as to why they should give to your organisation, and why they should give now.

More than just a statement of need, it’s a strategic messaging blueprint for purposeful engagement. And it’s the essential foundation for ALL of your fundraising communications—whether for annual appeals, your bequest program, your major gifts program, your major campaign, etc. It is a compendium of information, presenting holistically the rationale and justification for you to ask.

Ideally, it does so in a way that can be used as a ready resource to inform every type of communication you might create: brochures, emails, videos, social media campaigns, PowerPoint presentations, briefing notes to speakers, staff and volunteers—you name it, the Case for Support should have the statistic, sound bite, and call to action appropriate for every medium, to create consistent and powerful messaging across your target audiences.

The Case for Support is what ensures everyone in your organisation is singing in tune from the same song sheet when it comes to expressing your funding priorities, continually reinforcing the same important message. 

What makes a Case for Support powerful?

In order for a Case for Support to be truly effective with your audience, it must do two key things extremely well: 1) it must answer all of the important questions a prospective donor might have about your mission and cause; and 2) it must do so in such a way that moves and inspires them to give—at the highest levels of which they are capable.

Cases for Support can fall short in both these areas, not because the mission and cause aren’t inherently worthy, but because not enough thoroughness has gone into the planning and execution of the Case. As with any good book that leaves its reader spellbound, it’s the hidden formula and execution that satisfies expectation and elicits the desired response.

Giving decisions are based in deep emotion

People don’t give simply because it’s sensible or the right thing to do; they give because they feel emotionally moved by your cause. The more moved they are, the more likely they are to give. And this is why keeping the story concept or book analogy front and centre is a valuable approach, because, ideally, your Case will take your prospective donors on an emotional journey—from deep concern to relief and excitement that they might hold the solution.

Woman and child in business suits and sunglasses stook either side of a circus cannon

All the ingredients of a good story

Just like a novel, your Case needs to take the reader on a narrative arc: crisis, challenges, obstacles, resolution and denouement—the happy ending they will deliver. Because your prospective donor is not only the reader/viewer/listener but also the hero in this journey. In fact, your Case for Support is almost most like a pick-a-path adventure: just like a storybook character, through your narrative, you extend the invitation to your hero donor to solve your Big Problem.

The structure of your Case for Support should follow this arc and be replicable on a micro and macro level—whether you are producing a full-colour 20-page brochure or a 1-minute video, covering multiple themes or just one.

Answering the critical questions

Just because your prospective hero is moved, however, doesn’t mean they’ve switched off their critical thinking. If the plot is thin, we put down the book; if a Case for Support is weak on substantiating detail, a prospective donor won’t reach for their chequebook. Once you stir an emotional response, your reader will search for the rationale as to why they should help your particular organisation solve this Big Problem. Do you have a sound plan? Are you a credible organisation with a demonstrable track record for success? What level of impact will be achieved and within what timeframe? How will you measure the outcomes? What other sources of funding are involved? Is your vision big enough to solve the problem?

In other words, if your prospective donor chooses to be the hero in your story, will they be guaranteed the magnificent result that justifies their effort and investment?

Your Case for Support is the strategy, the argument and the promise.

Re-published with permission from FINZ Magazine Winter 2020

Chanel Hughes is a Senior Consultant and specialist Case Writer for Global Philanthropic.

Read Chanel’s companion blog, Top 10 tips for crafting a compelling Case for Support