Fundraising 101

The Case for Support – the Key to Inspiring Your Donors

This blog post was originally published by Giving Tree Associates.

We all have a story to tell. As a nonprofit, telling that story well is the key to inspiring your donors and cultivating the funds you need to achieve your goals. The first step in that process? A killer case for support.

We’re sharing the top three tools you need to set your team up for success this year. The first and most important tool is planning, which you can read all about here. But another important and often overlooked tool is the case for support, which captures the heart of your mission and clearly communicates why and how donors should support it. If you’ve been fundraising without a case for support, now’s the time to add one to your arsenal – you’ll be amazed at how much easier and more effective your communications become. Read on to learn how to build one of your own, and grab our latest freebie to make the process even simpler.

Why every nonprofit needs a case for support

My firm, Statement Communications, often partners with Giving Tree to help its clients craft a solid case for giving. We talk to staff, board members and clients; we pore over strategic plans and handwritten testimonials; and we dig deep to understand each nonprofit’s unique value and needs. Based on that research, we craft a narrative that serves as the backbone of all fundraising communications, from annual appeal letters to Facebook posts.

While we draw on years of experience to develop a strong case for giving, it’s OK if you don’t have the budget to work with a professional writer. Follow these simple steps to create a case that will provide a solid foundation for your fundraising in 2019 and beyond.

  1. Do some digging. Read everything about your nonprofit you can get your hands on, from your mission statement and website to grant applications and donor acknowledgements. As you research, consider how your organization talks about the issues it wants to solve and how it plans to solve them. If your nonprofit has a long history, review older materials if they’re available and think about how its mission and services have changed over time.
  2. Talk to those in the know. Board members, volunteers, staff, funders and clients all have valuable and varying perspectives about your nonprofit. Pick their brains about their involvement, what the nonprofit has achieved so far and their vision for the future. In a crowded field of nonprofits, understanding what makes yours special is key. Ask for specifics, from stories of people whose lives have been changed to the growing number of people using a particular service.
  3. Find the heart of your story. When crafting your story, think hearts first, minds second. Consider showcasing your impact through the lens of one person, whether it’s a special needs child who’s flourished in a program or a cancer patient receiving lifesaving treatment funded by your organization. People give to people, and an emotional appeal is a powerful way to demonstrate the good you do day in and day out.
  4. Develop your key messages. Your case for support should help donors understand the unique value you offer to the world. Before you start writing, make sure you can answer these questions:
    • How do you seek to make a difference in the world?
    • What have you achieved so far, and what do you hope to achieve next?
    • What matters to your donors, and how does your mission align with their needs?
    • Why should donors choose to support your organization over others?
    • What specific support do you need from donors to achieve your goals?
    • What will philanthropy enable you to do, and what’s at stake if you don’t receive it?
  5. Write, revise, repeat. Once you know what you want to say, it’s time to put it down on paper. Keep your writing concise and clear, and focus on the donor’s perspective to engage them in your message. When you have a draft ready, share it with your stakeholders and ask for their candid feedback. A fresh eye can be invaluable in strengthening the punch of your piece. Once it’s complete, pat yourself on the back – but don’t let it languish in a folder on your laptop. Refer to it often to ensure your marketing communications are consistent, and review it at least once a year to make sure it still reflects your organization accurately.

Creating a case for support can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right research, you can develop a powerful brand story that engages, inspires and convinces your donors to give. For more tips on perfecting your messaging, check out this week’s freebie – a seven-step guide to brand storytelling for your nonprofit.