Invest in an Inclusive Process
One of the earliest steps in preparing to raise money is to research and write a case for support. Unfortunately, not everyone knows what a case for support looks like or what it should contain. We can honestly state that the concept of the case for support is probably the least understood, and one of the greatest opportunities left unrealized.
Every industry seems to create and use its own jargon. The “Case for Support” is a prime example in the fund-raising industry — several simple and commonly used words. Some may innocently use the terms Case, Case Statement, Case for Financial Support, and even Business Plan interchangeably. But do all these mean the same thing?
As a firm we have always subscribed to Harold (Sy) Seymour’s classic definition (Designs for Fund Raising): It tells all that needs to be told, answers all the important questions, reviews the arguments for support, explains the proposed plan for raising the money, and shows how gifts may be made, and who the people are who vouch for the project, and who will give it leadership and direction.
Clearly, Mr. Seymour’s definition could not have presaged today’s communication via eMail, SMS text, Facebook and twitter. But what we too often lose sight of in our fast-paced society is the difference between methods of communicating our vital message, and the process of determining the right message. We believe that when organizations invest in a careful, deliberate and inclusive process of developing their case for support, they will not only be able to tell all that needs to be told but also able to answer the important questions, even in a twitter message.
The process of developing a case for support should first and foremost be a team sport. While responsibility for coordinating the process should be a development function, no one person should be solely responsible to draft the case document. Rather, the opportunity for involvement of internal and external stakeholders should be realized. Adopting the approach of collective wisdom will produce a better result, and will build a broader consensus for the end product.
The earliest form of the case should be a working document that welcomes frequent review and revision, is shared with key internal and external stakeholders for review and revision, and will be improved as a result of their interest, knowledge and perspective. A better, more refined document will result.
In this way, the task of producing an organization’s case for support is truly a collective effort of staff, board and donors. This path to case construction is in stark contrast to the all too often belief that a case is best produced by a skilled copywriter or marketing staff person working in quiet isolation.
Naturally, the case process will move from research to presenting and stating your case. However, the case process is never complete. It is a continuous effort to communicate a message that you want people to remember, and then internalize into their own words. Each time a donor grabs hold of your story and then personally advocates with conviction for your organization to his or her peers, your case is being rewritten by another member of the team. The process of converting outsiders into strong advocates expands the number of people developing your case and improves the organization’s message again and again.
How your message is finally packaged will depend on the size and breadth of your donor constituency. In a major gift effort the final form of your case may simply be the spoken word and personal testimony of one donor advocating the support of your organization to a peer.
In the end, a deliberate and inclusive process of developing your case for support will better serve your organization’s fund-raising goals than by simply embarking on a quest to produce a glossy full-color brochure.
click here for pdf version: FRM57
For more on The Case for Support, How it Can Position Your Institution for Success access Goettler Series Volume 4.