What Makes your Case Credible?

The Marketplace Perspective

Together with sufficient prospects and volunteers, a compelling case for support is generally considered indispensable to a successful capital campaign – or any other major gift fundraising activity. Most experienced fundraisers can easily give you a clear definition of the case for support. But, ask someone to define what makes the case for support compelling and you’re likely to get a  different answer each time.

Many think of the case as a public relations tool—a way to package and sell the institution and the campaign. The case does provide the basis for your campaign brochure and audiovisuals, and it does need to have an emotional impact. In the realm of philanthropy, however, “sizzle” may be overrated.

Donors are more often interested in your mission and vision than your current “list” of wants and needs.

In fact, if the following elements are present, your case will have the desired emotional impact—without relying on clever slogans or purple prose.

  1. The marketplace perspective. The audience for the case consists of current and prospective donors and volunteers. It must therefore be written from their point of view, and not the point of view of the institution. And frequently, these leaders are more interested in fulfilling the mission of the organization and its vision for the future than its current shopping list of needs.
  2. The right facts, presented in the right context. Our donors and volunteers are sophisticated people who serve on nonprofit boards, understand how institutions work, and know what questions to ask. We need to give them straightforward and credible answers. If the facts are effectively presented, they will speak for themselves.
  3. The endorsements of known and respected people. Equally essential to a credible case are testimonials from leaders who are held in high regard by our audience. If these leaders are known to support the campaign, many others are sure to follow their example. A brief and thoughtful quote may be worth more than pages of facts.

A brief and thoughtful quote from a respected leader may be worth more than pages of facts.

  1. Effective face-to-face presentation. The written case, or even a well-produced video, cannot do the job alone. The essence of the case must be presented to prospects, in person and with conviction, by your CEO and campaign leaders. As the saying goes, “People give to people.” That is how the case achieves its emotional impact.

The case does not function in a vacuum, but in the context of an intensive campaign, driven by a trained and dedicated corps of volunteers. The prospect will not be persuaded to give because of the case for support you left with them to peruse at their leisure. They rightfully expect your volunteer solicitors to look them in the eye and state the case with passion and conviction, in their own words!

There is a school of fundraising leaders and practitioners who rely heavily on packaging, promotion, and high pressure to carry the day. We prefer to rely on the intelligence and civic spirit of our donors and volunteers. It is those qualities to which the case should appeal.


click here for pdf version: FRM68

For more on The Case for Support, How it Can Position Your Institution for Success  access Goettler Series Volume 4