Emphasize the Process for a Better Product
When it’s done right, the process of developing the case for support can be as valuable as the finished product. Poorly executed, the process can become a nightmare.
What makes the difference? With all of the experience our firm has accumulated, we are still learning how best to manage this process in the most constructive manner—and that could be the subject of a much longer article. Here, we can briefly summarize some of the advice we currently offer our clients.
- Use outside counsel. Assigning the project to an outside expert gives you the benefit of counsel’s experience and knowledge, as well as a fresh perspective. As a rule, it is much easier for counsel than it is for staff to think and write from the viewpoint of potential donors and volunteers—the actual audience for your case.
- Do your homework. This should be self-evident, but often is not. Before you can develop the case, you must complete your strategic planning. Without organizational consensus on the future direction of the institution, it will be difficult to effectively present the specific objectives of the campaign. If the campaign includes capital projects, do you have site plans, floor plans, and costs? Will funding come from other sources (e.g., reserves or cash flow)? And if so, how much?
Before you start to write your case for support, you must complete your external/strategic planning.
- Be prepared to provide information. To prepare an effective presentation, counsel needs to know what is actually going on inside your institution – financially and otherwise. Only with that knowledge can they do an effective job of advising you on how best to make your case to the donor community, and answer the questions that are sure to be asked.
- Involve current and prospective donors and volunteer leadership. The case must be written from an external point of view – so get out of your office and ask for input and advice. Include the personal testimonials and endorsements of the campaign and its objectives in the case document. Through their participation, donors and volunteers are more likely to take ownership of your case and the campaign.
- Manage the review process. The development of the case is only part of the larger process of campaign planning and preparation. As a general rule, counsel will also be working to draft the plan of campaign, identifying potential donors and volunteers, organizing the campaign office, and completing critical key campaign planning efforts.
It is important that both staff and volunteer leadership buy in to your case; therefore, they must participate in the review and approval process. But that process must not be allowed to become the exclusive focus of your efforts, distracting everyone from other important tasks.
The size of the group reviewing the case should be limited to a few key staff (such as your CEO, CFO, and program director) and volunteer leaders such as your board chair and/or foundation board chair, and the chair of your campaign planning committee).
The essence of the case must be internalized and articulated effectively, face to face.
The purpose of the process must be understood. It is not to produce “copy by committee,” but to ensure that the case is sufficiently clear, compelling, and effective to do its job for the campaign.
The case will function as a resource document and a tool for volunteers and staff. It will provide the basis for other campaign communications. Most importantly, however, the essence of the case must be internalized by staff and volunteers, and articulated effectively to prospective donors, face to face. That is how to use the process of writing your case to win the campaign!
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