Advice for Building a Solid Case for Support

July 8, 2019

Have you seen the refrigerators they’re selling today? They have hidden doors to store all those annoyingly awkward bottles of sauces, and super-sleek ice cube dispensers. The one that caught my eye recently has a tablet-like screen on the front that can help you with meal planning and grocery lists. It’s a beauty. But it comes at a hefty price – and as much as he loves me, my husband isn’t going to agree to such a big purchase just because I want him to.

What does this have to do with your fundraising objectives, you ask?

Well, similarly – your donors aren’t going to shell out big bucks (or even small bucks) to your organization just because they think fondly of you. There’s a lot more to making a donation than that.

Answering the classic question of ‘why should I give to you?’ is more complicated than ever before. Donors today are smart, thoughtful and even a bit skeptical – they need you to give them a good reason to open up their wallet. You have to do more than just answer ‘why’ with your organization’s mission statement.

You can imagine that telling my husband, ‘this fridge is really cool!’, isn’t going to have much of an impact on his decision. But detailing how it could benefit our whole family’s health while saving us time and money – that’s a pretty persuasive case for support.

In the philanthropic universe, a case for support is a donor-oriented document that persuasively and pointedly expresses why a donor should make a gift to your charity, and what their donation will accomplish. It’s a crucial piece of your charity’s toolbox, whether it’s written on a few post-its in your desk drawer, or designed into a snazzy brochure and shared with donors directly. Some organizations have just one; others have one for each of their donor segments (major, legacy, monthly, etc.).

Below are some tips to create (or, perhaps adjust) your organization’s own case for support. And if you happen to pick up a few persuasive tactics for your own household purchases, all the better.

TALK TO STAKEHOLDERS

Most of us wouldn’t make a big purchase without talking to people who know the product, right? I’ve read Google reviews and spoken to qualified salespeople about my dream fridge.

In building your case, you need to talk to staff, volunteers, donors, and other people who may be impacted by your cause. The idea is to gain a solid, cohesive understanding of your mission from all viewpoints – so that you can translate those complex, interconnected ideas to your donors and prospects in a simple, meaningful way.

AVOID JARGON & INTERNAL LINGO

Use plain, human language that is easy to read and understand. Break down and explain complicated concepts or processes. Don’t assume your donors will know all the intricacies of your organization, or are familiar with the language that you and your colleagues use every day.

It doesn’t mean you think your donors are dumb – they just don’t have in-depth knowledge of your organization and all that it encompasses.

BE AUTHENTIC

“You had me at hello.”

“You complete me.”

Are you rolling your eyes? Yeah, me too. Avoid exaggerated, broad, sweeping statements. Donors will see right through it. You should tell donors the impact their gift will have, but be genuine and specific. Which leads me to my next tip…

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

And how will the donor’s gift help solve it?

This is where you expand on your why. What problem is your cause aiming to solve? Be specific. Make sure it’s a problem your organization can actually solve, and not just an issue that’s peripheral to your work! Aim to boil it down to just one problem – even if it’s a big one – and tell donors exactly how a donation will help.

INSPIRE AND MOTIVATE

Yes, you need to be authentic. But don’t get lost in stats and figures. Include donor testimonials and a story or two from someone a donor’s gift has benefitted or will benefit. Your donors are changing the world through your organization. Make them see it!

MAKE IT ABOUT THE DONOR

Yep, donor-centricity. Your organization and its’ mission is nothing without donor support.

And it would be incredibly short-sighted of me to try to convince my hubby that we need a new fridge by talking about all the reasons I need it. Emphasize and express gratitude for the donors’ role in the work you’re doing.

At the end of the day, your case for support should position your mission in a way that appeals to donors’ hearts and minds. It should be real but persuasive. Straight-forward but inspiring. Succinct but full of feeling. And before you know it, that fridge will be all yours.

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Melanie Scholz

Melanie Scholz

Twin mom. Boy mom. Eats supper standing up. Fan of Jillian Michaels and HGTV. Lover of charcuterie, white wine and apocalypse-type movies.