Based on my 20+ years of experience working with small to mid-sized nonprofits, I’d estimate that three-quarters of the organizations in that size range are missing the one
tool that could help their organization be more consistent in messaging, inspire donors, and flourish as an organization.
What is this magical elixir? A case for support.
The esteemed fundraising consultant Jerry Panas once said,
“A statement of its case is probably the single most important document that an institution ever prepares.”
Now, I get it… there is often confusion about this topic.
Is a “case for support” the same as a “case statement”?
Isn’t a case for support only for a capital campaign?
How would my nonprofit use a case?
Is it worth the time and energy to create a case when we already know our fundraising messages?
Let’s start by tackling the lingo. Here’s how we generally use the terms in the sector:
Case for Support: This is the large, internal document that serves as a compendium of all core fundraising messages. It explains why an organization is worthy of philanthropic support. A case should include history, vision, community need, program/services, impact, fundraising goals, and how to give. (In the corporate world, this would be an investment prospectus.)
Case Statement: This is a smaller iteration or version of the case for a specific purpose or audience. It is an external-facing document based upon the full case for support, and it is intended to inspire action. You might think of this as a specific case expression for a capital campaign solicitation, in a grant proposal, or a brochure for your planned giving program.
If you don’t have a case for support, make it a priority. It will help:
Clarify and unify differing opinions,
Identify new ways to communicate why your organization is worthy of support,
Ensure consistent messaging from your organization, and
Increase organizational efficiency.
Panas calls it “your Institutional Credo.”
Your case becomes the source of all website content, organizational brochures, solicitation packets, videos, talking points, grant applications, and a variety of other materials.
Getting started is usually the hardest part. Never fear—I've shared a useful starter checklist and book below. Completed the checklist and interested in customized guidance to lead your organization through the process? Use the chat back button to schedule time to discuss. Now is the time to get on the AltruNext calendar for a 2023 project.
Numerous tomes have been written on this topic. For the most succinct and actionable guide, turn to Jerry Panas’ “The No Nonsense Guide to Help You Prepare a Statement of Your Case.” It includes a valuable list of common pitfalls and a checklist of key content.
If you’re interested in a more comprehensive resource, check out Developing Your Case for Support, by Timothy L. Seiler, CFRE. It’s formatted as a workbook and guides users through the process for creating these fundraising tools.