Who Writes the Case for Support for Your Nonprofit?Feb 23, 2021
Many organizations miss the mark because they have the wrong person or persons writing the case for support. Often the writing of the case is relegated to the marketing department. Or, perhaps a marketing firm is engaged the write the case. While there may be some great writers in your marketing department or marketing firm, these staff members or consultants might not be familiar with fundraising. So, although they can tell a good story and their grammar will probably be perfect, they often overlook a critical part of your case—making the ask. Or they might not understand the levels of giving you are seeking. Or the benefits to the donor, or the legal disclaimers that might be required on fundraising materials.
You must have one author, and that author must be familiar enough with your organization to transfer the information succinctly, yet powerfully. At the same time, this person needs to be able to get input from the staff and others who can add the compelling stories to your case. Plus, this author must have knowledge of fundraising methods and the psychology of philanthropy.
Sharing the Workload Isn’t Always a Good Idea
One university decided to develop its case for support with the intention of sharing the workload. So, one person was assigned to develop the mission, vision, and values; another was assigned to write the history; a third, the needs; a fourth person, the scale of gifts and named giving opportunities; and a fifth, the “ask.” As you can probably predict, the result was a mishmash of different writing styles, different perspectives on the needs of the organization, and a complete failure to address the needs of donors. In the end, they decided to engage a fundraising consultant to work with the various people who had valuable input. The consultant became responsible for being the sole author of the case.
While it is critical to have one person write the case, it is equally important to make sure that person has access to the people and the information needed to write the case. The author also needs to be familiar enough with your organization to tell your story. An outside consultant can be engaged, providing you give this person the information and access needed, and the consultant is willing to learn your organizational culture and history.
It is also important to remember that the purpose of your case is to help you raise support for your organization, so the person usually charged with this task will most likely be your chief development officer, or a consultant, with input from that officer.
So, as you have seen from some of the instances where it went wrong, you can save yourself a lot of time, and money, by thinking through the process of creating the case before you assign someone to write it.
What Happens When the Wrong Person Writes the Case
One organization decided to engage a consultant to help with its capital campaign, including the creation of the case for support. Unfortunately, the consultant hired was a grant writing consultant with little experience in capital campaigns. The resulting case for support, had several major flaws:
- the need was presented from the viewpoint of the organization, not the needs of the community
- the named giving opportunities were not well thought out
- there was no disclaimer about the organization being registered with state authorities (this state required that this declaimer be printed on all fundraising materials.
Sad to say, a large quantity of full color case statements had been printed before a more experienced consultant came in and rewrote the case, resulting in a huge unnecessary expense for the organization.
Some things you should determine, in addition to who will write the case, include:
- When will our case be completed?
- How will the author get the needed information?
- Who has the information needed by the author and how and when will they get this information to the author?
Allow enough time for reviews by the appropriate people and of course the “teacher check” for grammar, spelling, free from jargon, etc. In a future blog we’ll talk more about testing your case!
To learn more about developing your case for support, take my course: Tell Your Story Right: Create a Compelling Case for Support. Sign up here