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Caitlin Fillmore

Caitlin Fillmore

Major Gifts Today Editor

Answer These Three Questions to Craft a Case for Support

A case for support represents a critical building block to any fundraising campaign, including your major gifts campaign. Like a thesis statement in an essay, a case for support succinctly communicates why a donor should invest in your nonprofit.

During my decade-long career, drafting fresh cases for support was the place I started every time, whether I worked in animal rescue, human service, religious, fine arts, healthcare, or youth organizations.

The three questions are:

  • What is the Need?
  • What is Your Organization’s Response to that Need?
  • How Much Does it Cost?

When you think about your donor making an investment into your cause, it makes it easy to understand the purpose of a case for support. This simple, one-page document answers all of the questions a donor may need before deciding if your organization is a wise choice for both their dollars and their values.

As you dive more deeply into these three questions in the next paragraphs, pay attention to the request for actual numbers. This is often a pain point for nonprofits, but do not shy away from sharing real numbers for your organization. Actual numbers demonstrate true need and this transparency builds trust in your nonprofit.

What is the Need?

Wise nonprofits plug in to their community to understand the real needs of the people the organization serves. Your nonprofit exists because it strives to improve the world in a specific way. But do you truly know the current trends for the issues you intend to solve or alleviate?

Take the time to research relevant statistics that illustrate the urgency of need for your cause. If you are a youth mentoring organization, discuss mental health statistics for kids. For a religious organization, share the declining rate of parishioners for your denomination.

A long-term donor relationship is built on trust, so be sure to find the most recent available data from a trusted source. Include asterisks or other symbols to provide a footnote of cited sources for additional credibility.

Focus as locally as possible to help the statistics resonate with your target audience. For example, a national organization can use statistics that reflect national trends but a nonprofit with a county-wide reach should narrow their focus to county-level or other local statistics. Reach out to your local United Way or other collective impact organizations near you if you’re unsure how to begin.

What is Your Organization’s Response to that Need?

Now that you have your relevant, accurate, and current data, make the connection for your donor between the need in your community and how your nonprofit rose to the occasion to meet that need.

Explain the specific initiative donors are investing in for this portion of your case for support. Because philanthropy remains an increasingly competitive space, a clear understanding of the donor’s exact investment is today’s donor expectation. Asking modern donors to vaguely “give to the cause” no longer stands up against a donor’s friend asking for help to pay medical expenses on a personal fundraising page.

For example, a youth mentoring organization, prepared with the knowledge of mental health statistics, will provide detailed information here on the structured, evidence-based programs being delivered by their nonprofit. Explain how many days a week students meet and how much their grades have improved.

A religious organization takes this moment, after its followers learned fewer people are entering the faith, to discuss the scholarship fund available for seminarians and inspiring the next generation of leaders. Provide a few bullet points for the donor to explain the program, like how many current students are in the program and the rate of growth or decline in enrollment.

Following this formula for your case for support settles natural tension for your donor. First you present the truth about this societal need, then clearly explain how your organization is strategically placed to respond well to your community.

How Much Does it Cost?

If you have followed this case for support framework, you have now effectively prompted an emotional response from discussing the need then helped soothe the donor by providing your organization’s useful solution.

The donor is inspired and ready to invest, but wants to know, “what is this going to cost me?”

Don’t shy away from this natural response. Donors are only human! Honor this natural question by providing a transparent accounting of this campaign’s fundraising goal. Take the time to explain how much it costs to pay staff for a youth mentoring program or the room and board costs for a seminarian.

It welcomes repeating: taking this step will increase trust of your nonprofit through this transparency. Trust is the first currency of philanthropy, before any dollars are exchanged. As more nonprofits adopt this case for support framework, organizations who do not exercise this transparency will prompt questions and unease from potential donor-investors.

What Does a Final Case for Support Look Like?

Answer these three simple questions to develop the framework for your case for support. The final product may appear as a brochure, flyer, or script for peer-to-peer volunteers. Once you gather this information it will become clear to you the best ways to weave your case for support into your overall fundraising campaign.

For example, the data you collect about mental health statistics may inform a future speech or television commercial for your campaign. Understanding the declining audience at religious organizations may inspire a fundraising brochure or copy for a year-end appeal letter.

A solid case for support delivers a concise and informative summary of why you are asking for money. Adapting the knowledge gained from your case for support across your marketing strategy establishes a consistent, trustworthy message about your fundraiser. This helpful tool will most likely be incorporated everywhere you talk about your campaign.

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.