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Donor Cultivation

Avoiding the Thask

By | Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Stewardship | No Comments

The end of the year brings with it two distinct “seasons” in the continuum of our donor relationships within our organizations.  The first of course begins in November with the season of Thanks. This is a time in which we take a moment to truly acknowledge those who have supported us throughout the year by giving of their time, talent and treasure. It is important to be thoughtful in crafting meaningful communications across multiple channels to support your stewardship program.  Hopefully you are doing this all year long when donations are received, however it is worth not letting this seasonal opportunity pass you by.

The second season that we run into immediately following the season of Thanks is the season of Giving. Kicked off the Tuesday following Thanksgiving with #GivingTuesday and running through year end giving campaigns.  We are all aware that December is the highest giving month of the year, weather that is due to the spirit of the holidays or the last month to make donations for tax deduction purposes.

Thus we come to the point of this article. It should be considered a fundraising faux pas to combine these two distinct messages with each other, creating a THASK or a thank you/ask.  While this may seem efficient through perceived cost and time saving benefits to your organization a “Thask” is the antithesis of a donor centric model, with negative impacts on your organizations culture of philanthropy.   Please enjoy the poem by Stephanie Vorhees entitled “The Thask” to fully understand the ramifications a Thask can have to your nonprofit.

By combining a thank you message with a request for funds, you have thus negated the appreciation of past support, as the donor will immediately focus on the new request for funds.  According to industry best practices, a donor should be thanked or acknowledged between five to seven times before they receive another solicitation from you.  These can be as simple as phone calls, hand written thank you notes, e-cards, social media shout outs, listings in newsletters, annual report materials, appreciation events, or any other creative way that aligns with your mission and donor preferences.

As we look towards the end of 2017 and beginning a new year in 2018, remember to take the time during this busy season of fundraising to truly acknowledge the impact your donors have to your daily operations, programs and services.  By taking the time to express gratitude you deepen the relationship with your donors. Let’s together agree to make “Thasking” a thing of the past.

Making the Case for a Young Advisory Board

By | All Posts, Boards + Leadership, Capacity Building, Donor Cultivation, News You Can Use, Volunteers | No Comments

Katie Lord, Vice President

As millennials progress in their careers and experience increases in their income, the corporate and philanthropic landscape will continue to shift. This age group is not only changing the workplace dynamic, it is changing the philanthropic landscape – from expectations to involvement.  It is critical to develop and offer engagement opportunities for those born between approximately 1982 and 2000 (known as the “giving generation”) – both for making financial contributions and volunteering – as millennials spur new and innovative changes to charitable giving.

In a recent report released by Dunham + Company, 22% of millennials plan to give more this year than they did last year. In 2016, millennials gave an average of $580 and an average of 40 volunteer hours. While this puts them at the lower end of financial support, millennials are the largest active generation in the workforce today and are starting to approach middle management levels. The nonprofits that harness this generation’s time and talents early will reap the benefits of their treasures later.

As millennials progress in their careers and leadership journeys, many are looking for ways to give back to organizations they care about – but in very “hands-on” ways that afford them a “seat at the table” or a chance to “lean in.” Millennials who are driven by achievement and a strong sense of social responsibility actively seek civic opportunities for service.  Creating a Young Advisory Board is a fantastic way to engage them.

Service opportunities through a Young Advisory Board allow your nonprofit to cultivate this generation, while simultaneously filling your pipeline with potential high performing Board members in the future.  It is important to set up structure, roles, responsibilities and clear expectations that create accountabilities for this group, which mirror the governing Board of Directors. A challenging aspect of working with the millennial constituency is striking a balance of nonprofit staff oversight with group autonomy. You want the Young Advisory Board to be a working board (and not turn into a social or happy hour club) while achieving goals that benefit your organization and those you serve.

In order to set up your Young Advisory Board effectively, here are some best practices to consider:

  • Young Advisory Boards should have between 12 to 15 members
    • Prospective Board members should submit an application and be interviewed
    • Board members should receive and sign off on a job description
    • Board members should represent a diverse spectrum of companies, gender and ethnicities
  • Officer/Executive Committee positions include President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary
    • Note, the President should be a non-voting member on the Board of Directors and invited to attend meetings
  • Set an individual fundraising “give” expectation – this does not have to be a large amount but does need to be an annual gift not tied to an event
  • Set a group fundraising “get” goal that can to be accomplished throughout the year utilizing peer-to-peer fundraising or an event organized by Young Advisory Board members; this is in addition to the individual fundraising “give” expectation
  • Meeting dates and times and length of meetings should be set and agreed upon by the group for greater buy-in and accountability

The above list contains some good starting points to consider when creating a Young Advisory Board.  Your culture, mission and Young Advisory Board leadership will drive many of the roles and expectations, but these best practices will provide a framework to attract young individuals with the work ethic and drive to support your organization, while cultivating a younger demographic and stewarding them to fill your pipeline of future leaders and loyal donors.

Check out Katie’s three-part series on Time, Talent and Treasure for more ideas on strengthening your nonprofit’s Boards.

#GivingTuesday Is Right Around the Corner

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Social Media, Technology | No Comments

A little more than a month away, #GivingTuesday falls on November 28th this year. In 2016, #GivingTuesday raised more than $177 million through $1.64 million gifts in 98 countries around the world. Be sure to watch for #GivingTuesday billboards throughout Kansas City: for the sixth year in a row, Lamar Advertising  is collaborating with JB+A to support this global day of giving, by generously providing pro bono digital billboards throughout the Greater Kansas City Metro.

Here are three important steps to take now for a successful #GivingTuesday this fall:

  1. Identify your #GivingTuesday Program/Theme Focus
    Highlight a specific program or immediate need to create your communications talking points and grab donors’ attention. Setting a fundraising goal that is attainable and clearly ties back to what it will help your organization accomplish increases excitement and participation.
  2. Create your #Hashtag
    Identify your unique #hashtag for your #GivingTuesday campaign based on the program or theme you have selected. Be sure to make it short and relevant to your organization and something easy for people to remember.
  3. Alert donors, volunteers and other constituents
    Let folks know via email and your website (and in any already scheduled correspondence) about your #GivingTuesday plans and educate them about the social media channels your organization will be using.  Don’t forget to arm them with your #hashtag.

For more tips about creating a solid #GivingTuesday campaign, download your own “JB+A #GivingTuesday Guide.”

Corporate Giving – Are You Tapping This Resource for Your Nonprofit?

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Giving USA, News You Can Use | No Comments

Katie Lord, Vice President

It’s once again that time of year when our corporate partners/prospects are beginning to look at budgeting and goal-setting for the next fiscal year. It’s also the time of year when we, as nonprofit fundraisers, should be setting up cultivation touch points with this donor segment.  Notice I did not say “annual meetings with our corporate partners.”  As with all of our donors, we should not only be meeting with them to make the “ask,” but to also “take the temperature of the relationship” to further grow the partnership.

According to the Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016, Corporate Giving made up 5% or $18.55 billion of the $390.05 in total giving in the United States last year.  While Corporate Giving is the smallest segment of the sources of giving, there has been an increase in Corporate Giving over the past several years: it is up 3.5% from last year alone.  With Millennials emerging as the largest generation in the workforce, it is important to understand the continual emergence and changing attitudes of the corporate sector on social responsibility.

When approaching a corporate entity, be sure you’ve done your research.  Learn as much as you can about the business, the products/services, who customers are, earnings, etc.  This research can be done by looking at the company’s website, LinkedIn page, local business publications and a quick Google search.  Most importantly, do not go into a meeting with your own pre-conceived notion of what the corporation would want or a “standard” offering or sponsorship menu for them to choose from.  Each corporation or business, just like each individual, is unique – with its own identity, goals and needs.

With the continued evolution of the fundraising and business landscapes, one size no longer fits all when building corporate relationships and donor growth.  There are now multiple ways that nonprofits can benefit from corporate philanthropy, including paid volunteer time for employees, matching gift programs, sponsorship dollars, peer to peer internal fundraising campaigns, cause marketing opportunities and corporate foundations just to name a few.  Be sure to explore all of these possibilities and combinations with your prospective/current corporate partner to ensure the optimum outcome.

Be prepared for your meeting.  Before your meeting, have thoughtful and tailored specific questions, be able to discuss what a charitable partnership looks like and how both parties can measure outcomes and success.  Ask open-ended questions and then LISTEN to the answers.  It is important to be able to articulate how a partnership can be mutually beneficial, by helping the business achieve its goals internally while simultaneously having an impact on your organization and the community externally.

If you are renewing a relationship, be able to illustrate the outcomes of your partnership or projected outcomes.  Include numbers such as digital impressions, value of corporate volunteer time to the organization and what sponsorship dollars were able to achieve.   Also share personal results, quotes from any employees about the impact the partnership had on them or stories of people who directly benefitted from the financial support the corporation provided the organization.

Corporate Giving is a vast resource in our nonprofit communities.  Creativity is important and it is mandatory to think outside the proverbial box in order to meet the changing landscape of corporations, their employees and social responsibility. Gone are the days of offering corporations a set menu of charitable options.  We, as nonprofit professionals, have to be able to entice corporations to build sustainable relationships with the positive outcomes of our partnership.  We have to learn and grow with them by offering innovative ways to contribute to the nonprofit organizations in their communities with their donor dollars, the support of their employees and the positive impact of their contributions in time, talent and treasure.

Do Your Homework, Sit Still and LISTEN

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Prospect Research, Volunteers | No Comments

Jeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO

We know to do our homework on prospective donors. You’ve heard me say time and again “Don’t commit fundraising malpractice!” (See my blog piece on the benefits of prospect research here.)That means do your research – because it reveals information about the wealth and capacity of prospects as well as information about philanthropic giving history, community involvement, natural partners and connections. And your donor database should contain important notes about your prospects and interactions with them. Prepare for your visit.

Sitting still tells your audience you really care about what they should say. Don’t shuffle your papers. Don’t check your phone. Don’t fidget. Sitting still lets you hear what your prospective donor should tell you about their life story and experiences – maybe even how a single instance changed their life. You can learn why they are passionate about your organization and its mission.

I believe in order to be a great fundraiser, you have to be a good – if not great – listener. Human nature might urge you to fill quiet moments with a remark or an anecdote. Of course you are nervous, and anxious to impress. You certainly want to make a connection you can build upon later. But it is in those quiet moments that you, as a volunteer or professional, can learn the most.  Waiting for the prospective donor to share might result in hearing firsthand how your healthcare institution saved their life. You might learn a relative was a long-time volunteer. You might learn how an agency similar to yours provided their mother with safety and refuge from domestic violence.  Resist the urge to talk about yourself.  Ask prospective donors about themselves…and then listen to what they say. Some good lead-ins might include:

  • “Tell me more about that …”
  • “What did she/he say about that…?”
  • “What happened next …?”
  • “What made you decide to …?”

You get the idea. You can think up your own list of “conversation engagers” that will help you get to know your prospective donor and involve them in the meeting. The bottom line is this: regardless of with whom you are meeting, when you get your prospective donors talking about themselves – when you ask about them – your prospective donor will come away from the visit feeling much more satisfied and positive about you and your organization than if you had used the time trying to tell them the 50 wonderful things you are doing to make a difference.

However, all of this doesn’t mean you should not educate your listeners about your organization and your mission. I’d suggest you use the 80/20 rule. Inform 20 percent of the time and LISTEN the other 80 percent.

In training staff and volunteers to make major gift solicitations, we place considerable emphasis on setting the appointment, sharing the vision and asking for the gift. Think about all the times we practice the script for the call or role-play the visit.  But how often do we practice listening? If you have volunteers who are reluctant to go on solicitation calls, think about how can coaching them on listening style can help them overcome their jitters about making the “ask.”

And finally, care about what’s being said and commit it to memory. Make notes when you leave if you need to capture details. This kind of active listening and remembering stems from truly caring about the donor. Don’t let the lure of a gift keep you from truly caring and listening to the prospective donor’s words. If you are listening and caring (and, of course, remembering to ask for the gift,) the gift will come.

Is Your Ask Using the Right Emotional Messages?

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Prospect Research | No Comments

Editor’s Note:  We are pleased to introduce Grant Gooding of Proof Positioning as a guest contributor. Grant cut his teeth in the mergers and acquisitions world which gave him an uncommon, macro understanding of the hard and soft components of businesses and market transition. He took his knowledge of analyzing hundreds of businesses to consult with entrepreneurs, mostly inventors, to help them shape their brands relative to the market landscape. He then took this concept to the next level creating Proof Positioning in 2012 where he integrated consumer insights research into his market based brand process, allowing him to use statistics to show organizations what they can say to close more business.

When making an ask, taking into consideration the different emotional and psychographic idiosyncrasies of your audience can make all the difference.

Although we like to believe we are highly logical beings and use mostly logic when making decisions, neuroscience has debunked this once widely thought presumption and taught us that all our decision making, regardless of its subject and value, resides in our emotional brain.  The money and time that we give to charities and nonprofits is no different.  This being the case, understanding and measuring those emotions is especially important when considering asks to potential and existing donors.

This was evident in a study where our firm was charged with understanding minority population giving motivations for a fund.  We discovered clear trends that allowed our client to make gentle shifts that increased the emotional resonance and engagement of donors.  While there were many takeaways from this study, one simple, yet fascinating discovery was around the different emotionally resonant value propositions of male vs. female donors.  These are some high-level findings and recommendations from that study:

Women:

The data showed very high emotional resonance of three specific value propositions (i) the organization’s reputation (25% higher than men); (ii) the outcomes the organization has achieved (25% higher); and (iii) the transparency of administrative costs (15% higher).  Based on this data we suggested the organization segment its donor database and send separate communications (email, social, event, etc.) to men and women. Some of our recommendations included:

  • Highlight the reputation of the organization by including specific details around outcomes (either stories or statistics) the programs have achieved.  This was the most important thing to women and we recommended including these “micro-stories” into all non-administrative communication to female donors.
  • Be upfront and provide detail around organizational overhead, program costs and money that goes to the people.  They understand these costs exist and will not only appreciate the honesty but sharing this information will actually increase their emotional engagement.

Men:

The data indicated there were three very DIFFERENT value propositions that resonated with men (i) the organization helped other minorities (27% higher than women); (ii) programs increase quality of life in their local community (12% higher); and (iii) programs impact someone I know personally (8% higher).  We made some recommendations based on this data:

  • Start being more outward and explicit about the organization only helping minorities.  This was the most important thing to men, by far, regardless of the program details or the specific outcomes.
  • Use more donor-centric phrases such as “This will impact your neighborhood,” or “This will help someone that you might know.”  This strategy dramatically increased the probability of creating an ambassador out of a male donor.

The fact none of the top three value propositions were coinciding for men and women was not only shocking to us but to the organization as well.  Based on the data, they were able to make simple changes to their communication strategy and their asks to help better align their messages with the things their donors found most important.

While not every organization has dramatic differences between the sexes, variance exists in every donor population because we are emotional, human beings and we all value different things.  If you consider and measure the emotions of your donors and cater your messages to say the right thing to the right people you will have more successful asks and a more engaged donor population.

Grant Gooding holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from William Jewell College/UMKC and an MBA with an emphasis in qualitative marketing from The Bloch School of Business at UMKC. Grant also serves as a Board member to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including the UMKC Marketing Advisory Board, is an adviser to several startups and is a frequent lecturer, mentor and judge for the entrepreneur community.  Grant is passionate about educating in the areas of entrepreneurship and brand philosophy. You can reach Grant and Proof Positioning by visiting http://proofpositioning.com/.

Top Five Ways Nonprofits Can Use Giving USA

By | All Posts, Boards + Leadership, Capacity Building, Commentary, Current Events/News, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Giving USA, Insights, Stewardship, The Giving Institute | No Comments

Giving USA is a powerful tool:  it is the most trusted annual report on the sources and uses of philanthropy in the U.S., but it’s also a valuable resource in helping us improve philanthropy.  Nonprofit organizations can (and should) use Giving USA to help identify trends as well as opportunities to strengthen resource development efforts.

Here are my Top Five Ways Nonprofits Can Use Giving USA to improve their fundraising:

5. Understand the correlations between giving and economic factors
The stock market, personal wealth, personal income, GDP, corporate pre-tax profits and unemployment rates impact giving by all four sources (individuals, foundations, bequests and corporations). Trends are closely monitored by people “inside” and “outside” the philanthropy sector.
Be aware of changes in these indicators, anticipate how changes will impact donors and adjust fundraising strategies accordingly

4. Confirm or dispel myths about giving
Economic and political scenarios, complex societal issues, diverse giving platforms, wealth and capacity are just some of the drivers behind philanthropy.
Understand the context of these drivers, help manage expectations about giving and set realistic and achievable goals

3. Educate Board members, volunteers, donors and staff about the broad context of philanthropic giving
Help stakeholders better understand your organization’s funding patterns and potential

2. Be nimble in your fundraising and stewardship
Nonprofit fundraising must evolve as philanthropy evolves.  We are seeing an increase in the popularity of non-traditional giving vehicles (such as donor-advised funds and non-cash assets) and donors want more evidence of the impact of their gifts.
Listen to your donors and prospective donors – and tailor your strategies to match their needs and expectations

1. Recognize the “individual giving effect”
An estimated 87% of total giving in 2016 came from individuals, bequests and family foundations.
There are human beings involved in every gift; focus on developing and maintaining meaningful relationships

And remember:

Strengthen your case for support:  the best cases are realistic, relevant and compelling while being supported by the facts and clearly communicating the purpose, programs and financial needs of your organization.

Celebrate your impact: Americans give an average of more than $1 billion a day to help others.  Nonprofits and donors are doing great work.

Giving makes a difference, to both giver and recipient, but we can do more.  So spread the word about the good philanthropy has done – and the good it will continue to do.

I encourage you to download the two traditional pie charts illustrating 2016 source contributions and recipients and share with Board members, your CEO and development staff.

View JB+A’s recap of Giving USA 2017  findings here.

Check out key takeaways from Dr. Rooney’s 2017 Giving USA presentation in Kansas City.

About Giving USA
For over 60 years, Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy in America, has produced comprehensive charitable giving data that are relied on by donors, fundraisers and nonprofit leaders. The research in this annual report estimates all giving to all charitable organizations across the United States.  Giving USA is a public outreach initiative of Giving USA FoundationTM and is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Giving USA FoundationTM, established in 1985 by The Giving Institute, endeavors to advance philanthropy through research and education. Explore Giving USA products and resources, including free highlights of each annual report at its online store at www.givingusa.org for more information.

About The Giving Institute
The Giving Institute, the parent organization of Giving USA FoundationTM, consists of member organizations that have embraced and embodied the core values of ethics, excellence and leadership in advancing philanthropy. Serving clients of every size and purpose, from local institutions to international organizations, The Giving Institute member organizations embrace the highest ethical standards and maintain a strict code of fair practices. For information on selecting fundraising counsel, visit www.givinginstitute.org. Jeffrey Byrne has the honor of Chairing The Giving Institute Board of Directors (2015-2017).

Donor Relationships: transform donors into partners

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Donor Cultivation, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Stewardship | No Comments

Bruce Broce, M.A., Vice President

 A Board member once asked me if I considered our philanthropic supporters to be “donors” or “partners.” I answered by saying they ideally should be both. Every nonprofit has donors, but the really successful ones expand their relationship with their constituents beyond the financial plane and nurture them as partners who can help move forward the organization’s mission.

When it comes to fundraising, nonprofits tend to allocate the majority of their time and energy on acquiring donors. But let’s be honest, not nearly enough time is spent thinking about how to retain donors, and that’s a missed opportunity. Being a donor has become part of our daily lives; think about how frequently you’re asked to support something. Whether it’s donating $1 at the pet store when checking out, or buying a begonia to help your neighborhood school, charitable giving is often reduced to a transaction instead of being a meaningful, participatory and ongoing experience. Oftentimes, what distinguishes a philanthropic experience is what happens after a donation is made.

Your organization would be well served to review what processes are set in motion when donors make gifts. Because donors can feel like an organization’s checkbook, use the stewardship phase to further educate and engage donors. This helps them better understand the impact of their gift and prepares the groundwork for them becoming partners the next time they enter the donor cycle. Impactful and transformational giving occurs when a donor sees a partnership as the natural outcome of your relationship and the basis for how their philanthropic investment will meaningfully impact your organization.

Keep in mind that the tools that were initially used to attract and cultivate prospects tend to be set aside once they’ve become donors. You would be surprised how a donor’s perspective changes once they understand how their gift has impacted your organization. I once gave a “thank you tour” of our program, which was essentially the tour we gave prospective donors at the onset of cultivation. However, because the donor now possessed a deeper understanding of our services being offered, she said she could better appreciate the work being accomplished by our staff. As a result, her giving increased and she became an advocate of our organization within the community, championing us to potential new donors. In other words, she transitioned from being a donor to becoming a partner who was vested in the success of our organization.

A comprehensive fundraising program is as strategic and genuine in its thanks, appreciation and ongoing engagement as it is in its solicitation. Make sure your organization has a carefully designed program of acquisition, retention, stewardship and ultimately involvement of your key donors. These elements are critical to strengthening relationships with the donors you already have, and ultimately, creating lasting partnerships from which your organization will benefit.

Just Ask.

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Prospect Research | No Comments

Saber Hossinei, Coordinator of Administration + Consulting

Have you seen those shirts with JUST DO IT across the front? It certainly makes for a catchy phrase, but the meaning behind it is so much more than that. It’s a message of action. Regardless of one’s condition, level of experience or ability, don’t forget what’s truly necessary: action. And with action, come results.

In my background with sales and sales training, the recurring obstacle for many of the trainees I worked with (rookie and veteran salespeople alike) was “making the ask.” How is it that most folks can be trained to do an excellent job with all aspects of the sales process, yet drop the ball when it comes to asking for the sale? Anecdotally, I can tell you that the best sales reps had the opposite problem. They weren’t great planners or polished presenters, but they asked for a sale with each and every visit, and as the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Recently, I had the privilege to serve on the silent auction subcommittee for a nonprofit’s annual gala fundraiser. It was my first time in such a role, and in fact it was my first time ever asking for donations. Armed with just a letter about the event and a donation request form, I hit the street and went door to door in a shopping center to ask for donations. Of course, I was very excited to receive a nice item from the first business I approached, and by the end of my walk, I had received not only merchandise and gift cards for the silent auction, but also referrals to other businesses to solicit for donations! The bottom line is, I might have felt poorly prepared, but by showing up and asking for donations, I received them.

I am certainly not making a case against proper and thorough preparation for solicitations. The qualification, cultivation and solicitation process with prospective donors is critically important, and today, we have many valuable resources readily available to help us develop strong strategies for relationship-building with our prospects/donors. (Check out Jeffrey’s article “Don’t Commit Fundraising Malpractice” about how nonprofits should “do their “homework” on prospective donors.)

But nonprofits suffer when leadership, staff and volunteers are reluctant to “make the ask,” or want to wait until everything is “perfect.” Don’t get “paralysis by analysis.” Your Boards, staff and volunteers should be taught that making an “ask” is not only the most important element in obtaining donations, but it is also the right thing to do. You owe your supporters action, your potential donors the opportunity to support your cause and you owe those who benefit from your nonprofit your best work! JUST ASK.

The “Case” for the Case for Support

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, News You Can Use | No Comments

By Heather Ehlert, Vice President of Client Services

For most of us, speaking confidently about our organization’s mission comes naturally. But we can best respond to the question “Why should I donate or support your organization?” after we’ve gone through the process of developing a Case for Support.  Good advocates for any organization – Board members, Executive Directors, fundraisers and program and administrative staff – will not only fully understand the Case for their organization, but will be able to eloquently share it.  This is just one reason why a strong, well-developed Case for Support is essential to your organization’s fundraising success.

Case for Support – just what is it?

The Association of Fundraising Professional’s Fundraising Dictionary defines the case for support as “the reason why an organization both needs and merits philanthropic support, usually by outlining the organization’s programs, current needs and plans.”  “Case for Support” is also a broad term, often encompassing many different end uses. Variations of an organizational Case for Support can be developed for specific types of fundraising activities – such as a Fundraising Feasibility Study (concept paper) or Capital Campaign (campaign brochure). These pieces incorporate the general summary of the organization’s activities and purpose plus items that are specific to the fundraising effort in which it will be used.

What’s your “Case” for the Case?  

A Case for Support is much more than an informational brochure that you leave with donors. It should be required reading for every one of your organization’s advocates. This includes your staff, Board members, volunteers and anyone else who could be speaking on behalf of your organization.

Aside from functioning as an educational tool, the Case for Support is the foundation from which all marketing and development collateral is based. It could be used for developing materials for an annual campaign, special event or as supplemental information for government grant and foundation proposals.

The Case for Support should be used as part of the recruitment process for new Board members and other key volunteers, in staff orientations and training events, for internal committees who may be looking at expanding or changing the types of services offered to the community and as part of the strategy when educating public officials about the organization’s role in the community.

These are just a handful of ways that a Case for Support can enhance your organization.

What goes into a Case for Support?

Before you get started, ask yourself  – Why does your organization exist? What do you do? Whom do you serve? What makes your organization unique? Your answers provide the core elements for your Case that will define your role in the community. Some critical elements that should be included in the “Case for Support” include the following:

  • Your mission (or purpose statement) and how it creates passion in your staff, Board members and volunteers
  • Your organization’s vision, values and long-range plans; your goals
  • A history of your organization, including “founding families” and other milestones
  • A listing of programs and services that you provide to the community
  • Descriptions of your programs/services stated in terms of the impact they have had in your community over the last three years, and your projected impact in the near future (number of people served, outcomes achieved, economic impacts or impacts stated in other terms that are consistent with the mission and goals of your organization)
  • Your financial strength, or capacity to do the work you do – this demonstrates your financial stability and good stewardship of donors’ funds
  • A list of board members, other key volunteers, staff and donors

The first of JB+A’s Six Criteria for Success in fundraising is A Case for Support that is Realistic, Relevant and Compelling. A fact-based and compelling story will have urgency, significance and appeal.  An effective Case for Support is specific in scope and will clearly communicate the purpose, programs and financial needs of the organization.  It will explain why the organization seeks funding and will demonstrate potential benefits to stakeholders.

Facts are all well and good, but be sure to use these facts to tell a human story that moves people to get involved. Speak to a supporter of your organization and find out what they love about your mission. Interview an individual served by your organization – what does it mean to them to have this resource in the community?

A short, sweet and compelling Case is your key to success. Put yourself in your prospective donors’ shoes and ask yourself, “What would YOU want to know in order to drop everything and help them make a difference?”