Fundraising is all about inspiring people, so take the time to understand - and explain - your reason 'why'.
Welcome to Episode 2 of ‘Step change: a road map for new fundraisers’. Moving on from your elevator pitch, this week we’re going to look at the foundation of fundraising communications. Your Case for Support. No idea what we’re talking about? No problem. That’s why we’re here.
What is a ‘Case for Support’?
As a fresh-faced fundraiser, one of my first-ever tasks was to write a Case for Support (or C4S, as they lovingly became known). It was a great way to get to know my new organisation. There was just one problem. I had no idea what a Case for Support actually was. Let alone any clue how to write one. But I persevered. By the time I was done, I didn’t just have one case, I had seven. One for each country programme and an umbrella piece for the organisation as a whole. They were a lot of work, but it was worth it. Why? Because a Case for Support is your foundation for fundraising. It is a catch-all document that brings together everything you need to make an ask. A blueprint from which all fundraising applications and campaigns are crafted.
To publish or not to publish, that is the question
Fast forward 10 years, and Google shows something different. More and more, charities are turning their Case for Support into fully-fledged marketing materials. I can see the rationale behind this move, but I hold firm to my conviction that a Case for Support is – and should always be – an internal document. It’s live and dynamic. To produce it as an external piece not only hinders this function, it also runs with the assumption that every donor wants the same piece of information presented in the same way. They don’t. As a fundraiser you need to be adapting the content from your Case for Support and turning it into a tailored ask. Not handing people the same mini-essay to read.
What to include?
One of the reasons I advocate an internal Case for Support is that (when done well) it will house pretty much all the information you need to get you through your next grant application or fundraising appeal. And because everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, you can be sure your organisation is delivering a strong and consistent ask.
The final product will vary, but as a starting point, I would recommend including information on the following key areas (feel free to add or remove items from the list if you need. It’s your Case for Support after all!).
A statement of need: Every case needs a strong foundation, and this is it. Your why. Your reason to be. A good statement of need will not only have facts, it will also have heart. Fundraising will always be about people, so make sure your words appeal to the person who will read it.
Headline stats: No matter how great your statement of need is, you will not be able to use the same one for every ask. Why not pull together a series of key headline stats that support your argument? This way people have quick-reference access to the information they need to make their case.
Vision and mission: Martin Luther King didn’t have an afterthought or a vague idea, he had a dream. Your vision and mission statements are your chance to sell yours.
Goals and ambition: You need to show your donors how your ask fits into your wider organisational strategy. Outline your goals for the next three, five or 10 years and show how their support will mobilise action towards them.
Project outline: What are you fundraising for? Describe your project and programmes, what you plan to achieve and how you plan to achieve it.
Stories: Scientifically proven to elicit an emotional response (more on that in Episode 5) stories are one of the best tools a fundraiser has. Your Case for Support should include at least one story (or links to several) that showcase your work.
Impact stats: Just as you did in your ‘statement of need’ it’s helpful to have some quick-draw impact stats ready to go. This will make it easier for staff to present their own arguments, and ensure that everyone is delivering a consistent message.
Budget and ask: How much is your project going to cost, what have you raised so far, and how much more do need? If you can, include a detailed and up-to-date budget, with a narrative description that can be copy and pasted into different applications. I would also recommend writing a short ‘shopping list’ of key items that can be used for direct mail and other fundraising campaigns.
Sustainability: There are two questions to ask when it comes to the issue of sustainability. 1) How will the impact of your work be sustained in the future? 2) How will you fund your work in the future? You need to make sure you have a strong response to this question. It’s one trusts, and institutional funders always ask!
Value for money: Donor’s LOVE this question, so have your response ready. It only needs a paragraph, but a short description of how you make the most of every pound is a good asset to have. Don’t shy away from the issue of core costs. If you spend 15% on fundraising, own it. It’s the only way you will raise more money, after all!
Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL): Another ‘must-have’ for grant application forms. Write a brief paragraph outlining your data collection processes, and how you use this information to inform, adjust and adapt your work. And remember, MEL isn’t just about numbers. Qualitative information (stories, photos, film) is a great way to add depth, passion and personality.
Data protection and safeguarding: It’s important stuff. Donors need to know you are on top of the situation and that you are working to ensure the safety and well-being of donors, staff and service users. This is your chance to reassure them!
Top tips for creating your case:
Looking at this list, the reason why you don’t publish it as an external document is crystal clear. It’s not a light and breezy document, and no donor needs this much detail about your work (I lie, some do – particularly trusts, governments and institutions). Anyway, before you set sail on your fundraising journey, I wanted to share some tips to help make sure your Case for Support shines.
TIP #1 - Don’t write it on your own: Organisational buy-in is key. You need to be working across different departments for input and feedback – creating a case that accurately reflects your vision, mission, ambition and ethos.
TIP #2 - Take the time to get your words right: Just because it’s an internal document, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be well written. Polishing your argument now saves time in the future. With the right words, you can copy, paste (and tweak) sections into fundraising applications and asks, rather than recreating the wheel every single time.
TIP #3 - Research, reference and source your work: No you won’t remember where the data or information came from. Add references and links to supporting documentation so you can back up your claims if needed.
TIP #4 - Update it regularly: A Case for Support is a live, dynamic document. Put some time aside every quarter to review and update key information and data.
TIP #5 - Don’t limit yourself: It should go without saying, but the above is only a guide, not a set of instructions. If they don’t work for your organisation, create a process that does. It doesn’t matter how you get there (there’s more than one road to Rome). What does matter is that you take the time to process your case and make sure everyone’s working from the same toolkit. And that toolkit has all the hammers, screws, nuts and bolts you need to make the most of that all-important ask.
Not sure how to take the next step and present the information to a funder? Don’t worry. In Episode 3 we’ll be looking at how to turn your Case for Support into a concept note that inspires. Stay tuned!