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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 11.3


The Case for Support

The ‘case for support’ is the cornerstone of any fundraising activity. It captures who you are, what you do, what your goals are and why people should join with you to achieve these goals. It is informative and inspirational and is the touchstone for all the communications that support your fundraising.

The very process of developing a case for support can be used to engage your stakeholders as you invite their input. A case for support can:

  • Inspire support both internally and externally,
  • Be a communications tool acting as a discussion document with prospects,
  • Be a marketing tool,
  • Be used to train and motivate staff,
  • Assist in the fundraising planning process and
  • Be a resource document when developing proposals.

Most institutions develop an overarching case for support that sets the context for the creation of individual, project-based cases for support.

Before You Start to Write

Before you can capture the essence of what you are trying to achieve, you need to understand the bigger picture.

To do this, gather together as much information as you can about your institution so you can establish its credentials as a viable cause. This includes information about its heritage, impact on the world, past and current achievements and the current vision and priorities of the institution. You must be able to substantiate any claims you make (e.g., you can’t claim to be ‘excellent at research’ without providing proof with details about the volume of research papers you publish, the number of world-leading professors you employ and the impact your research is having on the world).

Alongside this information gathering, you need to determine exactly what goals and aspirations you want your case for support to relay and how these aspirations relate to the overall external profile of your institution. Clearly and passionately articulated goals and aspirations will inspire your supporters.

Writing the Case for Support

When you begin to write, you are telling the story of your institution – where it has come from, where it is now and where (with additional support) it will be in the future.

A case for support should not be a dry, academic presentation of facts and figures but a balanced argument that clearly and concisely identifies a plan of action and describes, with passion (and a few powerful statistics), why achieving that plan is important. It should not be sentimental and overly emotional but inspiring and engaging.

Above all, it must have a ring of authenticity. Think about what information you want to convey to your stakeholders, and make sure you cover the basics of: who, why, what, where, when and how.

Case studies, quotations from beneficiaries and existing supporters, statistics and images all help to add personality to your case for support and engage the reader, though they should add to and not dilute the central argument.

Use language that is concise, positive, professional and easy to read. Avoid jargon, acronyms, wordiness and talking down to the reader.

Draft, Consult and Redraft

Once you have written your first draft, you can use it as a discussion document with stakeholders – both internal and external – to inform your second draft. This review process is a great opportunity to both engage stakeholders in what you are trying to achieve and to improve your understanding of how your organisation is perceived. Ask your stakeholders:

  • Does it make sense?
  • Is it easy to read?
  • Is anything missing?
  • Is anything unnecessary?
  • Did they find it inspirational?

Listen to the feedback you receive and redraft until you think you have an effective working document.

A case for support is never really finished but continually tweaked and revised as fundraising activities evolve and it is presented to different stakeholder groups.

The case does not have to be a glossy brochure. It needs to be able to adapt to different modes of communication – web, print, face-to-face – and be easily updatable.

You can see some sample campaign case statements on the CASE website, as well as information about topics such as philanthropy trends, to help you build your case for support. 

Action Items
  • When you are launching a development office – learning from the institution’s leadership about their priorities and vision and developing a fundraising strategy – you must be able to articulate a powerful case for supporting your institution.
  • Draft this case for support, with at least some initial research to back your arguments and internal feedback, before doing any significant donor cultivation.
  • Revise, revise, revise, and use this as a way to engage key stakeholders.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Articulating the vision and setting the priorities
Championing the office internally
Developing a fundraising strategy
Engaging institutional leadership
Leave behinds and printed materials
Proposal writing

Motivate Me

If you were a busy, savvy millionaire who is constantly presented with investment opportunities, what case for support would stand out and motivate you?

Penne talks about development as storytelling and adapting lessons learned at CASE to her culture.
Betheny Reid, associate vice-chancellor and foundation president of the Dallas County Community Colleges District, talks about how her department launched the Dallas Rising Star scholarship campaign—without any data indicating that the amount of money needed could be raised.
Abraham talks about creating a case for support in preparation for creating a development program.
Henrik Pompeius, head of development at Stockholm University, talks about how to respond to donor tax questions and make the case for giving.