By Ame Eldredge, Senior Consultant
A few years ago, I was sitting with a friend who was stuck. She was serving at an amazing organization that was truly building the Kingdom of God by equipping, empowering and sending missionaries around the world. Her biggest challenge at the time was raising funds in order to take their organization to the next level. I asked if she wanted to talk through some strategies for how to get unstuck and she said, “I’d love to, but don’t make me use one of those flippy books…” I had to pause for a moment considering her response, and I realized she was talking about a case statement. I spent the next thirty minutes or so explaining to her why this was, in fact, one of the very first things she needed to do!
The case statement is the first piece in a five-part fundamental framework for fundraising – Case, Leadership, Prospects, Strategy and Plan. So, why is the case statement so important? I’m glad you asked. Here are five reasons why your organization needs a case statement.
The case statement…
ALIGNS YOUR VISION
A great case statement should be born out of a strategic plan. That plan is then clarified and broken into “buckets” or initiatives using language and outcomes that those outside of your organization can be inspired by and rally around. The task of creating the case will create internal alignment on the way your organization talks about its goals, vision, and the measurable impact on those you serve.
AFFIRMS YOUR STORY
The case statement is a presentation tool. The use of graphs, visuals, pictures, and stories of life-change will be more compelling than an abundance of text. The case is not meant to stand on its own but will come alive to share the vision of your organization when used by your president, development officers, board or volunteers. Those presenting the case should know it well, be able to paraphrase rather than read it, and tell the story with enthusiasm!
Is AUDIENCE SPECIFIC
When working with organizations to help them develop their case statement, one of the first things we do is to have them tell us about some of their most significant partners or “major donors” – those that are highly engaged and are givers. We ask questions like: What is the general age-range of this group? Why do they give? Who do they know well? What are some of the programs or initiatives they are most drawn to? Our answers to these questions help build a profile of the specific audience for the case statement and help inform things like the type of stories we share, the data and visual material we use, the look of the document, even the way we talk about the problems that exist that our organization is trying to address. As the core communication piece for your fundraising vision, our first goal is that the case speaks to your top givers. From there pieces of the case can be reworked to speak to additional various audiences throughout your organization and for different venues and formats (such as events and social media).
We often talk about the case statement being used either horizontally or vertically. Imagine you are meeting with a newer or potential partner – presenting the case horizontally, or broadly, will help educate them on who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. For those who have walked with you for a long time, a vertical approach may be used, where you spend time drilling down on a particular initiative or area that is of particular interest to them. For both of these, the case statement provides a wonderful opportunity to listen – to hear your donors heart, to invite their questions about your vision and the impact, and to ask them about what they are drawn to or interested in, and how they think about their giving.
Leads to APPROPRIATE ASKS
One day a client came to us frustrated that their meetings with their major donors were not yielding the size gifts that these partners had previously indicated they would consider. After some investigation, it turned out that the president was not using the case statement during these meetings. Inadvertently, he was missing the principle that “people give when they are asked and shown how their gift fits into the larger picture.” The case statement not only provides a context for the various initiatives you are presenting, but also your financial need, or budget for those initiatives. Additionally, the case statement should include a gift plan with clear upper, middle and lower giving levels so that people can see how their investment will fit into the organization’s need. When this is clearly laid out, conversations with your strategic partners then engages them around considering a lead gift in the upper tier to provide momentum for others to give or considering a gift in the middle tier between $100K and $250K or helping us cross the finish line by giving one of three remaining $10K gifts.
You may be wondering if my friend was ever convinced. A few months after our first conversation, I found myself again sitting with my friend. This time we were debriefing a recent meeting that she had with one of her ministry’s financial partners. During this meeting she (drumroll please) used their organizations newly created case statement. She was excitedly reflecting on the great conversation and the level of engagement from this partner. I asked her how it felt to use the case statement to guide the conversation and she said, “I hate to admit it, but there might be something to these flippy books.”