I spent some time catching up on grading for my Principles of Fundraising class with North Park University this weekend and the subject of a case for support really stuck with me. Basically, what we are teaching and writing sucks. Mainly because the case for support is all about the organization! Here’s our mission, what we do, what we’ve done, what we’re working on, who our leadership is, blah blah freaking blah. Does that sound like a cornerstone document aimed at inspiring donors into action? No.

At best, the classic case for support shows a plan, displays integrity and builds trust. At worst, it’s a narcissistic, uninspiring, impractical waste of people’s time. Absolutely, organizations need to make a case for support to their donors and prospective donors but it shouldn’t look like this! This is “look at how great we are so you should give” type of stuff. Not “you want to help us be great(er) and here’s how” or “join with us in our pursuit of awesomeness”.

Before you write any crazy long, boring cases of support try to answer these questions in one page with only your donor or prospective donor in mind.

Why Care?

Why should the donor care about this issue or you in the first place? Is it because you’ve been around for 40 years? I doubt it. You are changing the world in some way. You are making a difference in people’s lives in some way. You are having an impact in some way. If you’re not then you don’t deserve support so work on that first. If you really are share those things. Notice that this isn’t YOUR NEEDS or even needs for the issue, but getting at why a donor should even care.

Why You?

We work with the homeless. Great so do 40 other organizations. We help children in developing countries. Awesome, so do another 15,000 organizations. Doing work, even great work, does not make you unique and worth caring about and investing in by itself. What makes you unique? How are you best suited to do the work you do? Are you innovative? Fun? Inspiring? Experienced? Experts? Recognized? You may think of yourself as being unique but step back and look at it from the donors perspective. You’ll quickly see you are not and that changes how you talk about yourself (or it should).

Why Now?

I always maintain this is the hardest question to answer (outside of natural disasters, elections and some other “ripe” fundraising¬†industries). Is the problem you are trying to solve getting harder to solve every day it goes on? Are more people being negatively¬†impacted¬†without your work? Is there a matching donation or time sensitive “offer” tied to this need that will expire? If you’ve gotten someone to care about the issue, and recognize you are worth investing this is that last bit of persuasion that gets out the cheque book or credit card.

Answer those three questions first in a succinct manner. If you can’t, get to work. Ask some hard questions of yourself and your team until you can. If you can, then you can proceed with more of the planning and finer details some campaigns and cases may need. A case for support is about your donors and prospective donors. It’s about time we started creating a case for support for them!