Creating your case for support is among the most important steps you’ll take to set up your capital campaign for success. Since these campaigns are such big undertakings— frequently several years spent raising more money than you’ve ever raised before—understanding what an effective case for support is and isn’t should be at the very top of your campaign planning to-do list.
In fact, as soon as you have a clear idea of what your campaign will be raising money for, you should hit the ground running to start developing your case for support.
Let’s help get you started. Below, we’ll review all the essentials and how to create, refine, and use your case for support once your campaign is underway.
What is a capital campaign case for support?
A capital campaign case for support is a compelling set of ideas expressed in ways that will move people to give to your capital campaign.
It’s the underlying argument of why your campaign matters and why donors should support it. What are you raising money for? What will be the ultimate outcome and impact of your success? How will that success improve your community and your constituents’ lives?
You’ll use your case for support to help guide your campaign from start to finish, but it’s especially useful during the quiet phase. In this phase, you’ll focus heavily on having one-on-one conversations with prospects to convince them of your campaign’s importance and secure their generous support.
Your case for support should serve as your campaign team’s guiding light, keeping your messaging on the same page, and giving you a centralized location to make adjustments during the course of the campaign as needs arise.
What is a case for support not?
A capital campaign case for support is not a brochure. Or a slide deck, or a flyer, solicitation letter, or any other single piece of paper or digital resource.
Remember that a case for support is a set of ideas, but this set of ideas will take many forms during your campaign—including perhaps eventually a campaign brochure.
But it’s important to not conflate your case for support with the forms it takes since this can limit its ultimate value. The exercise of developing and refining your case for support as an intangible set of ideas will generate excitement, buy-in, and a shared vision for your team. Moreover, it should be useful in all kinds of contexts, not just as a single resource or marketing asset used in one part of your campaign or to talk to one type of donor.
It’s also very unlikely that you’ll sit down and write the perfect case for support in one go. You can and should go through multiple drafts and seek the input of your key stakeholders to find the language that expresses the importance of your campaign in the most concise and compelling way possible.
How do you write a campaign case for support?
Whether you’re planning a multi-million dollar capital campaign or a quicker mini-campaign to build additional capacity for your mission, the process of developing a winning case for support is the same:
- Understand your case’s purpose and its key elements. Review why you’re writing the case for support, i.e. the problem your campaign will solve and the impact that your success will have. Think about all the essentials you’ll need to address:
- Your vision
- Your plan for the campaign
- The problem your campaign will solve
- The associated costs of your project and campaign
- Why your campaign is needed now
- The motivating call to action for your campaign
- Choose a writer for your case. In many cases, this will likely be you as a leader of the campaign. If not, someone who knows your nonprofit, writes well, and is prepared to work closely with a team to refine the case will also work.
- Gather necessary information. This includes specifically defining what you’re raising money for, its costs, and the measurable impact it will have.
- Recruit a larger team. Build a team of 15 or so people you can ask for help and input on the case for support. These should be people close to or within the organization plus a few external stakeholders who aren’t yet closely involved with the campaign.
- Form a core case committee. Of the people on your larger team, choose 3 to 5 of them to serve on an ad hoc case for support committee. Meet with them early on to present the project and discuss the central ideas of your case.
- Write the first draft. Remember that your initial case should be concise, compelling, and simple—it’ll be refined later on as the specifics of your campaign become clearer.
- Review your draft with leadership. Ask your core case committee, executive director, board chair, and campaign chair to review the draft and provide input. Incorporate their changes into a fresh second draft.
- Seek more feedback. Ask for input from the larger team you recruited and make changes as needed. Keep clearly labeled and dated versions of each draft to avoid any mix-ups or unnecessary confusion.
- Review the case with your board. As your case for support begins coming into focus, review it with your organization’s entire board. Make more revisions as needed.
- Distribute the case for support. Share the most up-to-date version with everyone who had a hand in shaping it and thank them for their help so far. Continue to accept feedback and make tweaks. You’ll have a campaign-ready version when your case for support is embraced by your organization and tells a clear, compelling story about your campaign and goals.
What are the benefits of writing a stellar case for support?
Writing a case for support with your team brings a few significant benefits:
- You’ll be required to think carefully about and define your campaign’s purpose, objectives, and call to action early on. This will give you a clearer vision from the very start as you work to refine your plans and case for support over time.
- Developing the case for support builds agreement, buy-in, and excitement among your key stakeholders, whose involvement will be critical for success later.
- The case process is also an excellent opportunity to energize your campaign’s prospective lead donors. Ask them to serve on your core case committee or simply provide feedback along the way to generate a sense of ownership and a desire to see your plans succeed.
Your refined case for support will also serve as the foundation for all kinds of other campaign communications that you’ll develop over the course of the campaign.
For example, individualized donor discussion guides used in meetings with prospects during the quiet phase should draw heavily from your core case for support as you lay out personalized solicitation strategies. Your case should also outline and solidify the central arguments that will anchor your broader messages, gala promotions, and other campaign marketing efforts in the kickoff and public phases.
An Important Reminder
Finally, remember that your capital campaign case for support is a working document. It should be adjusted and updated as needs arise while you plan your campaign. Capital campaigns, just like most other big projects, succeed when they’re adaptable.
A campaign consultant or guide can certainly help you refine your case for support, but the process of drafting and developing it yourself is immensely valuable. Think of it as an exercise for exploring and clarifying the ideas that will make the most compelling argument possible for your campaign—not as a one-and-done brochure.
Capital Campaign Readiness Assessment
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Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, and Andrea Kihlstedt are co-founders of the Capital Campaign Toolkit, a virtual support system for nonprofit leaders running successful campaigns. The Toolkit provides all the tools, templates, and guidance you need — without breaking the bank.