The Case for the Case Statement
By Mary Walker, Petrus Blog Contributor
When a ministry starts to look at fundraising in a systematic, and dare I say disciplined way, one of the first steps is to develop a Case for Support, also known as a Case Statement.
If you are embarking on a capital campaign or want to increase annual funding, you’ll need a carefully crafted case statement.
The case statement answers the simple question: Why should somebody donate?
Let’s get this out of the way first—nobody wants to write a case statement.
This blog post is a blatant pep talk about why it’s important to take the time to write a good one. Petrus Development can walk you through the steps of creating a case statement, and websites and books can help too.
What’s In a Case Statement?
If you do an online search for “nonprofit case for support,” you’ll find lots of information. When you check things out and imagine writing one for your ministry, your case statement will include:
- The problem your ministry is trying to solve—with a good story or two and an emotional appeal.
- A bit about what your ministry does and how your ministry goes about solving the problem.
- Anything INTERESTING in your ministry’s history that shows you can solve the problem.
- Your ministry’s impact—why you are different and offer the best solution to solving the problem.
- Why somebody should give NOW!
- Some great photos that illustrate the above.
That’s it. You probably have most of this raw information in your head or on your computer already. So, why is it important to summarize, organize, and create a case statement?
A Case Statement Saves Time
A typical case statement is less than 10 pages. It is the “raw material” for your fundraising. You will go back to it over and over again. It is adaptable, flexible, and customizable for any fundraising purpose.
Brochures, phone scripts, elevator pitches, social media posts, special events, and casual conversation with prospective benefactors will use some of what you created. Formal proposals and major presentations will use more.
The process of putting this information together will sear the facts, vision, and impact into your memory—ready to be drawn out at the opportune time, using the right words and images.
A Case Statement Offers Clarity of Vision
While it might be obvious to YOU why your ministry needs more money, there may be differing opinions and priorities within your organization.
People of good will (which you certainly are if you are working in Catholic fundraising) don’t always agree on everything! Preparing a case statement forces a ministry to prayerfully think things through:
- How will the funds be used?
- What is the timing of our appeals or campaigns?
- What is the highest priority now vs. what your ministry would like to grow into?
- What is the vision, and how will this vision be implemented?
Different stakeholders will have different opinions/answers to those questions. The process for creating a case statement is also a process for building consensus and direction.
A Case Statement Standardizes the Vocabulary of Your Ministry
When I first started working in Catholic fundraising, I was with a campus ministry that was structured as a parish. I was counseled by the director of development to always refer to the organization as a “ministry,” not a “parish.”
Why? Most of the benefactors were parents, alumni, and others who belonged to their own geographic parishes. The term “campus ministry” conveys serving students from different places during a few years of their young adulthood. The word “parish” conveys another type of faith community, which did not apply to this organization.
This example shows the importance of reaching general agreement about what things (and people) are called. Developing a case statement is an opportunity to solidify and standardize the vocabulary of your ministry.
In your communications, should the priest-in-charge be called the “pastor” or “director of?” Are the people knocking on dorm room doors inviting students to Mass “evangelists,” “missionaries,” “campus ministers,” or something else?
Words are powerful! A case statement with the right words highlights your ministry’s impact.
A Case Statement Keeps Your Fundraising Team Focused
A clear case statement keeps you focused on the fundamental problem your ministry is trying to solve and illuminates the path to reach your goals. In other words, it keeps you from being sidetracked.
Here is an example. A potential benefactor wanted to donate a lot of money for a very good, specific, and narrow purpose. The ministry did not pursue the gift because it wanted to solve a broader problem than the conditions of the gift would allow. The ministry understood that their case for support did not line up with what the benefactor wanted to do.
A Case Statement is Practice for More Directed Fundraising
Finally, drafting a case statement is great training for making calls, writing appeals, and creating presentations and proposals. Catholic fundraisers know their ministries inside and out. It’s very easy to forget that most of your potential benefactors don’t.
Test your case statement by giving a draft to people who know very little about your ministry. Ask for a critique.
- Do they agree with or at least understand your vision and the problem your ministry is trying to solve?
- Are they moved by your emotional appeal?
- Do they raise questions that you haven’t considered?
This feedback lets you know if your case statement is on target or if you have more work to do!
Need advice for creating a case statement for your organization?
Check out our free case components worksheet! The worksheet will walk you step-by-step through the process of gathering the necessary information for your organization's internal case for support.
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