How to Create a Case Statement for Nonprofit Fundraising - dummies

How to Create a Case Statement for Nonprofit Fundraising

By Stan Hutton, Frances Phillips

A case statement is a tool nonprofits often use when asking for a contribution. It’s a short, compelling argument for supporting the nonprofit that can be presented as a brochure, one-page information sheet, or glossy folder filled with factsheets, photographs, budgets, or charts. It should be professional, factual, and short enough that readers will read it all the way through.

A good case statement can be used in many ways in fundraising:

  • After talking about the agency with a potential donor, you leave behind a copy of your case statement for her to consider.

  • If you need to phone a potential donor, you keep the case statement close at hand as a reminder of the key points to make about the agency.

  • If you mail or e-mail a fundraising letter, you can borrow wording from the case statement to write that letter or include a copy of the case statement with the letter.

Instructions for writing a case statement resemble a recipe for stew or soup. A few basic ingredients make any version of this dish delicious, and the cook can spice it up with whatever other quality ingredients she has at hand. Follow these steps:

  1. Make notes about the following subjects. Be selective; allot no more than 100 words to any of these items:

    • The mission statement of the organization

    • The history of the organization

    • The services it offers

    • The organization’s key accomplishments

    • Affidavits, reviews, or quotes from enthusiasts who have benefited from the organization’s work

    • The organization’s future plans

  2. Toss in no more than 50 words on each of these topics:

    • The organization’s philosophy or approach to providing service

    • The pressing needs the organization works to address

    • The ways the organization will measure or recognize its success

  3. Stir in whatever else you have on hand, including

    • Compelling photographs of the organization’s work

    • Quotes and testimonials from clients, partners, donors, and others

    • Charts or maps illustrating growth — for example, the increasing numbers of clients the organization serves or the expanding geographic area it serves

    • An overview of the organization’s budget and finances, particularly if the budget is balanced and the finances are healthy

    • Anything else that shines a light on the agency, such as publications completed, awards received, and so on

  4. State the giving opportunities your nonprofit offers.

    The giving options must be clear and not too complicated. Donors want to understand how their contributions can make a difference. Sometimes giving opportunities are linked to the cost of providing services, such as the following:

    • The cost of immunizing one child against a deadly disease

    • The cost of replacing one chair in a symphony hall

    • The cost of rescuing and rehabilitating one injured wild burro

    • The cost of planting one acre of trees in a reforestation area

    Sometimes opportunities are linked to premiums or gifts the donor receives in return. For example:

    • For a gift of up to $50, the donor receives a coffee mug as a token of thanks. A larger gift is acknowledged with a tote bag.

    • For a gift of several hundred dollars, the donor’s name appears on a brass plate on the chair the gift has paid to refurbish.

    • For a gift of $1,000, the donor receives quarterly progress reports from the scientist whose research the gift is supporting.

    • For a gift of several thousand dollars, the donor’s name is etched on a tile in the lobby of the organization’s new building.

    • For a gift of several million dollars, the lobby is named after the donor.

    For a contribution of $250 or more, you must acknowledge the gift in writing and specify the date of the contribution and the amount. If you give that donor something of value in exchange for the contribution, you should mention the value of that premium in your acknowledgment letter (because the donor must deduct the fair market value of that gift if she itemizes her contribution in her tax filing).

When writing your case statement, you don’t need to follow the exact order of the elements. Lead with the strongest points and leave out the less compelling items. Choose a strong writer to draft the piece and then test it on others — both within and outside your agency — to see whether it tells a clear, impressive story.

When your case statement is written, produce it for distribution and make sure to match its look to your nonprofit and its intended audience. If your nonprofit is a modest, grassroots organization, your case statement should be simple and direct in its presentation. If it’s an environmental organization, you may want to produce the case statement online instead of using paper.