When I started my career in fundraising, the catchphrase I heard most often was “Where is your case statement?” This became very intimidating because I had no idea what a case statement was and whether I needed one. After a while, I was determined to learn about it, and so I undertook my due diligence.
The first time it came to my attention was when the nonprofit I worked for embarked on a capital campaign. We were planning a 120-bed addition to a Jewish home for the elderly that would serve, in large part, a growing population of residents with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. The addition to an existing 120-bed institution was to be a state-of-the-art facility with a plethora of innovative design and construction features.
Our fundraising objective was to canvass the county in which we were located and meet with major philanthropists we knew resided there. The bulk of these affluent benefactors lived in six or seven major communities, and it required a concerted effort by our campaign leadership to arrange meetings in various venues including homes, country clubs, restaurants and business offices.
As part of our strategic fundraising plan we created a case statement to present to prospective donors. So, what is it?
In brief, a case statement has to live up to its name—it presents your case for support. It demonstrates identified community needs and, in a persuasive way, how you will address and solve those needs, why you are uniquely qualified to address these needs and what the benefits are that will accrue from your actions. The case statement can be used to launch campaigns or simply introduce your organization and solicit general support.
Case statements usually are brochures that come in all shapes and varieties. But, most have some common denominators that appeal to the folks from whom you are soliciting funds.
A case statement brochure should be aestheticly appealing. It should be attractive and invite a donor’s attention. But it shouldn’t be ostentatious or overly lavish. Otherwise, the donor has every right to say that you are throwing away good money on a wasteful printing exercise. If you are appealing to high net worth individuals, then give the brochure a prominent appearance much like a corporate annual report. Size doesn’t usually matter, but it should be large enough to be easily held, be straightforwardly engaging to the reader and, most important, be convincing.
Remember—“one picture is worth a thousand words.” Whatever you promote should be captured with compelling photography that helps tell your story in a powerful way. If you promote “bricks and mortar,” then showcase new design features, model buildings and groundbreaking qualities. If it’s not yet built, have the architect or interior designer share illustrations populated with colorful graphics, pioneering characteristics and people.
Brevity is always a positive attribute. We live in the age of sound bites. Each section should provide sufficient information to describe all aspects of your project or programs. Your narrative should be descriptive but not an addendum to “War and Peace.” People’s attention span is limited. Be concise. Keep the information you need to convey to the prospect to a minimum. There are many graphic features you can utilize, such as “pull quotes,” to get your point across. However, a discussion about these is outside the purview of this column.
So, what are some of the specifics to impart? Here is a short compilation:
1. Theme and organizational logo
2. Mission statement
3. Lay and staff leadership
4. Facts and information about the nonprofit
5. Narrative describing the case for support
6. A case study or two
7. Commemorations and dedications
8. Ways to help the organization
9. Metrics, budgets and graphs
There are other essentials that you will consider such as contact and tax-exempt information, website and the like, but the above are some of the key elements you want to incorporate. No two nonprofits are alike and you must adapt your case statement to your specific needs.
So, what will it be—a case statement or an excuse statement?
Norman B. Gildin has fundraised for nonprofits for more than three decades and has raised upwards of $93 million in the process. Formerly a resident of Teaneck for 34 years, he is the president of Strategic Fundraising Group whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits raise critical funds. He can be reached at [email protected].