Great, so you’re on board.  You’ve read Part One of this article and are now convinced that you need an annual case statement STAT.  That’s terrific!  Now the trick is writing the thing.  Below are some tips on how to create a compelling case statement.

First, this document doesn’t need to be fancy.  While capital campaign documents are often given the graphic design treatment (and rightfully so), a case statement for your annual fundraising does not need to be highly stylized or expensive to produce.  In fact, often donors say they would prefer that the organization not spend too much money on communication pieces.  While it doesn’t need to cost a small fortune to produce, it should, however, contain the following elements:

  • Start with the mission, vision, and history of the organization. You don’t want to assume that the donor knows everything about the organization.  It’s important to state, at the beginning of the document, who you are, what you do, and how long you’ve been in existence.  You don’t need to go into great detail on the history of the organization, but do provide enough to demonstrate that you’re stable and credible.
  • Include context. Where does your organization fit in the broader issue?  What do you do better than anyone else?  Third-party research, statements from experts and endorsements from partner organizations can be helpful here.
  • Write a clear statement of the need. What are you trying to accomplish?  What will it cost?  What is the timeframe?  Financial projections and true costs are extremely valuable here.  You want to demonstrate that you’ve done the research and are sure about the amount of money that is needed and when it’s necessary to have the funds in hand. If, for example, you wish to grow your operating budget over the years, show the increments and timeframe in which you hope to increase it.
  • Add a compelling story or some other element that showcases your work and supports your goal. Photos, infographics, and testimonials can be useful here.
  • Be sure to have a clear statement of where the donor fits in. Also known as a call to action, you need to spell out precisely what it is that you want the donor to do.
  • Don’t forget the list of organizational leaders and their contact information. Ideally, you’ll be reviewing the case in 1:1 conversations with your donors and leaving it with them.  As they consider your request, they’ll likely peruse the case statement again.  It will be beneficial for them to have a list of board members and senior staff.  Include contact information for the organization because they may have follow-up questions, and it’s critical that they can easily get in touch.  This contact information should include your web address as well as any other social media handles.  The donor may want to reach out to a board member that he or she knows to get their insight on the request, so you may want to consider adding contact information for board members as well. 

Second, after you’ve written a strong draft, consider sharing it with a focus group of select donors.  By doing so, you’ll discover whether or not you’re on the right track.  For example, their feedback could tell you that there’s already a great deal of support for what you want to accomplish – they’ve just been waiting to be asked.  On the other hand, you might discover that what seems very compelling to program staff is too wonky or not as exciting to donors.  This external feedback will also help you root out jargon or other insider lingo that can create conversation barriers between you and your target audience.

As I prepared to write this piece, I asked a former client what she found beneficial during the case statement process.  She said that their final case statement was radically different from the original draft they shared with a test audience – and that it was all because of the feedback that was given during a donor focus group. If you want this document to be a useful communication tool, you will benefit from testing it before sharing it far and wide.

Finally, the process for writing a case statement for your annual fundraising needs can be as valuable as the finished product.  This is because the process helps your organization identify and refine its fundraising priorities.  Writing the document forces you to articulate your needs in a concise, convincing, and direct way.  Quantifying your services and pinning down your financial needs will help show you and your donors precisely how their support will be used.

Sharing it internally will help your program staff understand how fundraising directly impacts the work they do.  Additionally, testing it externally will bring donors into the process with you while also ensuring that you’re on the right track.  These steps lead to a polished, professional document you can be proud to share with your supporters.

Happy Writing!


PS:  Do you need to prompts to get you started?  Get my case statement worksheet here.