Today's article covers an integral project for all nonprofits - creating and refining mission and case statements. These documents are a vital foundation for all communication activities a nonprofit will undertake, as Grant Cobb, Head of Marketing and Analytics at GivingMail, explains.
Your mission and case statements aren’t just information statements about your nonprofit. While it’s easy to understand why many would mistake these documents as purely informative in nature, the true potential of mission and case statements is how they can be used to market your cause to outside audiences.
Asking for donations requires listening to and understanding your audience. As tools for soliciting donations, your mission and case statements thus need to reflect not just what your nonprofit does but why your cause is relevant to potential donors. After all, it’s unlikely your mission and case statements will be read by many people outside of donors, volunteers, grantmakers, and sponsors, all of whom you must convince that your nonprofit is worth supporting.
Finding the right way to ask for donations requires experimentation, especially for new nonprofits who don’t have their mission statement nailed down. Approaching donors without a solid mission statement can result in stumbling through your ask. To help your nonprofit avoid this dilemma, this article will explore four tips for creating effective mission and case statements, including:
- Outline Key Documents
- Make Your Case Relevant to Your Audience
- Assess if Your Mission has Changed
- Continually Collect New Anecdotes and Statistics
Remember that your mission and case statements also often serve as your nonprofit’s first impression to donors. Take the time to thoroughly workshop your mission and case statements to ensure your nonprofit puts its best foot forward in each introduction to new supporters. Let’s get started.
1. Outline Key Documents
Your mission statement serves as the foundation for a number of important documents required for effective nonprofit funding strategies. This includes case statements your nonprofit will present to potential funders. Creating a comprehensive nonprofit mission statement and holding onto well-articulated case statements can save your nonprofit time and effort as these documents can be used repeatedly in the future.
Of course, when your nonprofit prepares a new case statement, you shouldn’t just copy your mission statement word-for-word in place of your overview section, or submit the exact same case statement to two different donors. Case statements need specific details to make them relevant to each donor, but you don’t need to start over each time you write one. Often, major components of case statements such as who your constituents are or why your nonprofit was founded remain the same and can be reused.
Organizing and keeping these documents straight can be especially useful if you are balancing multiple major asks at one time. For example, as this guide to grant management explains, grant applications are time-consuming processes that require an intense, detail-oriented approach. You can save time on each application by writing one case statement and editing it to match the individual specifications of each grant, rather than starting from scratch for each one.
Your mission statement can also help inform this process. As you edit each case statement, take the time to refer back to your original mission statement to ensure that you never drift too far away from your nonprofit’s central goal. This principle can be applied to almost every document your nonprofit produces, keeping all materials in alignment while still taking into account unique audiences.
2. Make Your Case Relevant to Your Audience
Mission statements encompass everything a nonprofit stands for and its purpose, and your case statements serve as an explanation for why someone would donate to your cause. However, these documents don’t exist in a bubble, and they need to respond to the motivations of your audiences.
Your nonprofit likely has multiple audiences that you’ll present case statements to while fundraising, and each should be approached in a different way. These audiences can vary in income, age, favored outreach method, and more. Here are a few common audiences and how you should consider editing your case statement to appeal to them:
- Major donors. Major donors have a relationship with your nonprofit that has been slowly built up through multiple interactions with your fundraising team. However, while you may have a personal connection to these donors, it is still common to present a formal case statement when asking them for a major donation. For these donors, be sure to recognize their past support, history with your nonprofit, and what their personal investment will help accomplish.
- Corporate sponsors. While most major donors are content with being recognized in some way, corporate sponsors often want something more in return. As Double the Donation’s guide to corporate philanthropy explains, “By supporting the greater good and committing to positive social change, companies create a positive public image for themselves, enhance their relationships with consumers, and also foster employee engagement.” When preparing a case statement for sponsors, explain how your nonprofit can help them, whether through direct promotion or the positive PR boost they may receive.
- Grantmakers and foundations. Grant applications often have very specific requirements, but essentially, they are also case statements. You’ll spend the bulk of the application explaining what your nonprofit does and why you deserve funding. As mentioned, many of the components of prior case statements can be reused for grant applications, but you should take careful note of how each application diverges. For example, one foundation might award grants to nonprofits who help low-income families, while another focuses on children. Your nonprofit may be eligible for both, but you’ll need to reframe parts of your statement to reflect these subtle differences.
Even as you change your case statements to appeal to new audiences, make sure every document you produce maintains your brand identity. It’s easy to get caught up in courting new audiences, but maintaining a sense of consistency across all communication channels will help establish your nonprofit’s credibility in the long run.
3. Assess if Your Mission has Changed
If your nonprofit has grown and gained more resources, you might find that you can expand your goals or broaden your focus. You may have access to more robust fundraising capabilities than your original do-it-yourself approach could muster. And this is perfectly fine—as your nonprofit grows, your focus might change, and if it does, your mission should change as well.
After major campaigns, programs, and accomplishments, take a moment to reassess your nonprofit’s focus. A few questions you can ask to help reflect on the state of your nonprofit are:
- How will your nonprofit continue to fulfill its mission? After making a major stride (or suffering a major setback), your nonprofit might need to take inventory and determine what moves you hope to make in the future. Some initiatives take years to complete, and launching a new one will determine your nonprofit’s path for years. Consider if your mission statement fits with the direction your nonprofit wants to take or if it needs to be adjusted to continue representing your evolving organization.
- Will your nonprofit’s mission ever reach an endpoint? Some nonprofits are established with missions they intend to complete fully. For example, a nonprofit might be founded to raise funds to renovate the buildings of several local schools. When this nonprofit finishes renovations, it’ll need to decide between dissolving or changing its mission statement to find a new purpose.
- Does your nonprofit need to change missions? Nonprofits often adjust their missions from their humble origins as their focus naturally drifts or becomes more defined. In other cases, you might find your mission changing by necessity. This can be caused by major developments in your field or even in your physical location. For example, a natural disaster might cause a nonprofit that helps shelter and support the homeless to shift tactics to disaster relief. By contrast, you might also feel tempted to change your mission after a few years for the sake of it, but if you have no real reason to, there isn’t a need to change directions.
In most cases, if your nonprofit changes its mission statement, it will be small amendments or language changes that help alter your focus in subtle ways. However, if you are making a more dramatic change, be sure to alert your supporters, so they can understand why your nonprofit is pursuing new initiatives.
4. Continually Collect New Anecdotes and Statistics
In many ways, your mission and case statements are similar to a well-crafted fundraising appeal. They introduce your organization and succinctly explain why a donor should consider contributing to your cause. Also like a fundraising appeal, you can improve and expand your mission and case statements by updating them with new anecdotes and statistics.
While you shouldn’t change your mission statement every time a new report comes out in your field, one or two attention-grabbing statics can help you elaborate on your mission statement on your About page. For example, an organization dedicated to promoting women entrepreneurs might include a statistic about the percentage of female-led businesses and organizations as a way to promote their cause’s importance.
However, while data points are important for your nonprofit’s development and can intrigue your donors, anecdotal evidence and stories can be even more powerful for your case statements. GivingMail’s guide to fundraising appeals clearly lays out the importance of a good story: “Stories appeal to the emotional quotient of your members by giving them more to grasp… After all, people remember personal stories way more than they remember facts and figures.”
As your nonprofit fulfills its mission, collect new anecdotes from your constituents and volunteers and consider how you can incorporate them into your case statement. Statistics and facts can help your donors make logical decisions about whether or not to contribute, but opening with an emotional appeal can help contextualize your case and create connections between donors and your cause.
Your mission statement defines your nonprofit and effective case statements are one of your nonprofit’s best tools for earning substantial fundraising. Consider how you’ll need to change and adapt these documents as your nonprofit grows and attracts new audiences. But remember that your mission and case statements can also help serve your nonprofit and improve your functionality and fundraising potential.