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How to Create a Case Statement

One of the most important foundations of your fundraising program is a case statement. You do not need a case statement to ask people for money. But it can be a great help. Here’s how to create yours.

What is a case statement?

In my trainings, I describe a case statement as what you’d say before a court of law if the judge told you to “make your case,” to prove that your project was worthy of receiving a donation.

You throw everything in there, all the statistics about your program, descriptions of all you do, stories of those impacted, aspirations for the future. Throw it all in there. Chances are great that this will become a long document. That’s fine. In most fundraising programs, you won’t have share the entire case statement with anyone. But it will be a source document for you to keep coming back to in writing your marketing pieces, fundraising appeals, in crafting solicitations for major donors, even in writing grants.

How do I write my own?

While there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write a case statement, here’s a structure that helps Fundraising Coach clients.

1. Get it all down on paper

The first step is brainstorming

  • List out each of your program
  • Describe why each exists, what it accomplishes, and who it helps
  • Jot down how much each program costs

2. Review your brainstorm, looking for people stories.

The first step is usually about facts and figures. Things that make the head happy. Be sure to include stories that will touch the heart too. These exist even in the least likely places. The story can be anything, like:

  • a child helped
  • an animal whose life is better
  • an adult whose life is turned around
  • land that’s preserved for generations
  • a person who’s life is improved by the research or technology created
  • the victims who benefit from the victory in court your nonprofit made possible
  • a community discovering a higher quality of life

Just about anything is fair game. Don’t skip this step. These stories are critical to connecting to donors. The facts and figures prove your nonprofit’s effectiveness; these stories connect to donor’s emotions. (They also help your employees and board feel more committed to the cause!)

3. Check your facts and figures

Now ensure that your facts and figures are right. Depending on your cause, you may need to find:

  • the census demographics of your community
  • the recidivism rates for your cause
  • the percent of people bettered by your treatment
  • the cost of your mission
  • the average ages to those served
  • the cost per acre for conservation
  • the rate of intake in animal shelters
  • the cost of waste for not recycling
  • your own finances–revenue and expenses

Just about anything. In a hospice campaign, we told about the faulty mathematical formula used in the 1970’s for figuring out how much Medicare would cover hospice. And then we told why it was even more flawed with the way we treat end-of-life care all these decades later.

Some visionary types shirk on this step. They believe that “doing good” is enough. But it’s not. You need to do the homework here.

4. Try to get pictures for the stories

Now try to get pictures for the stories. Studies show that one face is more effective in fundraising than a group. And that faces with smiles are more effective than anguish. You’ll need to test this for yourself, but be sure to have pictures you can use.

If your cause is sensitive, you will need to get creative about pictures. Perhaps just getting people from the back. Talk with others in similar programs and look at their materials to see how they approach this.

If your cause is land or building or technology related, try to get pictures with people benefiting from the use of them. People connect with people, not land or buildings. An exception is animal causes. Pictures of animals can be very effective in making an emotional connection with people.

Ongoing process; but don’t get stuck here

Case statements are great for building confidence in those asking for money. Board members and staff will feel more confident in asking because they’ll know where to look if they don’t have the answers. (Be sure to let them know that they don’t need to memorize it!) Some nonprofits even leave versions of the case with their prospects. Or post parts on the website and in brochures.

Our world changes at a remarkable rate, so the case statement will always be in a state of flux. But don’t get stuck putting this together. The goal in fundraising is raising funds, not creating a perfect case statement!

Next steps

Now that you have the beginnings of a case statement, take the dollar totals and run them through a gift range calculator like www.GiftRangeCalculator.com. Those gift levels will help you build a names list of people to approach, and a good understanding of how much you’ll need to ask them for.

Once you have that prospect list, you could use this case as a conversation starter with them. You can “test the case” but sharing a shortened form with them and seeing if the themes you’ve identified resonate with them. While this is traditionally done in capital campaigns, there’s no reason why this can’t be used in major gift work or in annual fund groups.


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