Frame your case
The key to fundraising is being able to communicate a need in the community and how a gift would have a transformative ability to meet the need. These two elements come together in your case statement.
The case statement is a concise and compelling document that explains the what you're asking for and what that money will accomplish. It frames the activities and outcomes of the parish or ministry in a way that will inspire people to give.
In parish life, the case statement is often reserved for big fundraising campaigns like building a new sanctuary or some kind of addition. Of course, a capital campaign is a natural setting for a case statement, but it is perhaps even MORE important to have a case statement to meet the day to day needs of a parish.
Build a bridge to your donors.
Where the logic model is purely to help staff and volunteers to understand what your doing, the case statement is a persuasive document. People who read it should think, "Where is my checkbook?" Or better yet, "Let me call my stock broker."
The case statement consists of a couple of different elements that are combined into a single document.
- The Need - Your parish, your ministry, exists to meet a need in the community. What is that need? How do you know? You should understand the need and convey it to a potential donor in such a way that it sounds both IMPORTANT and URGENT. Again, it's important to keep in mind that this "need" is not your need for a balanced budget. You aren't trying to tell your donor about the "inputs" that you require to meet the need in your community, you're sharing the "why" that animates your existence. For the Church, the "need" is the design of the human heart that has a God-sized hole that only an encounter with the Saving One can fill. For a food bank, the "need" is the fact that there are children in our community who go to sleep hungry every night.
- The Plan - How will your parish respond to meet the need that you described in the first part? Here you pull out your logic model and start looking at the activities at your parish and connect the dots with how those activities meet the need that you explained in the first section. You can talk about the inputs in this section, but the focus should be on the outcomes. Your donor's gifts might be one of the inputs, but they give because of the outcomes. Describe those outcomes here.
- The Ask - It's not fundraising if there's no "Ask". The ask can be presented in a number of different ways that can be tailored to different audiences. In a non-capital campaign parish setting, the ask should almost always be an encouragement to tithe. While "tithing" is not a popular concept in the Church these days, the practice has a strong foundation in both scripture and tradition. A focus on tithing sets a high but achievable bar for donors. Other ways to present an ask are using a matching gift, a giving society, or tying a gift to a specific piece of physical equipment or improvement (sponsoring a scholarship, piece of liturgical equipment, or paying for a repair). For big capital projects, the ask can be the overall cost of all of the different components in the build.
The need, the plan, and the ask the essentials of any case statement. Your case statement should have a section that directly addresses each of the activities that constitutes the life of your parish or ministry. If you are writing a case statement for a capital campaign, you need to break out each part of the plan so that a donor will have a clear understanding of the whole project.
There are some additional elements that you can put into a case statement, but they are not nearly as important as the need, the plan, and the ask. Some of these include:
- Leadership - Introduction to the key leaders in a ministry. This can come in the form of biographies or as a letter from the leadership. For instance, many diocesan case statements start with a letter from the bishop.
- History of the church or ministry - Give a brief outline of the founding of the church or ministry and the major milestones since then.
- Pictures and design- This document shouldn't just be words on a page. Add pictures to bring the words to life. Invest some time and resources into layout and design... it should be as beautiful and professional as you can afford to make it. You're going to be using it to ask for thousands of dollars.
- Plans and drawings - A case statement is often created during a capital campaign as a way of communicating the vision that their gift will support. A picture is worth 1,000 words when it comes to helping people catch that vision.
- Testimonials - Hearing about the impact of parish life or a ministry can be a powerful motivator for donors. Testimonials can be tied to a particular activity or to the organization in general. Testimonials can also come from different sources - people who have benefited from a ministry, people who are active in the ministry, or people who have given to the ministry.
Put the pieces together
Once you've written these different pieces, put them together in a document that tells a compelling story about who you are, what you do, and why people should give. There are many ways to do this, but here's a sample structure:
- Letter from Leaders
- Brief History
- The Need
- The Plan
- Drawings and Plans
- The Ask
In a parish or ministry setting where you are seeking funding for multiple different activities, it will sometimes make sense to group each need and plan together. Sometimes it will make sense to group the need, plan, and ask for each activity together. Your primary consideration when putting the pieces together is making it easy for the donor to understand. Confusion is the enemy of action! Especially in fundraising.
A Capital Idea
In church fundraising, there's often a bias towards capital projects. You want to raise money to build a new Church, rectory, parish life center, or take care of maintenance projects that have been left undone. That's all perfectly fine. But your case statement can do more than build a new building.
All of your buildings exist for some purpose. Don't be afraid to ask for money to support the purpose. Raise money to support liturgy. Raise money for the staff to run the evangelization efforts. Raise money for the food pantry. Raise money for the youth group. Use the case statement to help you connect the dots between reason that the ministry exists and the impact that their gift will make.
Next week, I'll talk about how to use your newly created case statement to revamp your existing fundraising efforts.
Need some new ideas on how to fundraise? Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook and find the fundraising strategy that will work best for you!