What is a fundraising case statement?
The key to fundraising is being able to communicate a need present in the community and how a gift would help to meet that need. These two elements come together in your fundraising case statement.
The case statement is a concise and compelling document that explains why you’re asking for money 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.
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 or non-profit.
Build a bridge to your donors.
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.
1. 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 what it costs to serve 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.
2. The Plan
How will your parish or ministry 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.
3. 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 fundraising 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 your pastor or chairman. 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. Find testimonials from multiple 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 focus on need and plan separately. This would look like separate pages detailing each individual component. Sometimes it will make sense to group all of the needs, plans, and asks into one longer narrative. 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.
One important consideration when you’re writing your case statement is that it needs to MOVE. If it’s boring, start over. You need to grab your donor’s attention and hold it until they have pulled out their checkbook and signed on the dotted line.
To accomplish this, every section should of the case statement should be mission focused. Your writers should work to stir up excitement for the big vision that the fundraising case statement will support. Write with passion, verve, and excitement. If you’re not excited about what you’re writing about, you don’t have a chance of stirring someone else’s interest.
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. In a parish setting, raise money to support liturgy. Raise money for the staff to run the evangelization efforts. Get funds for the food pantry. Gather support for the youth group. The case statement is just as necessary for a major gifts program as it is for a capital campaign, because it is a great piece for you to leave with potential donors.
Writing a case statement helps with all of your fundraising, capital and programmatic, because it forces you to gather your thoughts and put them into a single coherent, intentionally compelling document. The case statement does not exist to describe what you’re doing – it exists to persuade donors. You’ll know that you’ve hit the mark when your donor reads it and responds, “Wow! That’s exciting. How do I get involved?”
Looking for more articles on fundraising key concepts and tools? Try these:
- Is my fundraising cost effective? Fundraising Return on investment.
- How can I find new donors? Donor acquisition.
- Can I ask donors to give again?Donor Cultivation.
- How do I inspire donors to keep giving? Donor Retention.
- Why am I losing donors? Donor Attrition.
- How do I segment my donors into meaningful groups? Donor segmentation.
- How do I encourage donors who have stopped giving to give again? Donor reactivation.
- How do I create an annual fundraising plan?
- Write a program budget that donors can understand.
- How do I create a donor database?
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