This post is step two of a four-step roadmap for your capital campaign planning.
Do you know what your campaign will raise money for?
And roughly how much money you want to raise?
If so, it’s time to start working on the document that will serve as the heart of your campaign: your case for support.
Your case for support is a simple but powerful document that helps persuade board members, volunteers, and donors to join your campaign. Done right, it stirs people to action — and sometimes to tears — moving them to support the campaign with their time and dollars.
Community Impact Over Organizational Need
The case for support is a vital communications piece that describes in simple and compelling terms the difference that your campaign is going to make — not only inside your organization, but also in the world you serve. Framed through this external perspective, the case then outlines a straightforward and credible plan to achieve those lofty ends.
Your case for support will start out as a short draft
Think of it as an evolving and emerging story about the project you’re about to undertake. At this early stage, the discussion and drafting process of your early case for support will get your board and staff members thinking in the same way about the campaign, bringing clarity and consensus.
The Essentials for Your Campaign Communication
Once you’ve gone through the process of drafting and sharing and redrafting your case, you’ll have a solid three- to five-page draft that many people have helped create.
Over time, it’ll grow to be a primary tool in your fundraising. Early in the campaign planning, you’ll use it in the feasibility study, sending it to major prospects and stakeholders for their reactions and input.
Later, you’ll use the case for support to recruit volunteers, and to open discussions with your lead donors. It’ll evolve into talking points for face-to-face solicitations, a campaign brochure, grant proposals, and even a campaign video.
The work on this early draft is critically important
The work you do at this early draft stage to hone the messages and build agreement is more important than it may seem. Moving through this process, your early campaign leaders and helpers will deepen their understanding and commitment. And the messages you create will shape the communication through your entire campaign.
Even more important, you may find that writing the case draft actually shifts and elevates the way you think about your organization!
How a Small Community Theater Became a Powerhouse
We’ve been coaching a small community theater in California, helping them get ready for their capital campaign. They are getting ready to build a new theater in their downtown. They thought of themselves as a little community theater, though they produced many successful plays every season.
But as they developed their case for support, working on draft after draft, they transformed their vision of themselves, from a little, humble organization to an organization that, in their new building, would anchor the arts district in their town. They stopped thinking primarily about their new building and instead, they started thinking more broadly about the impact their new theater would have on the community.
As their language changed and grew, they found the courage to approach the major donors in that community. Soon, they found themselves having exciting conversations with their communities’ leaders — people that they had, only a short time before, considered beyond their reach. And those conversations set them up for success!
Sample Outline for Your Case for Support
To help you get started writing your case, here’s a simple outline.
A brief line that sets the tone and captures the spirit of what you’re setting out to achieve.
2. Introduction of the Project
Briefly describe your campaign objectives in a context that describes the impact your campaign will have on your community. This is where you’ll be capturing your reader’s attention, so don’t waste the opportunity on reciting worn-out text from your website. Use bold inspiring language and a good hook to grab your reader.
3. The Argument
This section spells out more fully what you are going to do, why it matters and why you need to do it now. Use language that evokes a vision of what the new reality will be once the project is complete.
4. Organizational Background
Explain why your organization is not only poised to succeed in making an impact, but why you are the only organization suited for the job.
This is where you can mention the date your organization was founded and its mission. (Please don’t begin the case with these items!) And here’s where you can brag briefly about your organization’s important accomplishments, health and growth.
5. Why Now?
You’ve got to convey a sense that the need is both great and urgent. Sometimes this is easy (because your building is being torn down, or you have long waiting lists because your current facility is too small). Other times, you may need to work a bit harder to make the case for urgency.
6. The Financial Need
This is where you outline how the project will work financially and what you need to make it happen. Remember, this is a case for monetary support; that means you have to clarify how much money you need, and to spell out how much each one will cost. (I’m a fan of including the cost of the campaign in this section. The campaign will cost money, after all, and it’s best to be honest and up-front about that.)
7. The Close
Reinforce the theme you started with in the title and close with your passion and commitment to fulfilling your vision.
8. Call to Action
As you begin to put your case to use, asking people for gifts, you will add a “call to action” to the case. But in an early draft, there’s no need for that.
An Essential Building Block of Your Campaign
Drafting a case for support for your campaign is one of the most important building blocks as you get ready for your campaign. In our pre-campaign coaching, Gail Perry and I help organizations figure out the most compelling arguments for their project. We often find, as with the community theater I described above, that creating a powerful case helps people become clear about why they having a campaign and transforms the way they think about their organization.
If you are interested in talking with us about your campaign, fill out this brief application form.