Victoria White is a story teller. Always involved in marketing, Victoria went into the non-profit sector and has completed numerous Cases and collateral materials, such as major gift letters for a diverse range of non-profit organizations. She has a gift for the written word, claiming that her “passion for words has shaped my life.”
The Vigilant Fundraiser: 12 Steps to Fundraising Success, is a step-by-step guide of best practices for organizations when creating fundraising success stories. As Step 1 on the road to vigilant fundraising, she realizes that every organization has a story to tell.
This is her story on creating those narratives, or Cases for Support, which resonate with donors.
Why is the Case for Support a cornerstone for all fundraising campaigns?
I am reminded of the French word raison d’être, or “reason for existence”, when thinking of a Case for Support. The Case is the argument for a campaign, a cause and the organization. It’s a narrative. A Case for Support builds support for the organization and expresses the need by explaining what the organization does and why it should be supported. It is a living document that can be adapted according to need.
What is the number one mistake when creating a Case for Support?
Not giving it the attention that it merits or viewing it as ‘just another document’. It’s not a strategic plan; it’s a story. Organizations need to give it their all and invest the time and money in doing it right. I read somewhere that a Case for Support is a team sport. I disagree. I encourage inclusivity, and various parties need to provide input. However, a document made by a committee will never be a compelling story. You need a story teller.
What should be the primary consideration when creating a Case for Support?
A Case for Support written by a committee is not the way to go. I suggest clients conduct a Case audit, periodically reviewing their Case. Many times, documents are riddled in management speak and internal jargon, or use words that outsiders don’t understand. You don’t want people to lose interest. It’s not about your organization; it’s about the people.
Who should be your target audience when creating a Case for Support?
“Who will be reading this?” and “Who do you want to reach?” are always the first questions I ask. You need to target the demographic you want to reach.
What type of information should be included in the Case for Support?
You want to ground your Case internally to a certain extent, provide context about the organization and its founding. Statistics have their place — people like numbers, as well as testimonials, quotes and stories. Always put things into context and make sure that it is balanced. In terms of structure, length can vary. For capital campaigns, keep it relatively short and sweet and ensure that the target audience learns about the organization and why the campaign is critical to its mission. But ultimately, it needs to be as long as it needs to be.
What is the key takeaway in your chapter, “Writing a powerful Case for Support” of The Vigilant Fundraiser?
A Case for Support shouldn’t be bland. It needs to be a compelling read and a story for the donor who’s reading it. Don’t write it like a strategic plan. There needs to be a blend of emotion, research and professionalism, since people want accountability, truth and transparency.
What does a ‘vigilant writer’ look like to you?
A ‘vigilant writer’ is aware of the reader. He or she is constantly aware of the outside world, beyond the cause and organization. A vigilant writer in the not-for-profit sector ensures that the messaging will make a positive impact. Always be aware of how your message could be perceived. In sum, it’s about anticipation: anticipating what the reaction and response to your message will be.
Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Victoria White for her thoughts on creating a Case for Support.