In Case Development 201, Director of Communications Consulting Andrew Brommel offers a collection of practical, immediately applicable “tips and tricks” for building a strong, compelling, and consistent case for support.
For Brommel, an organization’s case for support is ultimately “your message to your donors—why should they give to your organization?” He asserts that, “If this is all we ever thought about with a case for support, we’d be fine.”
Just as a case for support should be comprehensive in reflecting an organization’s vision, it should be a collective effort—one that engages Board members, staff, and leadership in the composing and shaping process. Messaging, Brommel argues, is “the most important. It’s the core … This is where your case comes from, and everything else we’re talking about is secondary to this.”
Effective messaging should express only one key idea per message, and should have an edge or make an assertion—not “ a statement of something this is universally, obviously true.” Brommel asserts that, in the non-profit sector, “we probably do too much writing, and not enough messaging.”
Two key benefits of establishing, clear, consistent messaging is that everyone in your organization, from volunteers to Board members, is pulling from the same unified, agreed-upon points, keeping communications consistent. In addition, these messages are endlessly versatile, and are easily transferrable to writing documents, talking points, and PowerPoint, video, or iPad presentations.
As a sample format for these messages, Brommel suggests you “throw a headline up there, and give it a few supporting points.” While the headline takes a position, each supporting point will elaborate on and clarify this position.
To write effective, clear messaging of your own, try this process:
Write 3-5 messages that simply “get your donor from Point A to Point B,” or from a lack of engagement to deep involvement.
To start, establish that an issue exists, and why it matters
Then, credential your organization as an effective institution to address the issue. Use this message as an opportunity to differentiate yourself from other organizations with similar missions
Next, assure potential donors that you have a plan in place that will enact real change
Remember, that you can often make a stronger statement by saying less
In the following examples, Brommel uses pairs of weaker and stronger messages to demonstrate how to build the most effective, specific messages for your organization:
1. Have conviction. Make a strong statement.
Weak: Our university helps students build the skills they need to become leaders.
Stronger: We believe every student has the power to lead.
2. It’s not about you. It’s about the people you serve.
Weak: We believe our community needs a healthcare provider committed to caring for us all.
Stronger: We believe everyone in our community deserves great healthcare.
3. Think voiceover, not prose. Short and to the point.
Weak: Among all the ways we can invest in our school’s future, the endowment is the most important, ultimately surpassing the impact of capital and program investments.
Stronger: The endowment is the most important investment we can make in our school’s future.
4. Don’t say everything. Say what matters.
Weak: As a nonprofit, community-based organization, we rely on the philanthropic support of our donors and neighbors to make our work possible.
Stronger: Only you can make our work possible.
For more helpful tips on developing a strong case for support, including use of stories and statistics, the three crucial levels to think about in all case development, and more specific examples, watch Andrew Brommel’s webinar, Case Development 201, here.
Questions? Contact Andrew Brommel at firstname.lastname@example.org.