What is a case statement?
It is a written document presenting a compelling and persuasive case for the “raison d’être” of your nonprofit (the reason for its existence) and why it is worthy of support.
Proven fund raising principles teach that case statements are most effective when they are bigger than your institution – meaning they present evidence that connects your mission with the future success or well-being of the greater good.
They also become valuable fund raising tools when customized to appeal to the interests and concerns of a specific audience.
Types of Case Statements
There are two main types of case statements – internal and external – with variations in-between.
The external or public case statement is well known as a valuable fund raising tool in campaigns, most often used at face-to-face meetings with prospects and donors; the “leave-behind” piece that works quietly after the solicitor leaves.
Normally created out of an internal case statement, the “public” case gives a convincing and realistic plan for achieving campaign objectives, and is persuasively crafted to appeal to a specific audience.
Unfortunately, the internal case statement is not as widely used, which is a great loss to nonprofits. Its primary use is to serve as a data bank of the most useful and compelling information on your mission, a valuable resource in the development of marketing and fund raising communications, e.g., grant proposals appeal letters, annual reports and more.
Also, when created with consensus and updated to keep current, the internal case statement will sit along side your strategic plan as the core of your organization’s identity, serving as a baseline for institutional evaluation, priority setting, and decision-making.
What is the process for writing a case statement?
My process will vary to meet organizational resources or the campaign timeline. However, for a starting reference point, here is a comprehensive, four-phrase approach traditionally used with campaign committees.
Phase 1: Interviews & Discussion Meetings
The process begins with meetings and interviews with organizational leadership and/or the campaign committee. My goal is to build consensus, gather resources, and identify strategies and frameworks for building your case for support.
Phase 2: Research and Outline
In this stage, I conduct research and make an outline of the information, strategies, and frameworks relevant to making a persuasive case for support to each of your organization’s constituencies. I then submit the outline to designated leadership (usually the campaign committee) for evaluation and further refinement to help avoid the expense of future rewrites.
Phase 3: Internal Case Statement
My next step is to turn the research and outline (from Phase 2) into one large document that will serve inside your organization as a valuable information bank of the most useful and compelling data on your mission. It will also include strategies and frameworks to use when making a case to each of your organization’s constituencies.
When the draft is completed, you and/or the campaign committee will once again evaluate the content to determine that the case positions are compelling and answer the key questions for each constituency.
Phase 4: External Case Statement
In this final stage, I use the internal case statement to write a much shorter but compelling case for support of a specific project or campaign goal. Written for external (or public) use, the case is customized to the interests and concerns of a specific audience.
This phase often includes one or two rewrites of the document. When completed, the final copy may enter a creative design process to become a visually impressive booklet, or simply remain a word-document printed on plain paper.
How long does it take to write a case statement?
This project can range from three to six months or more, depending on the work stages requested and approval process established.
Thinking about having a qualified staff
member write the case statement?
Before you make that decision, consider these two points adapted from Designs for Fund Raising by Harold J. Seymour:
- The people who know the most about their project or organization are often the least qualified to write the case statement. Their viewpoint is generally too institutional, not donor-centered, and they know too much to distinguish between significant and unimportant details. In addition, their writing habits are frequently geared towards scholarly dissertation and not the art of persuasion and promotion.
- Often stakeholders have not discussed the organization’s long-term vision or come to an agreement about campaign goals, fund raising strategies, schedule, budget, and more. Therefore, the process of creating a case statement can become the avenue for gaining group consensus, and the neutrality of an outside third party becomes an asset in facilitating this goal.”