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If fundraising is about asking people to financially support your organization, how do you respond when you are asked what the money will be used for? Can you succinctly communicate the quantitative impact your organization makes, how many people it serves, and how the organization’s programs relate to its mission? What if you are asked “What’s in it for me?” The answers to all these questions – and more! – should be contained within your “case for support.”

When asking others to financially support your organization or institution you need to be able to clearly communicate why someone should give and what impact their gift will make. This is called making your “case for support.” You need to be able to proactively answer questions a donor, funder, or sponsor may have in a clear and concise manner. You should be consistent whether you “make the case” verbally or in writing. Inconsistency is a red flag that signals you have not clearly defined your goals, costs, and projected outcomes.

Some organizations believe their “cause” is worthy in and of itself. No one questions that money is needed for scholarships, healthcare, providing services that break the cycles of homelessness, poverty or violence. But how do you answer when someone asks “what specifically does your organization do with my money?” For example, if funds go to scholarships, do you know how many were awarded last year, what the average size was, and selection criteria used? Do you know if scholarship recipients remain in contact with your organization, or if you provide support other than scholarships to help ensure students’ success? If your organization provides social services, do you know how many people are served? What types of services they receive and for what period of time? Can you, for example, state what it costs to provide healthcare access to one individual or one family, or how many families are currently served and how many could be served with increased funds?

If these sound like questions no one will ask, don’t worry – they will be asked. It’s just a matter of when. If you are not asked at first you will be eventually – perhaps at the time and place you most don’t want to be put on the spot. Don’t be caught unprepared!

Your case for support should contain the following four components:

  1. A short history of your organization
  2. The current status of your organization and its accomplishments
  3. Your vision for the future
  4. What will it cost to implement your vision

This should be done in a short and concise document. The emphasis should be on your vision for the future and what it will cost to bring that vision to life.

Answering questions about your organization

Raising money requires a clear, concise and compelling statement that communicates where your organization wants to be in three-to-five years and what it will cost to get there. It should resonate with your prospective donors; create excitement, a desire to be affiliated with the organization; and most importantly, it needs to stimulate giving. Because there are so many worthy causes for people to give their time, money and resources to, your case needs to show how your organization or institution is unique, how the need you address is critical, and how a donor’s involvement will make a difference.

The case for support is not a literary piece – it is a sales and marketing document that clearly and concisely communicates what you are selling, why someone should give and what the impact of their gift will be. It is rooted in the organization’s mission, reflects its values and place in the market, and is based on financial projections.

Depending on the size and complexity of your organization this document should be from one-to-two pages. It should be written using easy-to-understand language, and should not include any abbreviations that are not spelled out. It should answer the following questions:

  1. What are you raising money for?
  2. Why are these funds needed?
  3. How will the money be used?
  4. What is your organization’s mission?
  5. What need does your organization address?
  6. How does it address it?
  7. Who do you serve or advocate for?
  8. What is your history?
  9. Why should an individual, foundation or business provide financial support?
  10. What is unique about your organization?
  11. What are you seeking to accomplish? This year? Over three years? Five years?
  12. What are your quantifiable successes?
  13. How is the organization qualified to deliver on its mission?
  14. What makes the organization competent and fiscally sound?
  15. What are the staff’s qualifications?
  16. Who are your board members?
  17. How does giving to your organization provide a donor, funder, or sponsor with “value?”
    1. What are the benefits of providing financial support?
    2. How are donors recognized for their financial and in-kind support?
    3. What are the “intangible” benefits? For example, being part of a community of like-minded individuals; alignment with spiritual or political values?

While the above is a long list of questions the document should be short – no more than one-to-two pages.

Once prepared, the case for support should serve as the primary set of talking points so that your message is communicated consistently by everyone who represents your organization. It is important that people hear and read the same case from diverse sources. Use your case for support when preparing proposals, talking with donors, creating direct mail appeals, updating your website, writing press releases, or making a speech.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw. Working together as Saad & Shaw we help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. We are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit us at or call (901) 522-8727.


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