What is the shelf life for your case for support?

When do you need a case for support? During a major campaign, capital campaign, or special campaign that happens every 10 years or so? What about every year! And what about having it up to date with current and engaging information? Is that too much to ask, or should people just give you money because you do good work?

Here’s what we know and what we teach: no matter how wonderful your nonprofit is, you have to tell people about your work. And, when you want to secure major gifts or multi-year investments, it’s important to be very clear and specific about what you do, the impact, and resources you need. Not “transforming communities one child at a time.” That works for an advertising or awareness campaign. When you want people to give beyond an “impulse” gift, you need to communicate specifics: which communities; which children; how often; through what methods; at what cost; with what impact; and more.

And, once you develop your case, you have to update it. That’s right – it should be a living document that tells a current story. You don’t want a case that sits on the shelf and is dusted off when “really” needed.  Here’s why.

First, things change. Within a given year programming and impact will change. Same with staff, board, and volunteer leadership: people move on, new skillsets are needed. On top of that, the environment fluctuates more frequently and unpredictably. Think about the changes we’ve had to respond to over the past two years: COVID-19; political polarization; increased hunger, unemployment, and evictions; unfathomable natural disasters; increasing refugees; and more.  Education on all levels has been turned upside down; and people’s emotional and physical health have suffered.

Related to this, your finances have most likely changed. Talk about how you’ve reconfigured your organization  in response to increased or decreased funding. Show where your money came from, where it comes from now, and where you anticipate it will come from in the future. Be specific about what you need this year and next: there are very few organizations who need the same resources as they did two years ago; and even fewer who are meeting the same needs in the same way.

Finally, you want to always look fresh and engaging: you don’t want people to think “same old, same old.” Use different photos, quotes, and testimonials. Talk about what happened last month; highlight the class of 2021, not the class of 2019. Keep your case consistent, honest, accurate, and up to date. Use a flexible design so it can be easily updated and excerpted to meet the many communications needs of your nonprofit.

Take your case for support out for a test drive – use it during a “mock” conversation with a colleague and see how it “stands the test of time.” If you have to verbally tell another story that “updates” the case, then it’s time to update. You gotta tell a current story – your major supporters expect that from you, and you should expect that of your organization.


Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021 Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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