It seems whenever I have a new case to write, someone makes a snarky remark. “Nobody will read it anyway.” Maybe they are trying to encourage me by implying the case statement is so unimportant that writing it should be easy.
They are wrong on both counts. Writing is never easy, and the case statement is really and truly all important to the success of a capital campaign. A powerful case statement can send a campaign way over goal—even if most of the time nobody reads it.
Maybe they don’t read it–but they do hear it and they talk it. Before I start writing, I need to hear from everyone who has feelings about the case—including the board, the leadership, staff, donors, and the population served. Then I shape the case into something that is logical, feasible, emotionally pleasing, unified, and effective for serving the mission of the organization.
My draft of the statement goes back to the leadership. They may modify it, but usually they talk it up together and persuade each other that this is the right case, the best way to move into their mutual future.
Once people buy the substance of the case as expressed in text, I try to represent it visually as well. People look at and remember photos, plans, and drawings. They want success stories involving people served by your mission–to see their faces. They want to hear (or read) testimonies from other donors—to see their faces. These images, stories, and quotations will percolate down from the executive committee to the least volunteer.
Finally, people like lists of things. What are the next steps? List them. What are the benefits of the remodeled building? What will you do next year different from this year? How much can you do at what cost? What are the break points? What are the costs of doing nothing? What are the top five talking points in this case? What are the giving expectations and options? List them.
An actual case statement often becomes a long, well-designed document, complete with color photos, cut-outs, expensive paper, and response mechanisms. Maybe no one is reading it from beginning to end, but they are seeing it, and what they see reflects on you. The case gives your donors and friends confidence in you, in your mission, and in your vision.
No two case statements should be the same. Your case statement is a highly individualized document that shows your organization (and you) at your best and getting better. One more thing: It seems I always hear about one person in every campaign who actually confesses that she sat down and read the case statement from cover to cover. She was enthralled, inspired, and moved to make a significant gift. That’s the person who makes my day. Case closed.