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Winning Support.

Making your case statement sing

Two words you should keep in your head when building a case statement: compelling and urgent.

That's the advice of Guy Mallabone, vice president of external relations for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Mallabone spoke at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) 38th Annual Conference on Fundraising, held earlier this year in San Diego.

"If it's not urgent, I'll set you aside and I'll work on somebody else in my community," Mallabone said. "If it's not compelling, why would I talk to you anyway?"

In his seminar entitled "The Nuts & Bolts of Constructing a Case Statement," Mallabone discussed four main points when building a case statement:

* The difference between an internal and external case;

* The purpose of a case statement;

* The basic components of an external case; and,

* How to use and present an external case.

The case, as defined by the AFP's Fund-Raising Dictionary and presented by Mallabone, is "the reasons why an organization both needs and merits philanthropic support, usually by outlining the organization's programs, current needs, and plans."

Mallabone said it is important that organizations build a case before beginning to fundraise. "In the absence of an effective case or someone who is capable of doing that, you're going to find in raising money that a lot of your precious time is utilized in that vortex of space that sucks up all of that extra time," Mallabone said. "I happen to consider this the most critical piece that you have nailed down before you move forward in fundraising."

Mallabone defined the internal case, often referred to as "the case," as a database of all the pieces that speak to an organization. The first step in building a case statement is pulling together documents, key pieces of information that will help an organization build the actual case statement. What kinds of questions is an organization going to have to answer in its case statement? According to Mallabone, when designing a case statement, it is critical that an organization has very clear and precise answers to these questions:

* Who are you?

* Why do you exist?

* What is distinctive about you?

* What is it that you want to accomplish?

* How do you intend to accomplish it?

* How will you hold yourself accountable?

"Probably the most important reason is how will you hold yourself accountable?," Mallabone said. "Research just completed on the motivators and barriers to why entrepreneurs give philanthropically shows that the number one reason why they stop supporting an organization that they gave money to is that the organization did not do what it said it would do with the money. So, how are you going to hold yourself accountable to the investment that people give?"

According to Mallabone, the purpose of the case is to:

* State the case for the institution's aim, purpose and mission;

* Present the case for current programs;

* Show how new programs will enrich and benefit the lives of many in society; and,

* Dramatically show the organization's impact on the community economically, socially, artistically, spiritually and/or historically for today and tomorrow.

"As fundraisers, we are the last people in an organization who set the priorities for fundraising," Mallabone said. "How many people can legitimately say their organization has a clear, universally held belief in consensus for the priorities for fundraising in the organization? It is tough to do. At the end of the day, this will probably be the greatest challenge for you in building a case statement, because if you build a case statement that has the fundraiser's ideas in it, what will happen? People won't buy into it; it will become your campaign and not our campaign."

The external case, or "case statement," tells the story of the organization to its constituencies, according to Mallabone. Just as an organization has a vision and a vision statement, it should have a case and a case statement.

"The case statement takes the case and puts meat around it," Mallabone said. "A case statement should state why change must occur. You might look within your organization and identify what piece is happening that is causing the irritant. Why must change occur? Show that there is an issue."

A case statement should also state the organization's services, programs and objectives; how the funds will be used; how the institution will remain productive; and the difference it would make if a donor supported the cause.

"A case statement, at the end of the day, should do a number of things," Mallabone said.

"When I was first introduced to the case statement, I thought it was simply a document I needed to have to list what my priorities were, and I left it at that.

It has to have the capability of informing and giving information."

In addition, Mallabone said, a case statement should do the following: inspire; excite; uplift and motivate; incite to action and involvement; instill urgency; and invite support, interest and dedication.

"Yes, a case statement raises money; we all stay focused on that," Mallabone said. "But I believe a case statement goes far beyond that. First of all, it allows you to obtain consensus. A case statement process will allow your organization to focus on its priorities. That's a wonderful reason to go through the process of doing a case statement. You rally your organizational leadership; you're able to recruit new leadership because a case statement brings some critical mass to your momentum. You're testing the market for the first time on new ideas; it's a supporting tool in asking for gifts; you're telling the story; and it's a foundation for developing additional materials."

Gina Bernacchi is a reporter for the Denver News Bureau.
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Author:Bernacchi, Gina
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Aug 1, 2001
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