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4 Steps To A Winning Fundraising Case Statement

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Writing a case statement? Trying to persuade prospects to make major gifts for a big project, like renovating a building or creating an endowment?

Here’s a formula that will always work:

1. Dramatize the problem.

2. Make the donor the hero whose gift will solve the problem. (How? By investing in your organization’s project.)

3. Build conviction. Catalog your real accomplishments, answer objections, back up any assertions you make with facts, introduce surprising news.

4. Oh, yes: Ask for the money.

Why use this particular formula?

  • It works. (Well, that’s a relief.)
  • It keeps your document brief (i.e., reader-friendly).
  • It is inherently logical. The problem/solution sequence makes sense to the reader. Corollary: confused readers don’t give money.
  • It is emotionally satisfying. Salvation, the individual’s “greed to be someone and do things that matter,” flattery: all of these are powerful emotional triggers that can magically turn prospects into donors. Saving lives, changing lives, making the world a better place: donors desperately want their money to accomplish something important and lasting.
  • It keeps you out of trouble. Following a proven formula cuts down on rookie mistakes.

Begin the story on your cover

Us Helping UsI used that four-step formula in a case statement for Us Helping Us, a D.C.-based HIV treatment and prevention agency. UHU is trying to raise $2 million to renovate an old building into a counseling and treatment center.

1. Dramatize the problem. The UHU cover shows a young black man and women, attractive faces, looking readers straight in the eye. The headline above asks, “What do you imagine is the number one killer here in D.C. of men and women like these?” The answer: “Guess again! The killer is HIV/AIDS.”

2. Make the donor the hero. Inside, a chilling list of facts about the epidemic spread of HIV/AIDS in the D.C. area ends in this challenge: “Do you find these facts disturbing? Good. They are. Are you searching for a way to reduce HIV infection here in D.C.? Even better. Time to write a check!”

3. Build conviction. Out of eight pages, we devote almost half to listing all the fascinating and unique things UHU does to help reduce and eliminate HIV/AIDS. We make a big deal of their CDC funding. We include a timeline, showing the organization’s growth from volunteer-based to professionally staffed. We introduce readers to the UHU they DON’T know by first featuring something readers probably DO know: the condom kits that UHU distributes by the tens of thousands in D.C. nightclubs.

4. Ask for the money. “Time to write a check!” is only one of several pleas for cash sprinkled through the case.

You might be wondering: Why rely on a formula at all?

Because there’s a good chance you’re a bit rusty in the case statement department. In a busy year, I’ll write 10 case statements. Jerry Panas’ group out of Chicago creates 70 or more annually, he reports. But for most organizations, years will pass between one case statement and the next.

Of course, the REAL reason you use a proven formula? Because it saves time and money. Marketers learn early: Invent as little as possible — steal as much good stuff as you can. It’s just WAY more efficient.

This post originally appeared in the Ahern Donor Communications newsletter.

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