Cases for Support that Excite, Inspire and Ignite your Donors
In this webinar, Leah Eustace, ACFRE will outline the power of a strong case in building support, both internally and externally, and give you the tools to make it happen in your own organization.
Steven: All right. Leah, is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off officially here?
Leah: Go for it.
Steven: All right. Cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you are on the East Coast, and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks so much for being here for today’s Bloomerang Webinar “Cases for Support that Excite, Inspire and Ignite your Donors.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I am the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session, and we’ll be sending out the recording and the slides later on this afternoon. We’ll have a transcript next week. You’ll get all that good stuff, I promise. So if you have to leave early, or maybe you just want to read the content later on, have no fear. I will get all that stuff in your hands. Most of it will be delivered to you by email this afternoon in fact.
Most importantly, as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. [Know why is it 00:01:05] already have. That’s great. I love it. We love for these webinars to be interactive. So don’t be shy about sending in your questions or comments along the way. We’re going to save time at the end for Q&A. So don’t sit on those hands. You can tweet us questions. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed as well.
And if you have any trouble through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better. So if you don’t mind calling in, if you can do that, if that’s comfortable for you, if that won’t annoy a coworker, give that a try before you totally give up on us. There is a phone number you can use in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago. So check that out if you have any problems.
If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to you, folks. If this is new to you, I hope you come back because we do these webinars pretty much every single Thursday throughout the year. Literally, we only miss a couple holiday weeks in the year. We have great speakers like Leah, totally educational presentations, one of our favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. But we are most known for is our donor management software. So if you are interested in what we have going on, or what we have to offer, maybe you’re thinking about switching sometime in the near future, check out our website. You can even watch a quick video demo of the product and see it in action. So check that out. I would not do that now because you all are in for a real treat. I’m really excited for this presentation because we have one of my favorites. Leah Eustace joining us. Hey, Leah? How is it going?
Leah: It’s going great. How are you?
Steven: I’m great. I’m happy. I’m excited for you to be here. I just want to brag on you real quick. I don’t want to take too much time away from you, but Leah is awesome. You’re all in for a treat for sure. I know I say that about everybody, but really Leah’s presentation that she did for us last year in 2017, I think was my favorite webinar. She gave a great presentation on how neuroscience impacts fundraising and donations and things like that. So check that out if you want to watch the recording. It’s in our archives. But I had to have her back.
If you don’t know Leah, she’s awesome. She’s a CFRE. She’s an ACFRE actually, which is a big deal. There aren’t too many of those. She has been doing this for over 25 years. She’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars for organizations in North America, Canada, USA, tons of experience. She has her own consultancy over at Blue Canoe Philanthropy. So if you were in need of maybe a case statement writer, copywriter, check her out. She’s really great. You’re going to love this next hour or so. She speaks all the time on the donor psychology, storytelling, leadership, very involved AFP. She’s on the international board. She helps with the ACFRE credentialing, AFP Canada, AFP Foundation for Philanthropy in Canada.
I don’t know how you have time for all this, Leah, especially your client work, but I’m really glad you carved out an hour out of your busy schedule to be here with us. So I’m going to pipe down and let you talk all about case statements. So take it away, my friend.
Leah: All right. Thank you. I don’t actually sleep. That’s how I fit it all in. All right, so welcome everybody. There’s a lot of people on online which is wonderful to see, lots of Canadians. And some of my fellow case writers and designers who I forewarned I might to give shout outs to, so I’m sure they’re here just to make sure it’s positive.
So I love writing cases for support. It is my absolute favorite thing to do. And why do I love it so much? Because there’s something magical about finding the heart of every organization and every cause, and that’s really what a case statement is. It’s the heart that connects your donors, your stakeholders, your volunteers, your beneficiary, and, of course, the cause.
So I’m imagining that many of you are on this call, well, for a couple of reasons. You’re probably not on this call if you are perfect at putting together cases for support. You may be here because you are in the middle of writing one. I saw at least one name on the screen that’s just getting into writing their own case. You may be here because you have a case that you really don’t like and you’re looking for some tips and tricks. And maybe some others are just curious. For everyone on this call, I’m hoping that there’ll be content in here that will really help you whether you are from a huge organization that hires this stuff out and you just need to manage it, or whether you’re from a tiny organization and you’re doing this all yourself. I’ll speak to all of that. So one big question, and given that you’re all on this call, I think you have the answer yes to this, but do you need a case?
I would argue that every single organization should have at least one case for support, and typically, starting with an organizational case. If you don’t have a case, I’d be interested if we could actually raise our hands, and I think we can somehow. But you guys can figure out that technology. Does every person in your organization know what you’re raising money for? Or, if you ask that question, would you get a whole pile of different answers? The beauty of a case is that it pulls you all together, and has you singing off the same song sheet, so to speak.
And what exactly is a case for support? I think cases for support have changed over time. Traditionally, cases for support of, you know, even maybe 10 years ago, but certainly 15, 20 years ago, were very institutional looking, full of facts and figures, budget, etc. And they’ve evolved. The really great cases here and now are much more about storytelling. We’ve learned over time, we’ve learned so much about human brains and one thing we’ve earned is that stats and figures and big numbers actually turn off that impulse to give. So the great cases that I see on a daily basis are very much about the heart, not the head. They’re about pulling people in emotionally, making them feel something and less about the logic of it. You know, that comes later. So you may have this wonderful case for support, and, you know, a proposal may come later. And that’s where you can get into the nitty gritty and the logic and the numbers.
Really a good case for support, is it’s essentially your rallying cry. It’s your song sheet that you sing from. I’m big on analogies. You’re going to hear me talking about them throughout. But, you know, those are a few. And here’s another. Think of your case for support as a wonderful symphony. The music plays seamlessly. The audience is totally enthralled. They might laugh, they might be moved to tears, but they’re all in. But what goes into that piece of music? There’s many people playing many different instruments at different times. There’s a conductor pulling it all together. And essentially, we are the conductor of the story. The musicians are beneficiaries, perhaps, our board are volunteers, and the audiences are our donors. And it’s up to us as the conductor to make it just seem completely seamless.
That’s what a case for support does. The best case statements or cases for support — really those are used interchangeably these days — focus on the why of the cause rather than the how. It’s the why of the cause that will pull out that heart, that emotion and that inspiration. The how will not. You may pull in a bit of the how, but the focus of a really good case statement should be almost entirely on the why.
A really great case talks less about you as an institution and more about your donors as the hero of a story that concludes with a transformational solution to a problem. So one way I look at this is I see our institutions are really a tiny little plus sign between our donors and the cause. We’re really just a conduit. So your case absolutely shouldn’t be about you as the plus sign. It should be about the donors and connecting them directly to the cause.
I love this quote from John Steinbeck. “If the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.” So really good cases for support pull the reader in and make them part of the story. They have a donor side tool in them that the donor can just step right into. So we tend to use a lot of “you,” “less,” “I” and “us” and “we.” You’ve heard that before, probably for direct mail writing and other things. Same holds true for a case statement. It is really about the reader almost entirely. And if it’s not, if it’s about institution, if it’s really self-focused, you will turn people off. They won’t be engaged, their heart won’t get pulled into the story.
The types of case . . . now, I referred to this just briefly a few minutes ago. I’m seeing more and more institutions looking for an organizational case for support, for an overarching case, from which they can develop their messaging, their content, their keywords, their look and feel of things and their most important stories. Traditionally, we tend to associate a case with some kind of capital project, a new building, perhaps, or, you know, a particular project overseas that has a big figure attached to it. And, and yes, we still do cases for support like that, but more and more we’re seeing the organizational cases for support. We’re seeing project-based cases. We’re seeing endowment or cases for planned giving more and more often. And there’s many other types of case. So, you know, most of organizations, the larger organizations, you’ll see have multiple cases for support, not just one.
So how do we use these cases for support? When we think of a case for support, we usually picture a lovely printed document that we hand to our donors, 8 to 12, 16, 20, 24 page document that looks beautiful and that they’ll hang onto. But there can also be very short calls to action in many cases. A case could be on a website. It can be completely digital. A case can be pulled into brochure, into annual reports, gratitude report, even pulled into your direct mail and your email campaign.
Who is the audience? It’s not just donors as your audience. It can be your board members. It can be other volunteers and it can be as much an internal rallying cry as an external rallying cry. There’s often an internal case for support and it’s a little different when it becomes an external case to support. Two slightly different things, both really great to have. And, again, that internal case for support can act as the . . . almost like your key messaging document in a way from which you pull an external case, from which you pull website copy and so on.
At the end of the day, your wealthiest donor, your CEO, your bookkeeper, and even the person who opens the mail should all be equally inspired by your case. And they should also equally understand it. I’ll talk in a few minutes about some of my writing tips for you as you put together a case. One of the big ones, is to right at about a grade six or seven level. And what that does is allow the reader to get absorbed into the story. When I see big words and complicated topics raised in a case, I look at them as speed bumps, and you want to eliminate all the speed bumps, between people’s heart and their head. We don’t want them to switch in between. We wanted this to lie in their hearts.
Now, this can be very complicated. I mean, lots of things you want to answer in your case, but really fundamentally, the key questions are, “Why us? Why now? And why should you care?” So the, “why us?” is really the plus side. You want to make it known that you are the best custodian of donor dollar. You were going to make happen what they want to happen in the world. You want a sense of urgency. Usually that’s wrapped up in a call to action, and you want to tell donors why they should care. Why should they pay attention to this? How will it help them accomplish some of their goals? So this is always a tricky slide from your tricky part of a discussion. Who should write the case? And I’m going to try and be as objective as I can, given that I’m a case writer.
But cases can be done both completely internally or with that outside help. And pros and cons of getting outside help so hiring a case writer and a designer, kind of a visual storyteller, certainly can be useful and can create an amazing case. You get a lot of experience. Of course, you have to pay for it. Writing your case internally, definitely a low cost option. The downside to doing it internally, I think is that it’s very hard when you’re inside an institution to be able to take that 50,000 foot view of what you do and the impact you have. So more than once over the last year I’ve been sent a case that was done internally and people are a little unhappy with it. But I think if you have a really excellent writer on staff, it’s certainly possible.
In terms of costs, you know, I won’t even go there, but, you know, a cost of doing this externally can be really wide ranging from, you know, a couple thousand dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Here’s some of the things that I really focused on when I’m doing a case for support and that I see in really great cases to support that I read. An emotional and powerful opening is really important because if you don’t draw your reader in right from the very first word and right from the very first image, what’s the point? They’re not going to continue reading.
You want to talk about your mission and vision, but not as statements, which I often see, but woven in to your narrative and to your storytelling.
A history of impact. You want to show that you can make a difference, that you have accomplishments. I tend not to spend a lot of time on history, but I often do it through storytelling, kind of those impact stories of the difference you’ve made.
You need to have problems. If everything’s rosy and things are perfect, obviously you don’t need any revenues. So you need to present what problems you’re trying to address. And then you need to talk about the outcomes or solutions to those problems, and how the donor is a critical part of that solution.
A sense of urgency, that, again, keeps the reader engaged, keeps them from putting it down right away. You want to kind of build up some excitement and energy in your case.
And a call to action is really important. Your reader is going to want to know what it is they’ve been asked to do at the end of the day.
Of course, stories. Stories are the base of every great case for support on this. There’s so many stories that you can tell. I like to encourage people to think outside the box a bit. So many organizations have an incredible story about how they were founded. Many have, of course, your beneficiary stories. You know, that founding story I think is really important, especially if you’re doing them a case for bequests for planned gifts, that walk down memory lane is a really important kind of story to tell.
Russell James, who many of you would know, who’s in Texas has done a lot of research on that and has shown that the part of your brain that lights up when donors are thinking about the bequests is that autobiographical part. So depending on the kind of case you’re writing, that can be a great story to tell.
Overcoming adversity, is a really wonderful story to tell. Your donor stories. Often donors have a really personal connection to your cause and those are lovely stories to tell. Stories about vision, what the future will look like are also wonderful to tell. And, you know, thinking outside the box, and, certainly, you know, I’ve seen loving direct mail and it can be woven into cases as well. Having a storyteller who is unexpected, so perhaps you’re a storyteller is a tree, or the front door of your building, or a telephone. This is especially true of causes where you need to be concerned about confidentiality and privacy.
Brenda’s asking about, in her letter, where should the call to action be stated? And a letter is a little bit different. You know, in a direct mail appeal, let’s take that. I would typically have a call to action, a singular call to action. Don’t ask, you don’t have to do more than one thing. But three or four times at least within the letter. And that’s probably a whole different session. So thank you for giving me ideas of future presentations.
This is where I’m going to start shouting out a few of my colleagues. I want to present this case and walk you through my process for putting together a case in hopes that you can pick up a few things that will help you. For this particular case. I partnered with the wonderful Andrea Hopkins, who I see is on the line, who is one of the best visual storytellers out there, and we really walked hand in hand as we put this case together. It was complicated one, in some ways are challenging, I guess, rather than complicated in that it’s a completely bilingual case, English and Chinese. Andrea did a wonderful job of pulling that together. And I’m going to walk you through not just this case, but I’m kind of using it as an example and combining a few of the different ways that I tend to do my work.
So what steps do I take that may work for you? I tend to start with background gathering, or kind of a discovery phase. And this is a really important step in the process. I usually spend about two thirds of my time on this particular part. And I will tell you in a minute what that looks like. I then move towards kind of thinking creatively about this, the case that I’m doing. So I’ll start thinking about how all the pieces might pull together, I start thinking about what it might look like. So I move into a visualization that I kind of do on my own or in partnership with the designer I’m working with. And it’s not until I’ve done those three steps that I move into a first draft. I then, once everyone’s had a chance to review it, and often, once I’ve finished writing that first draft, it’ll occur to me that there are missing pieces.
So, you know, I may do an additional interview of folks to gather further information. Sometimes I only come to that realization once I’ve started a first draft. I can see the gaps in the narrative thread. I can see where it’s not tying together. Typically, around this time, I start to work with a draft artwork and then, of course, at the end of the day it’s completed, and we have a beautiful piece of work, I hope, at the end of the day.
So my first step, the background gathering. I will, no matter how close I am to an organization, I will gather as much information as I possibly can. I’m sorry to say I still rely on printed documents. So often, my guests will be just covered in papers and highlighted things and I may use sticky notes. I’ve read through strategic plans. I’ve gone back and read five or six years of annual reports.
I’ll read proposals that have been sent out to funders, brochures, the website. I’ll ask for copies of direct mail, anything. Any kind of program information and my process is, you know, I take all of that and I read it all over a few days, and then I just let it percolate. I often have these amazing aha moments in the middle of the night, or where we’re suddenly that the beginning of that narrative thread, kind of, pops in my head.
And, of course, part of this background, a really important part, probably the most important part is doing interviews. I am a huge believer in talking to people. Yes, you know, watching a YouTube video of someone’s speech, or reading a letter they wrote, it can be helpful, but it’s in talking to people either face to face or over the phone that their story truly comes out. I have a bit of a litmus test for a good interview. If we both end up in tears, I know I’m headed in the right direction.
And that happens like 75% of the time. Interestingly, a little tip here, for whatever reason, and other people have a different experience. But for whatever reason, I’ve found that phone interviews pull out the best story. I think there’s something, a little certain level of anonymity when you’re speaking to someone on the phone. They’re not looking at your body language. They feel a little less nervous. And, I’ve often at the end of an interview been told, “Wow, you know, I never told anyone that before.” And that’s a great [time 00:27:20] for me. And, you know, I’m happy to talk more about that. Again, story-gathering is probably a whole other topic in and of itself.
I have a wonderful list of questions that I’ve pulled together over the years. And I use as a guideline even now after doing thousands of interviews, I’ve used this as a guideline. I will add things to it, but I keep it nearby. I keep it in front of me to make sure I don’t miss anything in terms of questions. And to keep me kind of on point. Some of the questions I asked are there on the right. Well, I was talking about sport here, but how would sport or . . . and this is for a particular case, I get how would sport be different if your organization didn’t exist? How would the community be different? How would this neighborhood be different if your organization didn’t exist? Tell me about a pivotal moment, a pivotal moment where you were suddenly all in, where you heart was fully engaged. Walk me through that moment.
Tell me about a person you’ve met or a program you’ve been involved with or a story you’ve read that has really stood out for you. And why should donors care? I’m really happy to . . . Oh, I see a couple people asking already. I’m really happy to share my interview questions with anyone who would like them. You’ll see my email address at the end of the show here, and you can feel free to send me a note, and I will very happily send this to you. And I’d be interested in what I’m missing here. So have a read through it. Let me know what’s missing.
So once I’ve done all of this discovery, I’ve had lots of phone calls, I have maybe had some in-person interviews, I’ve had meetings, I’ve read and read and read. I then take the step of putting together a creative brief, an inspiration brief, whatever you want to call it. It’s usually somewhere between three and six pages, where I take what’s in my head, my aha, the narrative thread that’s been forming, then I put it down on paper.
And it’s there that I kind of pull out what I think the key messages are, what the core story is, the journey I want to take the reader on. I may think a bit about the look and feel at this point, especially if I’m walking hand-in-hand with a really great designer like Andrea. This is both the copy and the visuals kind of working together on this creative strategy. And then I share it. And I would suggest even if you’re doing this internally, this is a really important step. It helps you . . . I figure out whether you’re on the same page as those other stakeholders who are part of the process. And it gives me a chance to test ideas before you actually sit down and do your first draft.
All right, I often do this. In fact, I always do this, I start scribbling on paper. So this is an actual real case statement scribbled, not for the Villa Cathay case but for another one. This is me sorting through the narrative thread of a case statement. So right from the cover page, and I look at everything, this was a printed one, so I’m looking at it as two page spreads and pulling all that narrative together in a way that makes sense, and doing this before I start writing my first draft. The end product didn’t look exactly like this, but it ended up being pretty close. And, you know, I’m not sure every writer would take this step, but it certainly helps me in figuring out that journey that I’m taking a reader on.
And then I move to my first draft. So this the very, very early part of the first draft of this Villa Cathay came to support, because it’s kind of the opening. By the time we started working with the visuals and the artwork, it changed a bit, but this is where it started from. And you’ll see when I share kind of the front page with you, you’ll see that it’s very much reflected in the final product.
So a few writing tips, and again, this could be probably a daylong course all by itself. I always recommend and using a lot of emotion really, even if you have to put a picture up on your bulletin board, that picture the heart is more important than the head. Focus on making people feel really important. Focus on making the donor the center of the story. They need to be part of the story. They need to see their place in the story.
I mentioned before writing at a grade six or seven level. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean you’re talking down to people, it means you’re writing for comprehension, and it means shorter words. It means shorter sentences. And, you know, a tip for your writing, you can actually turn on readability stats in MS Word and see what writing level you’re writing at. There are also some great online tools. The Hemingway App is one. Another one that I use is ProWritingAid that will completely dissect your writing and help you with the commas, but also talk about the readability of your piece, passive phrases, things like that.
Someone’s asking [inaudible 00:33:53] donor as the center of the story. And I’m going to share some real examples with you. So hold off. And I think that I will be up and answer your question. Oh, here’s a few more tips, and don’t try to educate. You’re not out to educate your reader. The recipient of a case for support usually knows all the basics about your organization and the cause. So don’t try to raise awareness. Don’t try to educate. Just focus on making them feel.
Try not to mention the name of your organization. I think it’s Tom Ahern or . . . Well, someone will correct me if I’m wrong. I think Tom Ahern wants to challenge at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, everyone to write all their appeals without mentioning their organization once. It’s really, really hard to do, and usually you have to pull it back in, but it’s a good kind of way of making sure you’re completely donor and cause focused.
I almost always, when I get to writing my first draft, I do it when I’m feeling emotional. That might require me to go back and re-listen to an interview, but if I’m feeling emotional and kind of my heart is open, that’s when I do my best writing.
Another tip about drafting your case for support, a draft case for supportive is a wonderful way to build relationships with potential donors. And I love the saying, “If you need money, ask for advice. If you need advice, ask for money.” So starting in that orange circle, using your case and that draft case and running it by some of your stakeholders, perhaps some of your bigger donors, perhaps some key volunteers, a couple of board members. Ask them what they think. Ask them if it meets them. They’ll let you know. And what you’ve really done is open the door for them getting involved in giving bigger gifts later on.
So, step five. This is, you know, first draft’s been written out. I’m going to give you a real example here. I did a case recently, and we had developed, I thought, really great kind of first and second draft, and the second draft was shared with a number of fairly significant donors to the organization and one of them pointed out that he felt we were missing the voice of a donor in the case. So really personal narrative of a donor. And he was absolutely right. So, I in fact, ended up interviewing him because he had a wonderful story to tell and we wove that in. And it made the case stronger.
And then, of course, you go to art, and again, shout out to Andrea Hopkins who is the visual storyteller here. We moved to artwork and, of course, you know, words get changed along the way, things change, but it starts pulling everything together.
I want to spend the last part of this walking you through a couple of cases. One is mine. It’s the one I’ve been sharing, Villa Cathay. The other is, and I warned her I was going to do this. The other is written by Maggie Cohn, who is on the call as well, and also there’s lots design by Andrea. And it’s just a beautifully done case, because I didn’t want this to be the Leah show. There are so many wonderful case writers out there.
So highlights are mine, the kind of badly highlighted text. This is that Villa Cathay case for support. So Villa Cathay is a home for Chinese seniors based in Vancouver and it’s one of really very few, certainly the only one in the downtown Vancouver area.
And I wanted to illustrate a couple of things here. The focus of this case, I mean, the end result is that Villa Cathay needed to rebuild a new building. But the focus of the case is on if the Chinese seniors. And this was a wonderful one to work on. I’m sure Andrea would agree that we learned quite a bit about the nuances of various cultures. And seniors in that Chinese community are so incredibly well-respected, I think the rest of us can learn a lot from it. They are loved, they’re treated with respect, and we really wanted to pull that out, particularly with this home, which is really a home in every sense of the word. And, in fact, that was a theme of the case was creating a home for these wonderful seniors who we surround with love, with respect and support. And then, of course, pulling the reader in. You can see that last line is a really just pulling them into this story. This is the kind of care you’d want your own parents to have and the kind of care you’ll want someday. That was the way they could step into the story.
Then a bit of an urgent need. Well, the building itself is in jeopardy, and the way we told this story was, first of all, the urgency. We need immediate action. And again, focused on the seniors, not technically on the building itself. So, the love, respect, and dignity with which we treat those seniors will soon become impossible. And illustrate that with how those seniors who are very well cared for, but in very . . . the building’s almost falling apart around them. They’re sharing their time in double rooms with strangers. Their private washrooms are too small. Three times a day, this was heart-wrenching. There are long waits for the one elevator that goes down to the main dining room. And the, you know, we have visuals of this long line of wheelchairs, people just waiting and waiting just to be able to go in to eat. And we owe it to our seniors to do better. We need to do better, much better. And with the donors’ help, we will.
There are a few numbers in here, but we’re really focused on exceptional care for Chinese seniors rather than the building necessarily. It’s more about their experience.
And really important with this case was to touch on the culturally relevant care is a huge part of what makes this place special. And so you can see I’ve highlighted just a few things that the honor it is to support our seniors through this stage of their life. We talk about the scrumptious meal. And I can almost smell it when I read this or playing mahjong. Bringing residents together over music. And then sharing a story of what it was like for a resident who first stayed in another facility, really powerful story. And reminding people that we all deserve the chance to age amongst the culture that has shaped who we are.
I’m skipping pages here, and you can actually, I will tell you at the end where you can download this entire case and the other one I’m here to talk about as well. So here we have our call to action at the end, “Invest in our community. Our residents call Villa Cathay their home, and with your help, we’ll build a structure that reinforces that message at every turn.” So here’s your chance to say thank you to those who’ve given us so much. Please, make a gift today.
Now I’m going to move on to the case, this is a case written by Maggie Cohn, who’s on the call, and a visual storytelling by Andrea Hopkins. This, personally, I didn’t warn them that I was going to do this. I picked a favorite case of mine written by someone else. Maggie, who I adore and respect, she’s fabulous and I’m going to attempt to walk you through what stood out for me in this case. Now, The Wild Center is a natural history center. It’s in Tupper Lake, New York. So not far from Adirondack Park. And as you can see here, what Maggie and Andrea developed was a case statement which is falling right there in the middle, you see it, along with some program information sheets and a folder. So there’s some flexibility in how this can be presented. Next one. Steven, why are my slides not going forward?
Steven: It moved forward for me, Leah. Let’s see if it’ll . . . give it an extra second.
Leah: Oh, okay.
Steven: Yeah. I see The Wild Center, “Fall in love with the wild.”
Leah: Okay. Bigger?
Leah: Oh, interesting. My slides aren’t changing. So that’s okay. I’m flexible. So here . . . And stop me, Steven, if I suddenly I’m speaking to slides that aren’t up. But so, this is the front cover of that case for support. Being a lover of nature, I just adore this. And I adore when it says here, “Fall in love with the wild,” and really, that is the theme of this entire case for support.
So then, you know, we flip over and this is the opening spread. Now, what I can’t do, because I can’t see it big, is figure out what I’ve highlighted in there. So bear with me for a second, but you can see here there’s lots of white space, really short sentences and focusing on the emotion. Inviting people in, and inviting them to love nature. It’s really beautifully done, and this is actually . . . I’ll go through it a bit fast. Can’t actually read my slides, but it’s really beautifully done. And I’m in a minute I’m going to show you where you can download this. And here’s another example. I’m totally frozen at this point. So I will just continue.
So I have a few more pages in the slide deck and things I’ve highlighted from this case that I just absolutely loved. Really, the focus on falling in love with nature, falling in love with the wild is really well done. The call to action at the end is powerful. When I read this, I felt part of the story. I wanted to get involved, and it spoke to really my spirit and nature is my happy place. And so, well done, Maggie and Andrea, really lovely case.
Now, where you . . . A place you can find all of these cases. You’re going to find lots of examples of excellent cases for support is on the website, thecasewriters.com. And that’s where you’ll find Andrea’s work. You’ll find some of my work. You’ll find Maggie’s work, Tom Ahern, and John Lepp and Jen Love, my fellow Canadian are part of under the umbrella of the case writers. I don’t know what it is. There’s probably nine or more case for support up there. There are gratitude reports. There’s direct mail. But if you’re looking for examples of really excellent cases and perhaps an example of a case for a cause that’s close to what you do, that is the place to go. You’ll find, you can download both that Villa Cathay case, and this Wild Center case as well. And so, I encourage you to take advantage of being able to do that.
A couple of questions that I see here in the comments, Ruth has asked about that translation. There’s so many ways to handle translation that it’s something we’re particularly familiar with up here in Canada since we do have two official languages, French and English. And I’ll speak for Andrea Hopkins for a minute. We spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to best present a case that was in two different languages. You can do two different documents. You can do a document where, you know, one side is one language, you flip it, and the other side is a different language. Or you can do what we did, which was have each spread be both languages.
And will they read identically? No, not quite, because words can be different and nuances can be different. So they may not be exactly the same but engaging a great translator is really important. And in this case, we neither Andrea or I speak or read Chinese. So we were quite reliant on the translator and the client Villa Cathay for providing the copy that we needed, that would serve to tell the same story with, you know, slight nuances. One of the things we have to consider in translation is space. So when we’re doing one in English and French, for example, the French translation takes up a lot more space than the English words. In the case of Chinese, it takes up a lot less space which worked well for us. So I hope that helps.
You also asked about call to action, Ruth. The call to action, the education and advocacy. Yes, talking about education and advocacy, that’s part of the work you do. And I would tell, talk about that work by way of a story. So perhaps the particular story of a child who you have advocated for. So talking about what their situation was, how you helped with their journey and where they are now is a wonderful way to illustrate your advocacy work. And happy . . . I’m not sure Steven, if you can get my last slide up there because I’ve lost control here. But my email address is on that last slide.
Steven: Got it up there for you.
Leah: You got it? Okay, perfect. I see it, I think. This is a good challenge for me to speak to a slide deck I can’t actually see. Perfect. I hope I did okay after my initial, “Uh-oh, what’s going on?” So I’m open to answer any questions that you might have. I’m happy. I think Steven will provide a link to the actual slide deck. I’m happy to provide any documents that I’ve talked about here. So my case for support questions, just fire an email to me and I’ll reply with a Dropbox links. But happy to take any other questions that folks might have. I realized this is really . . . we’re spending an hour on talking about something that takes months. So it’s a bit of a taste, and I hope in, kind of, walking you through my process, I’ve given you some ideas, some tips and tricks that I’ve kind of worked on over the years that may be helpful to you.
Steven: Yeah, that’s really great, Leah. Really, thanks so much for sharing all of these case studies, case statement, case studies, several cases there. And I was clicking through your nature example, at the end. So folks got to see all that good stuff there.
Leah: Oh, thank you.
Steven: Yeah. I’m also a fan of white space, so . . .
Leah: I hear it okay. But I couldn’t read my highlights.
Steven: At least it didn’t happen earlier in the presentation. This was great. And yeah, I would definitely recommend reaching out to Leah. Check out thecasewriters.com, lots of cool resources on there for sure. But, yeah, we’ve got a lot of more questions coming in. Here’s one from Sam.
Leah: I just realized I can’t read the questions either because I’m completely blocked.
Steven: Yeah, [inaudible 00:52:50]
Leah: Read some for me, Steven.
Steven: Yeah. I got some good ones here. Sam’s wondering if there’s ever a time where “we” is okay. You know, we always hear “you, you, you,” and be donor-centric, but is it okay to say something like, “We can’t do it without your help”? Is that acceptable? Are some exceptions to that rule? What do you think there?
Leah: Oh, sure. Yeah, that’s a really good question. And certainly you have to use “we,” especially when you’re talking about, you know, together “we” will solve this problem. So what you want to do is make sure you have about twice as many “Yous” as you have “wes” and “Is.” So you’re not eliminating them completely, but you’re making the focus on the reader.
Steven: That makes sense for sure. How long should it take to write? And how long should the case statement be? I’ve heard that, you know, long content is better despite maybe some alternate opinions on that. Are there hard and fast rules, or is it just kind of how long it takes you to tell the story?
Leah: Yeah, another good question. There aren’t really hard and fast rules. I think most of the cases that I write are somewhere in the 2000 to 3000 word range, sometimes even less than that. And I suspect, you know, with this Wild Center case, and Maggie could chime in with how many words that is. But it’s substantial. You know, it’s a number of pages, but the word count is probably lower than you would expect. And, yes, you want to tell the story in how many words it takes to tell the story, but to a certain extent, less is more. So I tend to stick with that somewhere around 2000 to 3000 word range. Much more than that, and you’re probably just putting too much into it. Again, you want people to feel this is not an academic thesis.
Steven: That makes sense also. Here’s one from Aaron, kind of interesting, “Should you change your approach if you are writing to individuals versus maybe a granting organization or a corporation for maybe a sponsorship?” Should there be any kind of change in approach there?
Leah: Yeah, I think there should be. If you’re writing a case that’s specifically going to be shared with corporate donors, then, you know, much of the case will be the same, but you probably are going to want to have a bit more focused on what’s in it for them, which is what the corporation will likely be interested in. So talking a bit about how, for example, I’m thinking of a case that I worked on for a community college. And much of what they talked about in the case was preparing future workers. So preparing the next generation of workers for these businesses. So that might be an angle you’d want to take that would work really well with your corporate donors. So it’s, you know, you’ve changed some things and maybe change the call to action, but the base is going to be the same.
Steven: Yeah. Kind [inaudible 00:56:21]. Very cool. Here’s one from Tracy, maybe and that’s where to end it. Tracy is providing sounds like a philanthropic bridge so they’re doing endowed funds to provide scholarships for non-traditional students for workforce development. And they’ve never done that before. So how would you go about maybe conducting interviews? Should they interview recipients, maybe of that? Even though they haven’t ever received no possible recipients, even though they haven’t maybe existed before. I guess, you know, first time when doing a new initiative where there may not be people to interview, how would you kind of approach that?
Leah: Well, that’s a tricky question. I think focusing on the need, so interviewing someone who can talk about the need would be good. If there are already a few donors who are kind of in and giving to this program, interviewing them about what their motivation is. You know, perhaps they have a story from a scholarship they received way back in the day that had a huge impact on where they are now. So, yeah, I would need potentially future recipients, although that’s kind of hard because then if you’re obligated to actually make sure they get one. Those are a couple of ideas.
Steven: I love that donor idea, if you got somebody committed. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Kind of like you’re, maybe you’re selling to vague people perhaps. Very cool.
Leah: Exactly. Or it could be someone who, you know, it’s maybe well-established now, but could’ve really used that scholarship back in the day or before it existed, getting them to talk about it.
Steven: That’s a great idea. I knew you’d be able to answer that one off the top of your head.
Leah: I used to fundraise for a scholarship program, so yeah, but luckily an established one, so there were lots of stories to tell.
Steven: Well, man, this is great. This is a fun one. Any last bits of advice for you? For these folks, Leah? We really got about 30 seconds.
Leah: Yeah. I mean, if you’re undertaking this, read. Read a bunch of cases. Absorb them, find ones you like and steal ideas. You know, we’re all here not to compete with each other, but to collaborate and share and work together in philanthropy, not against each other. So, you know, there’s a network out there, people doing this kind of things. So take advantage, and again, I’ll be really happy. You know, I can no longer see the questions that have been asked. But, Steven, maybe you can fire off them to me. I can answer individually or you people can email me, email me their questions. I would be really happy to just continue giving some tips and tricks and ideas to folks.
Steven: Yeah. We got your email address up on screen. So definitely take advantage of that offer. If you’re listening in and maybe you’ve got other questions, reach out to her. Leah is awesome. If you see her in person, go to her sessions. If you are going to be at Nonprofit Storytelling Conference in about a week or so, check it out. She’ll be there. Tell her, hi. Tell her you heard her on this webinar if you see her. And Leah, I guess I’ll see you there in a little while as well, right?
Leah: Yeah. Can’t wait. I’m looking forward to Florida weather.
Steven: Yes. Well, this was fun. Thanks to all of you for taking an hour out of your day. We always enjoy having a full house here. So if you liked this one, we got lots of other webinars every Thursday. In fact, we’ve got a special Wednesday edition for scheduling reasons. So we’ve got a day early next week. We’re going to be talking about compliance. This online giving season coming up. You want to make sure that you’re compliant, especially if you’re in the states, because all those different states have different rules, how to register on some of them. So if that is a mystery to you, if you’re maybe worried that you may not be compliant, or just want to make sure you get all that buttoned up, be here on Wednesday 1:00 p.m. Eastern. We got Harbor Compliance. They’re kind of my go-to for compliance.
Then we’ve got other sessions coming up throughout the end of the year. Just check out our webinar page, and hopefully we’ll see you again on another webinar. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Look for an email from me with the recording and the slides, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.