I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how easy it is to lose sight of the things we’re passionate about when we’re stuck in the endless cycle of day-to-day activities. I don’t know about you, but it feels like I’m rushing from one item on my to-do list to another, with barely enough time to think in between. The immediate and urgent always seems to take precedence over the thoughtful and strategic.
And with that, it becomes all too easy to forget why we’re doing what we do. And it’s not just us: our fellow staff members, volunteers, and board members can forget, too.
In this month’s tip, I’ll share how the development of a case for support can help reignite the passion that got your stakeholders involved in your organization in the first place. I’m going to assume that you already know the importance of having a case, so I’ll focus instead on process.
Let’s start with a few basics.
A case for support document is typically designed for the following three purposes:
The best cases for support adhere to the following principles:
That’s all fine and good, but where do you start? Where do you find the passion, emotion and stories that you need to craft your case? In my experience, reading through your annual report, program updates, reviewing your website news, and pouring over your strategic plan will not give you what you need (and, trust me, if a case for support is written using only written documents as background, it’s going to be pretty terrible.)
When I am getting ready to write a case for support, I rely almost completely on personal interviews with key stakeholders. From them, you can easily gather the stories and messages that will bring your cause to life.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Your interviewees won’t naturally put their heart on their sleeve and spontaneously share it with you. You need to draw them out by asking really great questions, and taking the time to really listen to their responses. It often helps to have someone outside your organization do these interviews because they can put aside pre-conceived ideas and structure and can more easily take that ‘from the outside – in’ perspective.
Over the years, I’ve conducted thousands of interviews and I’ve learned that the following questions can be particularly effective in bringing your interviewee back to the root of their support of and excitement about your cause:
More often than not, these 45 or 60 minute interviews result in laughter and tears. It’s then that I know I’ve been successful because I’ve brought the interviewee to the level of emotion rather than logic. At the same time, as a writer I’ve been pulled in and feel deeply connected to the cause. And, I know I’ve helped to reignite my interviewee’s passion because I’ve forced them to reflect on the basics. I’ve been privileged to hear the passion in their voice.
Once the interviews are complete, spend some time thinking. Think about what has stood out. Think about common themes. Think about the stories that made you feel deeply. Then, start writing. The case for support that results will be powerful and will become a rallying point both internally and externally.
Leah Eustace is principal and managing partner with Good Works. A “fundraiser’s fundraiser” with a wide background in charitable fund development, she’s worked with clients including the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, CARE Canada and the UN Refugee Agency Canada on social media, direct marketing, donor research and legacy marketing.
She’s Past President of the Ottawa Chapter of AFP, President of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada, and a member of AHP, NTEN, the CMA and CAGP.