Tag Archives: Case For Giving

Should you Include Stories in Your Case for Support?

Should you Include Stories in Your Case for Support?

Recently, while writing a case for support for a client, I interviewed 3 board members. When I asked why they got involved, they each gave vastly different answers. One was passionate for the work, one had lifelong family connections, and the third thought the nonprofit was essential for the community.

And this is true of most nonprofits. Everyone gets involved for a different reason, but they all understand the importance of supporting the organization.

Then the question is, how do you write a case for support that is compelling but  speaks to different people with various motivations? Over the years, we have found that there are many different ways to go about it. Here are two options.

Option 1: Reasons to Support Temple Sinai

Temple Sinai has been a part of our community for 71 years. We have had hundreds of bar and bat mitzvahs, education from 2-year-olds to senior adults, and more simchas and funerals than one can count. We are here for you through every life stage, life cycle, and life event. We are a community, thanks to you.

Options 2: 3 Stories in Your Case For Support

Andrew went to the Bar Mitzvah on Saturday morning with his family. As he looked around the room, he realized he had created an amazing community through the congregation. And, he was so thankful he and his wife chose Temple Sinai’s preschool.

As Michelle presented the Kiddush cup and certificates to Adam, the boy who had just become Bar Mitzvah, she was incredibly proud to serve on the board. It had been fifteen years since her own children went through the religious school. But she still remembered the unbelievable feeling of being surrounded by friends and family during this momentous rite of passage. Through the years, Temple Sinai has continued to provide her with a spiritual center, a place to gather to play mahjong with the Sisterhood, and education for everyone from her 2-year-old neighbor to her own Torah study. She sees the benefits of a strong congregation every day.

Rick came to the Bar Mitzvah because his wife takes a class with the Bar Mitzvah Boy’s Grandmother. And his wife wanted him to go. He thought about the last time he was in the sanctuary with a mask for Yom Kippur (don’t get him started on the sermon). But then he looked back at the many b’nai mitzvah he’d attended through the years – including his own children’s many years ago. He remembered his friend’s funeral and his daughter and son-in-law’s Auf Ruf. He remembered why it is so essential to keep the congregation strong. His own generation depends on it, but so do the people he will never know in the future.

In case you haven’t guessed, we have started to include stories in our case for support – and our end-of-year letters.

People will strongly identify with one story and understand the other two. Which is what we think the beginning of the case for support is all about – to create the emotional response which will open minds to the facts. Emotions, like feeling you are a part of the community, that you are passionate, and that the nonprofit is essential, are how you will encourage giving.

Now you just have to explain what the outcome and benefits will be from the fundraising that the case justifies. 

Don’t Teach Anything New – Writing a Strong Case for Giving

The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.

– Seth Godin

How to write a strong case for giving

Obviously, Seth Godin is talking about a strong nonprofit’s case for giving. Or at least, that’s the lens I am using.

Are you writing a strong case for giving?

Use Seth Godin’s idea and help your prospect or donor feel smart for investing in your organization. Explain why it aligns so well with what he or she already believes in and values. That your organization is an obvious place for them to support. Also consider these tips:

  • Keep the focus narrow. This is not the place to tell every story that may resonate with the reader. This is the place to tell one story that exemplifies your organization.
  • Offer stories throughout the year and throughout the years. This will allow you to tell multiple stories, one at a time.
  • Authenticity is beyond essential. People know when it is forced or false. If you can’t back up your case with facts or answer the inevitable questions, don’t include it. You will end up losing current and potential donors.
  • Why you are giving to this particular nonprofit at this time is often a good story. If you are verbally talking through your case for giving with someone, tell your story – not just the organization’s story. Tell what moved you. You can be focused, authentic and, hopefully, align with something they already feel (which is why you were assigned to meet with them).
  • First impressions matter. That means a convoluted story can be more distracting than supportive. Plan out the important points ahead of time. Then, practice until you feel comfortable in case you get interrupted with a question.
  • Everyone wants to join a winning cause. Desperate asks went out with the last century. Now people want to know they are giving to an organization on solid footing which will use their investment wisely to do the work you all support.
  • Pretty pictures and marketing efforts do not a case for giving make. Nice documents have been involved in many failed interactions with donors. Trust me. We get called in to help resuscitate campaigns that have beautiful handouts. Face-to-face solicitations, with a strong case for giving, have better results. Every time.

Want help with your strong case for giving or to improve your fundraising results? Call for a free consultation 800.361.8689 and press 3 to speak with Abigail.

Want to read more about writing a case for giving?

Lessons to Transform The Case For Giving Into a Case For Asking – That Can Be Learned From A Reusable Grocery Bag

What Would You Do With 1,000 New Donors?

1000 New DonorsImagine if an article about your nonprofit started getting forwarded on Facebook. By a lot of people. Suddenly, you receive 1,000 new donations from 1,000 new donors. Seems like it would be a good problem, wouldn’t it? But, it would still be a problem.  In all likelihood, you could not accept, acknowledge, and begin stewardship on 1,000 new donors with your current structure. In fact, many organizations can’t handle 50 new donors at a time.  Or 10 if they come at a busy time of year.

That is because most nonprofits don’t have a solid organizational structure for stewardship and development.

Whether you have a one-person development shop or fifty people working the task, there have to be formal processes in place to make sure you keep your donors happy. And retain those donors next year, and for many years into the future.

What should you consider when assessing your current structure? Do you have:

  • Goals for your fundraising efforts?
    • Are they realistic?
    • Is there data to back up your goals (vs. wishful thinking)?
  • Prospect and donor research?
  • An updated case for giving?
  • An understanding of the steps you take after someone gives you a gift? Including:
    • How many acknowledgements go out and from whom?
    • Who enters the gift into the system and how is it tagged so you can gather data at a later time?
    • Do you do something different if it is an oral pledge vs a written pledge vs a check or online donation?
  • Written gift acceptance policies?
  • Board involvement in fundraising (and expectations for involvement)?
  • 100% board giving to your annual fund (money, not just time and talent)
  • An effective development committee?
  • A stewardship plan?
  • Processes to update the different thank you letters on at least an annual basis?
  • A planned giving gift acceptance policy?

This is not an all-inclusive list for what to do with 1000 new donors.

In fact, it’s just an overview of considerations to create long-term financial stability and growth.  But, just as it will take additional funds to secure your nonprofit’s future, it will take additional work – from everyone – to be able to accept those funds with confidence.

If you are planning to go viral with a story to help you find 1,000 new donors, or you want to  have the kind of donors who will help your nonprofit succeed for the long-term, email me to today to talk about MJA’s Organization and Development Assessment. A full assessment will help you in untold ways.  To learn more about what we can do for you, click here.

Lessons to Transform The Case For Giving Into a Case For Asking – That Can Be Learned From A Reusable Grocery Bag

Do you have a culture of giving? Or should I ask, do you have a culture of asking? While nonprofits want givers, few people want to be askers.  And that is often the sticking point.

Common excuses include:

I heart your nonprofit“We don’t have those kind of big-money donors in our community”

“That’s too much to ask for from our donors.”

“We aren’t the type of organization that raises a lot from our members.”

“Our community is unique. We can’t ask people like other nonprofits can in other places.”

“The people around here only give small amounts to organizations like ours.”

Now, here are some facts:

  1. There are donors on your list that donate large amounts – just to other organizations who ask them for it.
  2. Raising the same amount of money year after year is, in reality, raising less money each year.
  3. These excuses are your way of saying no for your donor. People are perfectly capable of saying no for themselves.
  4. You are not the only small city with one social services agency, one synagogue or one _____.  And many raise money.
  5. You may know the people who have been large public donors for years, but that does not mean you know all of your community’s donors.

How do you change transform your nonprofit’s case for giving into a case for asking?

This is where the reusable bags come in.  Remember when people thought it was way too much hassle to carry around reusable bags? We would have to invest $10+ for each bag that turned itself into a small ball.  It just felt like a lot of work.  And, as often as not, we got to the checkout and realized they were left by the back door.

Now? Watch the registers at a local Trader Joes you will see every shape and size of reusable bags. If someone needs paper bags, it often comes with an apology for leaving their bags at home. The culture has shifted.

It took time, but change happened.  The same can happen at your organization.

Create a case for giving.  Every staff member and volunteer leaders should be able to articulate why you are a place that deserves funding. And, that includes what the money will be used for and how each gift will make an impact.  Use the case as an excuse to engage donors and prospects and get their feedback. And take their feedback to heart.

The goal is to transform the case for giving into a case for asking.  And asking for more is the only way you will raise more money.

Let us know if we can help you transform your nonprofit’s culture into one of asking and giving by emailing me today.

Creating A Good Story

Fundraising Story imageIn order to be able to make a successful ask, whether you are talking to an individual, corporate giving officer or foundation program person, you need to have a good story that humanizes the organization, its specialness, and why it is a great investment.    The essence of a good story can and should be used by executive directors, board members and grant writers alike.  So what makes a good story?

You Have to Know the Background to Move Forward
Every person who is going to tell the story should know when the organization was founded, what problem the organization was created to solve, and how it has evolved since its inception.

The Current Situation
Mission – The storyteller may not be able to quote, word for word, the entire mission and vision without a physical document but they should be able to paraphrase the purpose of the organization.   Meetings take place at desks and in elevators, in conference rooms and at site visits, and the story should remain the same regardless of location.

Current Programs – It is important to know the services that are being offered, why they are special and how they help fulfill the mission.

Current status of the budget – If your organization is continually, on, over or under budget people want to know.   If you cannot answer the basic finance questions, you can’t ask to increase the finances of the organization.

The Anecdote – What anecdotes can you tell that will spur conversation, interest and donations?  Was there something specific that brought you to the organization?  Is there a tale you could tell about one of your recent visits (this also shows that you are involved on a tactical level).  Did you recently discover some new aspect of service? 

You don’t want this to sound canned, but planning is essential to successful development and a story is no different.  Think of the general concepts ahead of time but leave the specific details for that off-the-cuff feeling.  Caution, if the tale feels old to you, it will feel old to the listener so unlike a mission or vision, stories need to change on a regular basis.

The Future
Vision –  Remember what was said about the mission?  The same is true here.  No need for memorization but paraphrasing is essential to ensure everyone is articulating the same aspirations for what the organization might yet become.

Upcoming Programs – Here is your opportunity to talk about what new services and programs you hope to achieve in the next year, five years or ten years.  Explain why these programs will help achieve your vision.  And don’t forget to explain who would benefit from these programs.

Above all, remember that a story is a story and not a list of statistics.  People can look at a brochure or website for the facts. You want to offer your passion, your excitement and the reason for your involvement.  If done correctly, you will create a similar reaction in the person who listens.

Should You Promote Your Cause or Your Organization?

Capturing a donor imageThis morning, I read a headline in the Association of Fundraising Professionals bulletin that read, “Fundraisers More Committed to Causes than Organizations?”  The question mark was what caught my eye. This does not seem surprising to me.

In fact, I would take this one step further and guess that the majority of donors to an organization feel the same way.

Looking at my history as a donor would tell you that the majority of time, it is true for me.  One or two organizations stay the same no matter where I live -The Brattle Film Foundation falls into that category.  But many of my selected charities would change as I move from one community to another – including my synagogue, museums, public radio and TV station as well as a local children’s services organization based on my family’s connection.

Following this train of thought, do you talk to donors about your cause or your organization?


Look at my examples again.  Boston has two national public radio outlets, and countless college radio stations that are, at least partially, listener supported.    I only give to one.  I chose it for content and I chose to give to this type of charity because I appreciate the cause.  But if one of the other stations were to call me to try to get me to donate to them because they are public and need external support – I would probably turn them down.

Now it’s your turn.  Take a look at your donor strategy.  What does it say about the cause and what does it say about the organization.  Does it promote the efficacy of homeless shelters, in general, and then focus on why and how your shelter affects the prospective donor’s community?  As another example, does your congregation talk to the benefits of religious institutions in general or only the specifics of your community?  It might be worth a check to ensure you cover all the essential points of both the cause, in general, as well as the organization, especially if you are talking to someone in development.