A Case for Support
Today I participated in a webinar entitled “Developing a Compelling Case for Support”.
The presentation was designed for charities that apply for foundation grants. In Canada the ratio of charities to foundations is about 20:1, so foundations end up with many more applications than they have money to support. As a result they have to be selective about which charities to fund.
A case for support is an internal document prepared by a charity to answer the question “why should anyone give us money?” While the document is not made public, it becomes the basis for all communication with external parties such as funders and supporters. So before a charity goes asking for grants or donations, it will want to create the strongest possible case for support.
According to the presenter, foundations are looking for charities that can demonstrate high performance and high impact. They are trying to invest where they can produce the greatest good for the least money. It’s about both efficiency and effectiveness.
Here are a few of the questions that a case for support should attempt to answer:
- Is there evidence that members of our board of directors believe in the organization enough to contribute financially?
- What is the compelling need that we are addressing? Is it portrayed with urgency? Does the description evoke empathy?
- Do all of our programs align with the mission statement?
- Do we have defined goals and measurable outcomes? (Do we understand the difference between outputs and outcomes? Outputs are the product of activity. Outcomes are valuable benefits realized by the people served.)
- Are the methods we use unique? Innovative? Could our methods be used by others with success?
- Do we differentiate ourselves from similar organizations in some way?
- If we received more funding, how would this improve our results?
- Do we exhibit financial health and fiscal responsibility?
My guess is that most churches have never even heard of a case for support, let alone prepared one. And I’m not suggesting that congregations need to rush out and hire a consultant to help them create such a document.
But it might be worth knowing how other charities prepare themselves before soliciting donations. After all — whether we know it or not, like it or not — we are in competition with tens of thousands of Canadian charities for the money that enables us to do what we do. Apart from that, those are good questions in and of themselves.
As time goes on, more individuals will start thinking like foundations. They will increasingly see financial support as being more like investing than donating, and they will expect recipient organizations to understand the language of investment. They will want to make sure that their money is doing good, and they will not hesitate to switch their allegiance if someone else can produce more good with the same amount of money. Sincere intentions alone will not cut it.
The truth is, this is happening now. Are you prepared for the new reality?