What makes a good case for support?

Our 2019 masterclasses are led by Jane Wentworth on building a case for support. Jane shares with us some of her expertise ahead of her national presentations at our masterclasses across the country.

Any organisation – whether it’s commercial or not-for-profit needs to have (and share with all its staff) a concise, coherent and consistent sense of what it stands for.  A simple statement – probably no more than 50 words long – that answers four deceptively simple questions.

  • Where do you want to be in 10 years’ time?
  • How do you describe what you do?
  • What are the values that drive your internal culture? And,
  • Why do you do what you do?

Sometimes called a brand strategy, this essential narrative underpins everything the organisation does, enabling everyone to make the right decisions – from where they operate to who they partner with, from what they make to how they talk.

There was a time when many philanthropists and donors simply gave money to the things they liked going to – the opera or ballet, art exhibitions or sporting events, and perhaps this is still the case for some organisations.

But increasingly donors want to know what difference their generosity is going to make. So for any fundraising case for support, the most important question to answer is why you do what you do.

Many organisations start with a bit of history… “founded in 1934, the gallery was purpose-built to house the magnificent collection of the Earl of A… ” followed by several pages of glowing praise for all the things they have done, some facts and figures about audience numbers and perhaps a few quotes from supporters…you know the sort of thing.

This approach probably does work and there are certainly plenty of examples around, but I suspect many readers would have switched off by about page four.

I think a better approach is to think of your case for support as a screenplay rather than an essay. Imagine a conversation between you and a potential donor…

  • You: Hi. What do you know about Company X?
  • PD: A dance company?
  • You: Yes, but it’s a bit different. It’s for people with disabilities.
  • PD: Great. Tell me more. [smiling]
  • You: The brilliant thing about it is that it gives the artists the self-confidence to achieve their full potential. The more people we can reach, the bigger the impact of what we do.
  • PD: Hmmmmm….. [looking around the room distractedly]
  • You: We have the opportunity to do a tour of Europe, but it will  cost $100k
  • PD: That’s a lot of money….why do you need to tour Europe?
  • You: The more people we can reach, the bigger the impact of what we do. We already have $85k secured…. Do you think you might be able to help us with the last $15k?
  • PD: Maybe, let’s talk some more. Here’s my card.

Okay, so you’re unlikely to get the whole $15k on the spot, and building a donor relationship takes time, but often the best way to plan your message is to try it out as a conversation with someone else first.

Whether your case for support is written or spoken, the story must be clear – so keep it simple. You need to engage people emotionally, so it must have a compelling hook.

Finally, it must be consistent – every piece of collateral and every person involved the campaign needs to tell the same story with confidence.


Book your spot at our national masterclasses with Jane Wentworth.

You can read more of Jane’s content on her blog.