How to develop a case for support

The best case statements include a mix of emotionally compelling stories about the work you’ve already done and the work you’re planning to do, plus cold hard facts that back up your claim.

How to develop a case for support

Just give me the money already!

Ok, ok. We know you need money, that’s why you’re here. But if your project is due to be out in the world in a month, you’re too late to this article. You should leave now and get back to your work Good luck!

While you’re out there killing it, make sure you gather lots of video, photographs, reviews, audience feedback, attendance data and contact details to get you on the front foot for the next project.

You – the artist, the company – are going on a journey. What do you need? A ticket to ride, and enough time to get there. With any luck you’ll be on this journey long enough to write “artist” in your passport. Which is why you need to build a case for people to support you, not just on this project but also on the next one and the one after that. You want a suitcase full of angels that you can carry with you and open each time you need the shiny stuff. Because you’re in this for the long haul.

Oh, and the ticket is your art. Of course. So you’re one up already. Happy days.


What is a case for support?

It’s another way of saying a call to action, a vision for the future, the movie trailer for everything you do.

Your project is great. We know that. But your potential donors don’t – yet. Your case for support should be like a light bulb going off in their minds and wallets.

To flick the switch you need to put forward a strong business case. Outline your mission and creative vision, telling donors why you need their support now and what positive outcomes they can expect.

The best case statements include a mix of emotionally compelling stories about the work you’ve already done and the work you’re planning to do, plus cold hard facts that back up your claim. In essence, you need to give people a sense of the warm and fuzzies they’ll get by backing you. Help them understand why you and your project matter and why they should care.

You’ll need to vary the content and tone of your pitch depending on the audience. An appeal to a private donor or foundation needs different language to your pitch on a crowdfunding website. Always make sure the style of your statement reflects you or your company. If you’re the Jane Eyre of knitting, you don’t want to come across all Moby Dick, no matter who’s holding the needles.


How do I use a case for support?

Let us count the ways! A great case for support statement is much more than a fundraising tool. It’s a Swiss Army Knife for you or your company. You can use it as a communications tool, a marketing tool, a training tool, a planning tool, or an inspiration tool (to motivate staff, a board, potential volunteers and even yourself).

As you write newsletters, direct mail, website copy, social posts, letters to donors etc., keep returning to your statement as a blueprint for the logic and language you’re using. You can also use it to create a shorter “external” statement that donors can post on their websites or use in company reports to support their rationale for giving.

Treat your case statement as a living document so its edges don’t become blunt. As you start winning awards, gaining supporters and hitting the big time, you’ll need to add and remove parts of it. You might even need to rewrite it. Ouch. But that’s later.


So, where do I start?

What am I trying to do? And why the hell should someone want to help me do it? If you can answer these questions truthfully, you’re on your way.

Really try and drill down into your reasons for making this work of art, building this company. Ask yourself: Who am I? What do I want? What do I want it for? What is my work about? Why is this important or compelling? Who am I making my work for? What difference will it make in the world?

This is pencil and paper homework time. Chain yourself to the desk and go for it.


What should be in my case for support?

At last – the nuts and bolts! There are five key elements to a great case for support:

  1. An emotive opening. Use your opening to pack an emotional punch. This is where you bring in all the feels in the most concise way possible. Not too many words, just the best ones. Donors will read your opening statement and decide whether to keep reading. Or not.
  2. Your mission and creative vision (what you’re going to do). Spin them a yarn. Tell a great story. What are you here for? You want them to be here for the same thing.
  3. Stuff about you (what you’ve done). Ok, so we don’t need to know everything you’ve ever done. Even your mum doesn’t want to know that. Include only the good stuff. Add in a timeline.
  4. Explanation of your work (what difference it has made). This is where you pull out the big guns. Who is the work for? (You did that homework, right?) Give us all that data you collected on impact and reach. But don’t try to appeal to everyone. Demonstrate integrity and credibility by knowing your audience and outline how you plan to keep them. Testimonials are great here. Jargon and exaggeration get the red card. Keep it professional and positive.
  5. Financial and in-kind needs (what you want). This is where you bring it home. Clearly state why you need funding or support and what the result will be. Of course you’re also kicking into crowdfunding, sponsorship, cake stalls, you name it. Let your donors know they’re not alone


How do I ask people for money or support?

Well, who are these people? Friends? Friends of friends? Foundations? Someone else entirely? Put together a detailed stakeholder list or map for your plan of attack.
Have some different cards up your sleeve and play them at the right time. Money is the ace, but others in the deck include:

  • in-kind support (rehearsal space, materials, publicity etc.)
  • access to friends with money
  • access to friends who can help you get money (by hosting functions in a swanky location, for example)

Now be clear and honest. How much money do you need to raise? Why do you need that amount now? What will it be used for? And how will the funds directly benefit those you serve – e.g., your community/audience/educational outcomes.

Do a budget. Yes, maths. You need detailed income and expenditure, clear actions, accountabilities (how you’ll keep track of the finances and report back), and milestones you plan to reach.

DO NOT BEG. This is business – a positive offer, not something to make people feel guilty about. You want to appeal to their intellect but also call on other motivating factors that make us human – a desire to help others, give back to the community, show compassion, be part of something bigger than ourselves, encourage and support creativity, artistic expression and innovation.


How do I bring all the info together and write it?

Ask for help. Work out what you’re good at then use other people to fill in the gaps. Do you need a professional writer to help articulate your case? A finance person for your budget? A marketing or communications person who is good at social media? An IT person or graphic artist to make it look professional?

We’re assuming you don’t have a budget to pay for help, so offer to do a skills swap where you work on other projects. All these people will also bring fresh eyes to your case for support. Seek their opinions and ask for feedback. Find out what they have done in the past and what worked.

Create an outline then start writing. If you’re in a company have just one person do the writing to get a consistent tone. Then others can redraft with a new energy. Make sure you have enough time. Yes, we’ve said this before. You need more time than you think. Three months is not unreasonable. Your proposal should be somewhere between 2-7 pages, depending on the size of the project.


What next?

Do a spell check.
Proof read it.
Get someone else to proof read it.
Proof read it again. If you’re not still finding mistakes, you’re probably missing something.
Share it with other members of your team and make sure everyone’s happy.
Plan your order of attack and send your baby out into the world. But also be flexible – say yes to every offer of help, you never know what it might lead to.

Good luck!

Coaching and mentoring

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