How to Write a Great Case Statement for Fundraising

Bringing heart and the facts is key

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Essentially every fundraising campaign has a case statement at its center. A case statement is a public-facing document that helps convince donors to support a cause during a specific fundraising campaign. It can be used in any fundraising campaign, such as the annual appeal, major gift campaigns, capital campaigns, and endowment campaigns.

What Is a Case Statement?

Today's case statements are no longer dry, dull documents that fundraisers find arduous to write and donors the same to read. They have become amazing stories that captivate and entrance, and may arrive in the form of a beautiful brochure or a delightful annual report.

A great case statement can also consist of just one or two pages that capture the gist of the need, the solution, and the call to action for donors. At its most basic, the case statement first explains the need or why you need the money, then lays out how the donor can help and how they will benefit from giving.

Who Is the Target Audience?

Your case statement should appeal to a wide range of stakeholders, from external audiences (donors, foundations, corporations) to internal readers (the board and volunteers).

Your case should be as understandable to your next-door neighbor as it is to your wealthiest prospective donor. It should be simple, clear, and persuasive.

The case statement, however, should not just be reserved for big fundraisers such as a capital campaign. It should serve as the basis for all of your efforts to persuade people to support your mission, whether that is a social media campaign or a pitch to a major donor.

Why a Case Statement Is Important

The case statement provides a logical and factual statement of the need your organization is trying to fulfill. It is where you can gather all the relevant stories and explain the role donors will play in achieving success.

While the case statement helps convince donors to support this particular fundraising drive, it also helps volunteers, fundraising staff, and the board understand the need clearly and provides factual evidence for that need. That evidence can be cited to help persuade donors. The case statement can be used as the basis for an appeal, a sit-down meeting with a major donor, or a grant proposal.

The case statement explains why your goal is worth supporting. It also provides evidence for why your organization is trustworthy and has a track record addressing the need. The statement clearly states who will benefit from the funds raised, and should anticipate questions a donor might have. These include:

  • Why this need?
  • Why this organization?
  • Who benefits?
  • How will the money be used?
  • Why should I trust this organization?
  • What's the future for this project and this organization?

What to Include in Your Case Statement

Bernard Ross and Clare Segal, authors of "The Influential Fundraiser," point out that a good case needs to respond to five fundamental questions.

What Is the Need?

State the need precisely—what it is, and who exactly will benefit by meeting that need. Be sure to make the need manageable so that supporters feel that they can make a difference. Global poverty is too big for an individual to get their arms around. However, they may be able to save a person or help a family.

How Can You Tell This Is a Pressing Need?

Make it clear that the need is now, and urgent. Include surveys, expert opinions, or statements from the people who need help. Explain the urgency and how the donor can help address that need right now.

How Is Your Organization Uniquely Qualified to Tackle This Need?

While there may be several nonprofits that could deal with this issue, what is unique about you? Is it your track record? The innovative nature of your approach? Are you part of a larger coalition of organizations? Has your organization developed specific strategies for tackling the problem?

What Will be the Benefits of Your Action?

If you act now, what will be the positive consequences, both major and minor? However, be realistic. What can be guaranteed, and what is merely possible? What aspect of the problem will your organization focus on? And why is that important?

What Are the Negative Consequences If You Fail?

Sometimes, this is the most potent motivator for donors, so lay out the major and minor adverse effects if you do not act. Be as specific as possible. How many people will not be helped? What consequences will happen if you and your donors don't take action now?

What to Avoid in Your Case Statment

Ross and Segal say that cases are too often internally focused, too long, and too static.

Write your case statement for your donors and supporters, not your internal audience. This is not a strategic plan or a financial statement. Make the gist of your argument straightforward and easy to understand.

Write less about your organization and more about the people you help and how donors can support that effort. Include core facts, but also use emotion to drive the message.

Don't set your case in stone. Major donors, particularly, want to be involved in the development of your project. Give them space to contribute their ideas, thus strengthening their engagement.

Don't forget excellent design. Today's donors are attracted to images, infographics, up-to-date formatting, and clean typefaces.

Even periodic fundraising events such as an athletic event, a giving day, or an online peer-to-peer campaign will all benefit from your case statement.

Having your case in place early makes all that writing and preparation so much easier, no matter the form your fundraising takes.

Case Statement Example

Case statements can take many forms. This (fictitious) example, which can be downloaded below, is an appeal.

How the Charles County Women’s Shelter Helps Countless Abused Women and Children with Your Help

More than 40% of women have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.** 

The Story

One night when her abusive husband was away, Charlotte and her three school-age children, Amy, Barbara, and Danny,* left their home with just a few belongings and arrived at the Charles County Women’s Shelter. They were frightened and alone but found refuge from years of abuse in their own home.

Charlotte had endured abuse for years but now found the courage to do something about it. Sure, she had tried taking her kids and seeking refuge with friends or relatives over the years but always suffered more punishing abuse later.

She feared she might lose her job because she missed workdays to recover from her husband’s attacks. He never abused the children physically, but they were suffering and doing poorly in school, afraid to have any friends over for playtime.

Charlotte had no money of her own since her husband controlled the finances, even Charlotte’s paycheck. Finally, Charlotte’s friend suggested she talk to the Women’s Shelter.  She did so in secret and eventually worked out an escape plan.

Charlotte said later, “Frankly, I’m not sure any of us would have survived without the help of the kind folks at the shelter. They protected us until we could make our own way. They helped me find legal and financial help. I’ll always be grateful.”

The Facts About Domestic Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, more than 40% of women in the United States have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in some form.**

Many of those women and their children face poverty and insecurity amid institutions that often turn a blind eye or present a confusing array of agencies and courts to navigate. Without organizations like the Women's Shelter, hundreds of families like Charlotte's would likely never achieve a normal life.

How You Can Help

Most of these women and children can be saved with your help and that of the Charles County Women’s Shelter.

When a woman calls us, we go into action. We help prepare her and her children to leave their home and receive safe care at our shelter. We work with law enforcement, lawyers who donate their services, and child welfare agencies to help these families recover their confidence, health and prepare for a brighter future.

Your help and that of other generous donors enable us to provide these services free of charge.  Our five-year goal is to be able to help more families just like Charlotte and her children.  With your help, we plan to expand our facility’s capacity from 45 to 90 families and hire 20 more victim advocates to work with the families.

Who Are We?

The Charles County Women’s Shelter was founded in 1990 with a small facility and 20 staff. Over the years, the Shelter has been praised for its thorough support and advocacy for abused women and children. We employ a professional staff of social workers and healthcare specialists steeped in the research of domestic abuse.

The Shelter has also focused on influencing local and state legislation that would benefit families in need. We employ a director of government relations to monitor current law and to influence prospective legislation.

We have organized a community advisory committee of volunteers to oversee our efforts in this aspect of our work. Many of our top donors become part of this group to help us plan for now and the future.

We have enjoyed funding from the county government, but those funds no longer cover all our expenses, much less allow us to grow. Over the years, we have found many donors such as yourself who have opened their hearts and pocketbooks to help us meet the increasing domestic abuse challenges.

Here’s What Your Donations Help Provide:

  • Victim advocacy services: A trained victim advocate cares for each woman or family, arranging for crisis counseling and support groups.
  • Representation: The advocates represent the clients during relocation, police investigations, court cases, and medical treatment. They work with schools to help the children stay in school and improve their grades.
  • Temporary housing: The shelter provides meals, security, job counseling, and legal and financial services.
  • Social welfare: We place children in new schools when needed and navigate all the social services available from the county, state, and federal government.
  • Permanent housing: We help find new housing or get families back to their own homes.
  • A buffer: We absorb the trauma so that women and their children
    can recover.

What These Services Cost

Providing the array of services these women and children need costs more than $1,500 per family above our government funding. The money operates our family-friendly housing facility, advocates for each woman and family, and provides ongoing services that may be needed for months.

In our last fiscal year, the Shelter had a $1.5 million budget. Of that amount, more than 60% came from individual donors and corporate and foundation grants. To continue accomplishing our mission and expanding it to many more domestic abuse victims, we project that our budget needs to double over the next five years.

That is an ambitious goal, but we know we can get there through our donors and the community's continued generosity. Every dollar we raise will expand our capacity to serve the victims of domestic abuse in our community.

The Charles County Women’s Shelter only spends 10% of its revenue on administration and only 6% on fundraising. A full 84% of your gift goes directly to our services and programs for women and children suffering from domestic abuse.

How You Can Help

Please help us reach our immediate goal of $5 million to expand our facility, increase the number of women and children we serve, and counter the terrible scourge of domestic abuse in our community.

One-time gifts are welcome and ongoing gifts will help even more. Gifts will support our general services, or they can be restricted to a particular service or program at the donor’s wish.

Become a “Friend of the Shelter” with a pledge that covers three years. Donations from “Friends” provide stability and the ability to plan for the future. Pick a Friends category that fits your budget:

  • Guardian Angel: $5000 or more for three years.
  • Advocate Friend: $1000 for three years.
  • Supporter Friend: $500 for three years (three-year pledges may be paid monthly, quarterly, or yearly).
  • Planned Giving: The Shelter also gratefully accepts gifts through wills, bequests, and estates. Please contact our development office for details.

What Your Support Makes Possible

More than a thousand individuals, businesses, and foundations support the Charles County Women’s Shelter every year. That support and yours has never been more needed. Now is the time to make sure that every woman and child suffering domestic abuse in our community has a place to go and heal.

Become Their Hero Today with Your Generous Donation.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

** Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Violence Prevention. "National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data Brief."

Key Takeaways

  • The case statement is usually a public-facing document tied to a particular fundraising appeal.
  • A case statement can take many forms, from a glossy brochure to a brief statement of need to a presentation or letter.
  • A case statement should be written for your donors and supporters, not your internal audience.
  • Case statements should be written clearly in plain language that anyone can understand. They should tug at the heart and also satisfy the need for facts and evidence. They should specify exactly how a donor can help and why they should.