Guest Post by Kevin Wallace, President, CampaignCounsel.org

 

A regional healthcare foundation and a local cancer foundation combined forces to conduct a capital campaign in rural Washington to build a radiation treatment facility. The foundations, our clients, were midway through the $3.5 million campaign when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns began. While their immediate fundraising efforts shifted to providing for the needs of patients, healthcare workers and the hospital, the capital campaign was not sidelined for long. The need for radiation treatment for patients in a rural area that sits at least two hours away from the nearest treatment facility became even more important for patients and their loved ones in light of COVID-19.

A shift in the campaign’s case for support was required to bring to light the new realities faced in the community and by the foundations. A capital campaign case for support is an important document that outlines the needs and benefits of your nonprofit’s intended capital project. The very best cases for support weave together the image of the nonprofit, its role in the community, and how fulfilling that role benefits its users and the community.

We added language to the radiation treatment facility campaign case for support to address the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients in the area, the importance of a local radiation treatment facility during times of wide-spread community infection, and reference to the importance of helping cancer patients avoid COVID-19 exposure. Through these additions we strengthened the case and made it relevant to current supporters and prospects.

Every organization, from healthcare to libraries to wildlife refuges, has needed to address COVID-19 in some way and most can find that their work is beneficial in helping people navigate these challenging times. Your organization’s response to COVID-19 is an important aspect of your case for support that, if you haven’t already addressed, you should address now. Look at your case with an eye towards incorporating your COVID response and amending your case to address COVID-related fundraising impacts.

 

Your Case for Support

If you’re just starting a campaign and developing a case for support or if it’s time for an update, here’s a starting point. The case should focus on a specific capital campaign appeal. It includes the nonprofit’s mission and vision, but also places focus on the quantified and qualified details of a project.

Done well, a case for support is generated by internal staff along with community leaders and donors. It is important to include internal and community leaders’ perspectives. If you only have the internal perspective, you may miss the case’s key selling points from the potential donor’s perspective. 

A case for support can be generated during a capital campaign planning study. Information gathered from the study is integrated into the case elements. Through the study, a nonprofit should solidify its image, its role in the community and how it benefits the community. These elements all become key parts of the case for support. 

A case for support is a long document that touches on all the pertinent elements of a capital appeal. It is not intended to be a stand-alone document. Rather, it is the building blocks for newsletters, brochures, grant requests and video scripts. Think of it as a depot of information that can be pulled from depending upon the nonprofit’s need. For example, if the nonprofit needs to write a grant request, the information from the case for support can be cut-and-pasted into the request with the foundation’s areas of interest woven into the response.

If your organization already has a case for support, then review it and consider adding COVID-19 elements as we did with the healthcare campaign. Think about these topics: How has COVID-19 impacted your community and service population? How is your campaign going to improve the situation in the short-term and in the long-term?

 

Elements of a Case for Support

A thorough case for support includes these elements:

  • Overview: A brief historic overview of the nonprofit – when did it open, who does it serve, how does it benefit the community, accolades.
  • Mission and Vision
  • Administration and Board of Directors
  • Challenge/Current Situation: What operating/programmatic/infrastructure shortfall(s) brought about the nonprofit’s desire to begin a capital campaign? This is the nonprofit’s “Need.”
  • Opportunity/Solution to Current Situation: Once the capital is raised, how will the nonprofit’s users and the service region be improved? This is the nonprofit’s “Benefit.”
  • Project Budget and Business Plan: The project budget is the total cost of improvements and how those financial obligations will be met (savings, campaign, bond, etc.). The Business Plan is needed if staffing or expenses are increasing. This shows financial readiness or break-even point. 
  • Project Timeline: When will the project begin and end? Include time for fundraising.
  • Summary: A blending of overview, challenge and opportunity that summarizes the needs and benefits of reaching the capital goal. Focus more on benefits; donors give more to solutions rather than challenges.

Tone of a Case for Support and Examples

A case for support can be written in first or third person, although writing in third person gives it a more objective tone. Many nonprofits err in focusing too much of their case on emotion. Donors are making an investment. Their return on investment is in helping a nonprofit to realize a solution. Use emotion to get their attention but use facts and figures to get them to invest.

We are happy to share two case for support examples with you that have been updated in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – one for a library campaign and the other for the radiation treatment facility we referenced. We hope that this explanation and these examples will help as you create or amend your own case for support. 

 

Join us for a live iWave webinar presentation: “Mapping Your Capital Campaign for 2021: A Roadmap for Today’s Challenges” on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. ET. Learn how your nonprofit can move forward with its capital campaign in the current environment as we discuss in detail how to assess your fundraising potential, plan for new challenges, and expand your definition of campaign success. As 2020 began, you had a brilliant roadmap to guide you to your fundraising destinations. The events of 2020 may have presented major roadblocks, but it’s time to get behind the wheel again!

 

 

 

 

Kevin Wallace is president of CampaignCounsel.org, specializing in capital campaign planning and management. Kevin has more than 17 years of capital campaign experience, conducting more than 80 campaign planning studies and capital campaigns around the country that have raised more than $200 million. Reach him by email or visit www.campaigncounsel.org.