Disrupting the Case for Support
A Case for Support is an oft-used tool in fundraising to set out your stall; its purpose to communicate the ‘Why’ of your campaign. It’s a working document designed as a group/workshop exercise to provoke discussion, tease out the campaign’s identity and find its most compelling elements. It constantly evolves and very, very rarely ever reaches a stage of print, design and publishing.
It’s a critical exercise to ensure robust central campaign communications. Whether you’re a Vice-Chancellor, a Major Gifts Fundraiser or a Regular Giving Officer, you must be fluent in the unique and compelling reasons to give to your campaign – and your Case is your script.
Why write a Case for Support? Because that’s what you do for a campaign. But let us not fall into the ‘because we’ve always done it that way’ trap.
‘Disruption’ is the mot-du-jour, and is being (mostly) effectively applied to every area of technology, business, consultancy, marketing and communications. It’s the idea that by breaking the mould and seeing things differently in some small way, major shifts can occur.
When we ‘disrupt’ the traditional idea of a Case for Support, what happens? Well, I propose three disruptions:
Number One: An awareness of your target audience is crucial, but one size will never fit all. My take on it is that organisations get too hung up on appealing to multiple audiences, trying to second-guess what internal and external stakeholders, donors, trusts and foundations – each with a wide variety of interests, criteria, personal preference, and motives for giving – want to hear. By writing it for everybody it runs the risk of being bland and full of waffle, engaging nobody and diluting the message.
Approaching your Case from an altered perspective can revolutionise the output. By focusing on core messages that will resonate with any human being on a fundamental and emotional level, you cut to the chase. Get above the detail. Focus on the idea that whether a reader is a donor, a stakeholder, a trust or a foundation, they are above all a person with an exciting opportunity to truly make a difference. Paint them a picture of what their involvement could help achieve. Everyone wants to be part of something successful.
Of course, if you are approaching a major donor, then careful thought needs to be given around the best way to tailor those conversations. A potentially large gift deserves a customised approach for sure, but a resonant Case remains your starting point – your central script.
Number Two: You are not the best person to write your Case. No matter how good you are at it, writing a Case in-house is risky. It will not benefit from the perspective of an external eye, and too often it can get bogged down in detail or restricted by internal politics. In more extreme cases, the same old hackneyed internal jargon and clichés can be wheeled out unchallenged.
Working in collaboration with you, an external writer who is trained in the art and science of communication can help you tease out the golden messages at the core of your campaign, and then amplify them. Sometimes they do this by asking provocative questions and challenging the norm, and other times simply by listening, observing and absorbing.
Number Three: A Case for Support doesn’t have to ‘look’ like a Case for Support. At Halpin we believe that your Case for Support is better regarded as a Campaign Toolkit, comprising valuable elements such as an elevator pitch, a precis and longer-form narrative – each of which can be read and understood by absolutely anyone. These elements have the added bonus of being able to be used across multiple channels for multiple reasons (think social media posts, video scripts, posters, funding bids…).
As with everything else in life, balance is key. A little light-touch disruption here and there, blended with ‘tried-and-tested’ campaign communication techniques can garner surprising results.
Olivia Dunn is Head of Marketing & Communications for Halpin – a management consultancy for the higher education sector. We have written successful Cases for Support and Campaign Toolkits for a wide range of institutions.