I want to clear up a misconception about the case for support. It could be that we in the nonprofit sector fully comprehend the case but have become lackadaisical in how we speak about it. Or, it could be that over time some of us have let our thinking slide and have reduced the case to something less than it is.
I hear some people speak of the case as the thing that they are raising funds for. For example, someone might say, “Our case this year is an MRI.” Really? The case is an MRI? What the individual means is clear: the organization is raising funds to purchase an MRI. But the case is not an MRI. The case is something entirely different.
The philanthropic case for support is a full and complete argument for. Period. Full stop.
Why does it matter if our reference is a little off the mark?
It matters because the power of the case rests in the argument. Your case needs to fully and completely convince the donor that your organization and your cause are worthy of their support. We know that the way we speak affects the way we think. If we move ‘the case as an argument’ off centre stage and replace it with ‘the case as a piece of equipment’ (an MRI), we are selling hardware to donors.
In much the same way the legal profession relies on making a case that is argued before a judge and jury, our sector relies on a case that’s argued before donors and would-be supporters to advance social change. If we think of the case as a compelling argument for your cause, an argument that can take various forms (a conversation, a document, a video clip) and speaks to the hearts and minds of donors, we are on the right track.