Hands down, the lead is the most important part of a Case for Support, be it the internal, source document or the Case expression. When I write a Case for Support I can spend as much as 50 per cent of my writing time on the first few paragraphs. Why? Because if I lose the reader in the lead, it’s over.
As the developer of the Case, those first few sentences are my opportunity to prove to the readers that what I have to say is important and relevant to them. If I achieve that, then the reader and I are on the same team.
The theory goes like this: launch your argument from a premise that your audience already supports. In other words, find common ground and begin your argument there. Sound simple? It is and it isn’t.
Finding a strong, strategic place from which to build your case can be tricky and often calls for communication that’s highly tailored to the audience.
In our everyday, we launch our interaction from a place of common ground all the time. We meet an acquaintance in the grocery store and we strike up a conversation about the weather, common ground. We pick up the kids at school and we talk about the upcoming track and field meet, common ground.
Finding common ground when we engage with people one on one, face to face is part of our social protocol and it isn’t difficult for most people. It’s more complicated and complex when you are building a Case for Support for a venture that will significant implications.
There are many potential launch points for any conversation. So how do you choosing the best, most strategic, compelling place to begin? Begin to ask the why questions. (A why, incidentally, can never be satisfied. There is always another why waiting to be addressed.) It will lead you in the direction of the bedrock of your case.
Once you think you’ve hit bedrock, I suggest you write three, four, five versions of the lead paragraphs. Put yourself in a donor’s place. To which argument what would you respond most favourably? Test the leads with trusted board members. Test them on colleagues, family and friends.
Your Case has a big job to do. Don’t lose the reader on the first page.