Are you making these 5 common mistakes with your case for support?

Girl in blue and white polkadot shirt smacks her forehead in frustration

If you want to begin securing more 5, 6 or even 7-figure gifts, individual donors need to be presented with giving opportunities that inspire a bigger investment.

Ultimately, if you want a $1M donation, you need to be presenting donors with a million dollar vision!

Developing a compelling case for support that outlines aspirational opportunities for giving is one of the most important steps you will take to support your fundraising growth.

But there are a few common things that tend to trip us up when it comes to building a compelling case for support – and here are 5 of the most common case mistakes made by even the most seasoned fundraiser (including yours truly!).

1. Your case is too much head - and not enough heart

As you develop your case, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of individual donors are donors are driven by an emotional or deeply personal connection to your cause.

When asked about their reasons for giving in a recent Statistics Canada survey…

  • 91% of individual donors said they gave because they felt compassion towards people in need

  • 88% wanted to support a cause they personally believed in

  • 82% wanted to make a contribution to their community

Your case needs to appeal to both the head AND heart – this means sharing compelling, effectively structured stories alongside a rational or business case for investment.

2. You’re over-dependent on your case in donor meetings

I know, this one is totally counterintuitive!

Of course, your case should be the foundation of any conversation you’re having with a donor about your mission, and the change they’d like to see in the world.

But often, I see fundraisers become too dependent on their case document, substituting an over-focus on the case instead of using their time with a donor truly strategically.

Even worse, I’ve seen organizations indefinitely putting off donor meetings and major gift fundraising until they have their case picture perfect.

Here’s the thing: a great case for support document does not have to be long, or glossily designed.

Think of your case as a simple source document that serves as the basis of all your fundraising conversations, messaging and communications – from your digital campaigns to your major gift solicitations.

If you’ve never developed a case for your organization, here is a great place to start.

Don’t wait for a big capital campaign to begin building your case!

3. You don’t have clear, compelling giving opportunities

Here’s a great question to spark your creative thinking on aspirational giving:

If someone called you tomorrow to offer you a $5M gift, what would you do with it?

You can scale that question up or down depending on the size of your organization, and the maturity of your program.

Maybe it’s $1M, $10M, or even $100M.

It doesn’t matter – what does matter is that your leadership team starts thinking concretely and specifically about how your organization would use a truly transformational gift.

This conversation can be harder than it sounds - so many of our organizations are caught up in fundraising from a scarcity mindset, it can be difficult to break the cycle of playing small.

Next time you see the scarcity mindset kick in at your organization (or in your own head!), think about how you can change the conversation.

What incredible opportunities have you not tapped into yet because you’re so busy scrambling for crumbs, and worrying that there’s not enough?

4. Your case doesn’t answer these important questions

There are a few foundational questions your case must help a donor answer.

Why should they support your cause?

How is your work unique?

Why give now?

Why is this urgent?

What impact will their donation achieve?

If you can skillfully weave the answers to these questions into a case for support, you’re nearly there! Just one more mistake to avoid, and it can be a doozy…

5. You haven’t tested your case with your most important audience

Developing and refining a case for support is an ideal opportunity to engage major donors.

Too often, developing a case turns into an exercise in editing by internal committee.

Your board, CEO, committees and staff have all had a chance to weigh in – and the case gets finalized before your most important audience even knows it exists!

By seeking advice and input from key individual supporters early in your case development process, you can both strengthen your case – and more importantly, build stronger relationships with your donors and prospects.

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert with 20+ years experience raising millions of dollars across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. If you want to raise more 5, 6 and even 7-figure donations your non-profit, you can download Emma’s free Blueprint for Major Gift Success, and learn the 4 crucial steps to raising big gifts (at any size shop!)

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