Five Ways To Improve Your Case For Giving

5waysHughesAFP defines the case for giving as “the reasons why an organization both needs and merits philanthropic support.”  It is the core of every nonprofit organization, yet how much time have you spent lately thinking about improving and evolving your organization’s case to meet the interests of today’s donors?

Putting quality thought into evaluating your current case could position your organization for improved retention, acquisition and reacquisition in the coming months and year.  Here are five things you can do to enhance your case for giving:

  1. Focus on what makes your cause unique
  2. Build and brag upon your library of successes
  3. Don’t incorporate a one size fits all approach
  4. Create separation in the marketplace
  5. Ask your donors’ and prospects’ opinions

 Focus on what makes your cause unique

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States. Including the various religious congregations around the country means there are well over 1.8 million places seeking the charitable dollar.charitysmall

Older generations only give to an average of 5-6 charities per person while younger generations tend to be closer to 3-4 charities per person.  Why should a donor select your charity or organization to support?  What makes your organization special?

One clear aspect of the Millennial Impact Report indicates a desire for donors of that generation to impact people, not organizations.  Think about whether your case for giving displays a strong, direct impact on people in order to attract new, young donors.

Build and brag on your library of successes

Having worked both for and with nonprofits in all parts of the country,

library of success

one consistent issue I see is a lack of compelling showcase stories to accompany the case for giving.  There are plenty of testimonials from board members and major donors, but not as many follow-up impact stories.

Telling these follow-up stories is a significant component of enhancing the case for giving.  They not only evoke the emotional responses necessary to motivate new and additional giving, stories tell your donors and prospects their gifts are being put to good use – and not just to keep the lights on and to pay salaries.

Consider dedicating some staff time at various times of the year to analyzing the impact of the gifts you’ve received and how you can tell those stories in the coming weeks and months.  Remember to focus on the collective usage of grassroots gifts as well as large gifts.  A lot of organizations like to tell donors that “every gift matters.”  Give your lower dollar donors proof of that impact.

One size does not fit all

Many organizations focus on the case for giving when developing capital campaigns.  But does the capital campaign case for giving work for donors of all levels?  The short answer is that rarely, if ever, does the same message work for every segment of your database.

What inspires the 5/6/7/8 figure donors will probably not inspire the 2/3/4 figure donor.  Cases for the major and principal donor often focus on endowments whereas cases for annual giving focus on immediate needs.

If your donor or prospect is not being cultivated for a big gift, they should not receive a case for giving based on that big gift.  Give them a case based on their targeted gift level.  For education organizations, consider targeting your new/young alumni with a case based on their recent experience.

Create separation in the marketplace

As mentioned earlier, your nonprofit is one of between 1.5 and 1.8 million charitable options from which someone could choose.  Not only should you make your case unique, but you also need to create separation in the charitable marketplace.  Also from the NCCS database, here’s a look at how many charitable organizations exist by type (as of May 2015):

  • Religion: 280,919
  • Education: 199,765
  • Community Improvement: 120,399
  • Recreation and Sports: 111,540
  • Arts, Culture and Humanities: 111,178
  • Philanthropy, Volunteerism and Grantmaking Foundations: 106,515
  • Human Services: 93,839
  • Health care: more than 90,000 if all relevant reporting categories are combined

Within your organization’s reporting category, you’re competing for the charitable dollar.  This could easily extend to your own household!  For example: each spouse/partner has two college degrees from different institutions, plus multiple kids in grade school or even college.  That’s at least six or seven different educational institutions all vying for that same household’s support, and the likelihood of giving to all of them is extremely slim.

Ask yourself if your case for giving only blends in with the others?  Or have you developed a case for giving that stands out from the crowd within your own category?

 Ask for your donors’ and prospects’ opinions

What do your donors really value?  What are their priorities?  How recently have you asked for their opinions?

In June, our “five things” blog discussed the importance of donor surveys. Those surveys are not only beneficial for cultivation and stewardship purposes, but surveys can also provide significant insight into developing a case for giving that appeals to donors of all levels – from grassroots to principal.  If you ask donors and prospects about their giving interests, you can craft solicitations to directly address those topics.

This summer’s American Marketing Association’s nonprofit summit also resulted in donor surveys being a key takeaway, including this post-summit blog from the CEO of TeamWorks Media.

Closing thoughts

There are two clear aspects to the case for giving: what is important to the organization and what is important to the donor.  Finding a perfect marriage between the two can result in not only a lifelong relationship, but could lead to major, principal and planned gifts in later years.

Without a compelling case for giving, especially to younger donors, you could be missing out on the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Other Posts in the 2015 “Five Ways” Series:

Follow me:

Chris Hughes

Director of Fundraising Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Chris Hughes is a former Director of Annual Giving who has more than two decades of experience in fundraising, marketing, public relations and organizational success in higher education and nonprofit fundraising.
Follow me:
Follow us