Building Your Case for Support (Part 3)

In the last post in this series, I shared the details of the first three steps of building your case for support:

Step 1: Know your cause.

Step 2: Know your organization.

Step 3: Know what God asks of his people.

Now that we’ve looked at these “building block” steps, we’ll examine Step 4: how you actually construct your case for support. How does that all come together? Pull out a piece of paper and work on designing your case for support right now, following along with these four steps:

Cause: Why do you exist? What must be accomplished?

Why are you serving in this cause rather than some other cause? Every ministry organization was founded at some point by someone, and there had to be a reason. Whether you’re young or old as a ministry, don’t forget your history and the rationale for why your founders came together to serve. In most cases it’s still very relevant, and it’s a resonating point for your donors. What are the differences you want to see achieved, perhaps in the short term, or perhaps in the long term? You have a vision and want to connect your donors with that vision, so be bold about what must be accomplished in your cause.

Try filling in these blanks for your organization:

Every day   something bad  because   cause  .

This formula might not work perfectly for every nonprofit organization, so feel free to adapt it if necessary. For example, for a rescue mission, you might say this:

Every day   hundreds of men, women, and children are lost  because   of addiction, broken relationships, lost jobs, and separation from family. 

There could be many other causes, but that at least frames the problem.

Organization: Who are you? What do you do, and where?

Don’t be apologetic about any part of your uniqueness. Branding experts tell us that’s what you want to bring forth. God made you uniquely equipped and called to stand in the gap. Be very detailed about this. Amplify it, and get some help from others if you’re not good at looking at yourself objectively.

Complete this statement about your ministry. Who are you, what do you do, and where do you do it?

  Ministry name  is really a group of champions who serve   who  in   location  by   services and programs provided  .

Here’s an example for the same rescue mission:

  The Rescue Mission  is really a group of champions who serve   the least, the last, and the lost  in   the streets of the bay area  by   providing food, shelter, counseling, and the hope of the gospel  .

In this example, the services and programs provided are four different elements, any one of which might be a connection point for your donors. Not everyone will connect with all four, but the more specific you can be about who you are and how you serve, the more opportunities your donors will have to say, “I really like that piece and would like to connect with that piece and the whole organization.”

Impact: What impact are you having? How can you prove it works?

Think about the impact you want to have, both now and in the future. We often have feel-good experiences that validates our ministry in our own minds, but our ability to show someone else that a program actually works is lacking. I say to board members, “How do you know that you know that you know that the program you’re overseeing really works?” Those of us on the front lines see it every day, but we must also be able to convey to third parties that aren’t always there that it really does work.

How can you demonstrate that you’re making progress in the cause? Are you getting closer to solving the problem that needs solving? Let’s see if you can complete this sentence:

Since getting started in   year  ,   meaningful measure/outcome  have reached/achieved   number  .

This sentence is a bit tricky, since quality outcome measurements are very specific to the cause. Feel free to adjust this sentence as necessary. Avoid listing outputs, such as the fact that you’ve served 2,000 meals. That’s not the outcome; the outcome is whatever is different because you served those meals. Let’s return to our rescue mission example:

Since getting started in   2007  ,   70% of those who got through the addiction recovery program  are   still clean, are employed, are living on their own, and are plugged into their local church community  .

What progress can you demonstrate toward solving the problem you set out to solve? Is it working? Is it happening? If you’re just getting started, consider looking at studies or work that other organizations have done that is similar to what you want to do. See if you can get an endorsement to lend to your credibility.

Invitation: Why and how should others get involved?

This is the joy set before us: to invite donors in to a place of great joy. It is so fun to work with a person who knows that God has blessed them with the spirit of generosity, regardless of their resource level. How can they exercise their gift of generosity with your organization? Can you help them figure that out? This is your ministry opportunity: to answer the why and the how of how someone should get involved, not because you need their gift, but because the blessing and opportunity is before them.

The Holy Spirit invites us in many ways, and it’s appropriate to invite donors to consider the possibilities. What are the different avenues of opportunity we can invite donors into? Hopefully you have a variety of avenues donors can travel to engage in your ministry and experience the joy of giving and living in the context of that cause. Use the following sentence to invite your community to join you in your work through your different avenues of opportunity: volunteering, giving expertise, mentoring, financial support, etc.

We believe God calls us all to   ministry activity  , and you can join this work by   avenue of opportunity  and by   avenue of opportunity  .

There are so many different ways that people can be involved in the work, and it’s our job to be meticulous about those avenues. If for any reason at all you’re struggling with this, go and talk to your donors and ask them how they got involved. What was the path they traveled, and what path are they traveling today? What do they like about being in relationship with your ministry? Let them define it for you, and even pull language from your existing donors. That will bring it to life in an authentic, meaningful way. Here’s one last example for a rescue mission:

We believe God calls us all to   care for those in need  , and you can join this work by   volunteering  and by   donating to the Rescue Mission  .

Once you’ve completed these four sentences, you’ll have the backbone of your case statement. Now what? I’ll cover that in my next post.

Check out this webinar, in which John Savage and Amy Karjala of the Mission Increase Foundation discuss building your case for support.

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