What Case for Support Are You Making? (Part 1)
Too often I see nonprofits abandoning individual fundraising strategies when they don’t seem to work, when the real root of the problem is that they’re telling the wrong story about what they’re doing and why people can and should give in the first place.
So, what is a case for support? Your case for support is what you provide to potential donors to explain the reasons they should engage with your ministry. It’s a tool you provide to champions, including your staff, board members, and donors, to equip them to share the cause with others and to aid in their own discernment and decisions about giving.
A case for support is both a document and a process, and that process is where the real change and conviction begins and develops. If you’re confused by all this, remember that you’re already making your case for support. You’re living it. Your case for support shows up on your website, in donor meetings, grant proposals, and newsletters. It comes up everywhere, every day. You are always making a case for why people should be involved with your ministry. Even your annual fundraising plan contain your case.
Whether you’ve gone through the process or not, your donors are seeing your case for support in action through what you do every day. So, let’s wipe the slate clean and start anew.
What case for support are you currently making? Is it cohesive? You are constantly sending messages to givers and potential givers about why they should give. That’s why you need to be aware of both the obvious and the hidden messages you’re sending.
Think about the fundraising appeals you’ve received over the years. I’ve received letters all the time that say things like, “Children will starve if you don’t give.” That essentially says, “You’re a selfish jerk if you don’t write a check.” Others say, “God has given you a lot, and he hasn’t given these kids anything.” That is tailor-made to spark guilt. Or how about year-end letters? Many say something along these lines: “Our ministry is ready to collapse if we don’t get $30,000 by the end of December.” Underneath that message is this one: “God hasn’t given us enough money to do the work He wants us to do.” It also says, “You guys out there haven’t been generous enough.”
Other attempts to make the case really just compare the organization’s work with that of similar organizations. “We’re better than them—look at how good we’re doing!” Underneath that they’re making the statement that there’s a limited number of gifts out there, or that there’s a finite pie and they need a bigger piece. Many readers will hear this message communicated: “How about giving us more and the other guys less?”
Those messages are all pretty problematic when you’re seeking to do fundraising from a biblical perspective. To avoid sending these messages, let’s take a look at a few transformational giving principles.
Every act of giving (and receiving) is first and foremost a statement about the faithfulness of God. We must remember that God is faithful, even if you don’t get the gift. Psalm 117:2 says, “For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” God is faithful in all things. If we faithfully invite people to be involved in a cause, and we believe that God is faithful, then we rejoice in the outcome no matter what it is. In addition, we should receive these blessings and gifts with thanksgiving, acknowledging that God is the one who has provided them. By doing so, we recognize God’s faithfulness.
The way we make a case reveals our beliefs about the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. When we say “We’ll starve unless we get your gift,” what are we saying about God’s faithfulness? And when we say, “We’re better than the other guys, so you should give to us, not them,” what are we saying about God’s abundance?
We must base our approach to giving on the abundance and trustworthiness of God, not a theology of scarcity. There’s no room for competitiveness, because God’s resources are limitless. It’s not you or another organization that people are deciding between, because God’s in charge. It can actually be both.
It’s important to get these principles straight, because your case for support will reveal your convictions about the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. If you don’t believe, people will take notice. If you have wrong thinking about people and resources, it will become apparent in your case statement. That’s why I encourage you to do this internal work first.
Your case reveals your convictions, but it also reveals your intent—what you want for the givers. We should look to Scripture to see what God wants for givers as he asks them to give. One of the foundational Scriptures is 2 Corinthians 8:7: “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” This is very foundational to how we work with donors.
Another foundational gift is Philippians 4:17-18a: “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough.” Paul is glad to receive the gift not because he needed it, but because it was good for the givers to give. Wouldn’t it be great if every ministry embraced this principle with their donors? “Mr. or Mrs. Giver, it’s not that I want your gift; it’s that I desire that it be credited to your account.” Could you actually say that to a donor, knowing that God is going to meet your need no matter where they invest their giving? It would be powerful because it’s true.
Our case should reflect God’s character, particularly his faithfulness. It should also reflect his intent in asking us to give: the character growth of his people. It should be an invitation to God’s people to be a part of what God is doing—growing them to be more like Christ. We can challenge them to embrace God’s faithfulness. God uses us to do that, and it’s really exciting when it all comes together.
Check out this webinar, in which John Savage and Amy Karjala of the Mission Increase Foundation discuss building your case for support.