If you’re in fundraising and you haven’t read this book, you should. Jerold Panas writes in a practical, accessible style. I can’t even remember how I first got connected with this title, but I’ve appreciated the insights I’ve gleaned.
Published by Emerson and Church, the book may strike you as a little pricey–$29.00 in print and $17.00 as an e-book–but I think it’s worth it as a practical guide for developing a “case” statement for your organization. Let’s diverge for a moment and talk about case statements, because for those outside or new to fundraising the concept might be unfamiliar. If you already understand the idea pretty well, jump down to my comments about Panas’s book.
Case Statements – A Simple Primer
A case statement is a document that does what the words say: It makes the “case” for your organization’s mission. In its simplest form, a case statement might be a page or two; formally done, it will probably be no less than six to ten pages. And if you’re trying to raise resources for a bold new vision (a program, a piece of property, a building), it might run to 20 or more pages.
The case statement is important because of the nature of nonprofit organizations. Without grinding away at arcane details, nonprofits exist as entitites to address issues in society that are important, but for which there is no sustainable revenue model beyond generous contributions from supporters. We certainly have exceptions–hospitals and universities come to mind–but as a rule, what I’ve said is true. If you want to build a shelter to care for the homeless, there’s really no other way to do it than to ask people for contributions.
Therefore a case statement is a tool nonprofits develop to help prospective supporters understand the “why” behind what they do, the “how” that is employed in accomplishing the objective, and the “what” that is needed to make the mission happen. The case statement should be clear; it should be (reasonably) comprehensive; and it should be compelling. I’ll address case statements in greater detail in future posts. Stay tuned.
Back to Jerold Panas’s Book…
Panas does not write particularly from a faith standpoint, but his approach and thinking are perfectly applicable to the Christian fund development space. In about 125 pages the author engages your mind with sparkling prose. This book is a pleasure to read and I find the balance between case statement writing principles and thought-provoking stories absolutely perfect.
Sure Panas tells stories from his fundraising journey–lots of them. But it isn’t just a compendium of his experiences. All the illustrations support the points he’s trying to make. They’re well chosen and make an entertaining read. But the nuts and bolts principles of how to write a winning case statement are here, too. His chapter, The Powerful Seven outlines the reasons to write a case statement (sorry, to get the content you’ll have to buy the book!). In Getting Ready you’ll find a bullet point list of steps to take in collecting information that will undergrid your writing. You may not use everything you collect, but you’ll sharpen your understanding ofyour organization as you engage others and find out what they think.
The last 25 pages or so are dedicated to a set of comprehensive appendices which may be the most valuable part of this book. Panas shares the most common questions he’s asked about writing a case statement (he’s written and/or edited over a thousand). Multiple examples of solid and compelling opening and closing paragraphs are provided to stimulate your thinking. You’ll also find samples of theme lines or tag lines from a wide range of organizations designed to capture attention. Finally, Panas gives us a checklist that provides a framework for reviewing your work to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
By now you should be thinking you want to get a copy of this book. I’ll predict that if you do, you’ll find it a valuable tool as you write your organization’s case statement. As a fundraising professional you’ll be glad yo have this book as a reference and guide. In case you’re wondering if I have any vested interest in seeing you buy a copy of Panas’s book, I don’t. I simply found it a very good read.
If we can do anything to help you write or reiew a case statement for your organization, just let us know. We love helping people tell the story of what they do as concisely, clearly, and compellngly as possible, because if you do, more people will “get it” and beat a path to your door to support the worthy cause you represent. You can reach us at email@example.com or by calling 847-788-8100.
Robb Hansen is the president and founder of Next Level Insights, a Chicago area based fundraising strategy and execution firm. Give Next Level a call to discuss how we can help you today!