Making Your Case for Support

Continuing The Conversation: November 2013

Case for SupportWhen someone you have just met responds with, “Tell me about your organization…” what do you say?

Tick … tick … how do you begin?

Tick … tick … is your answer clear? Is it memorable?

Tick … tick … is there emotion in your words?

Tick … tick … does your listener express interest and potential for the conversation to continue?

The tick tick is not meant to imply a time bomb – though bombing this kind of opportunity happens all too often. In fact, a floundering fumble I witnessed at a recent event was the catalyst for this blog.

In the larger world, 15 minutes is the magic measure of time in the spotlight. In the nonprofit world, that’s an eternity. When asked about your organization, you have 20 seconds – less than half a minute – to make an impression with a powerful case for support.

Clear, concise, memorable

Let’s pause for a primer on a case for support. Essentially, a case for support is a story told as a subtle call to action. It clearly describes the problem your organization addresses, say, with well-chosen statistics; how you’re tackling the problem; your successes; and what support is needed for continued success. A strong case for support is concise and memorable. You want your story to engage, educate and stay with listeners, to get inside their heads and touch their hearts. That’s how your case for support can motivate action.

When you’re immersed in a nonprofit, articulating your case might seem like a no brainer. It’s not, simply because most of us do not naturally speak in clear, concise and memorable statements. But consider the potential for spreading the word if everyone in an organization – from board members to interns – is prepared to verbalize your story at nonprofit events and in everyday life, like when you run into an old friend at Starbucks who asks, “What are you doing now?”

Keys to a strong case

With many good causes competing with your own for donors’ attention, your case for support is too critical to develop on the fly. Here are strategies for planning what to say and how to say it to make a strong case for support.

  • Put it in writing: You need to see it, read it and edit until you’re comfortable with it.
  • Be collaborative: You may not want to write by committee, but you want buy-in. Aim for majority agreement that the wording captures what your organization does and why it matters.
  • Say it aloud: How does it sound when you literally articulate your case for support? Practicing a case for support may seem hokey, but you want it presented so people remember your story – and can repeat it to others. Toward that end, it’s okay to adjust the wording to fit personal speaking styles, as long as the key messages are the same.
  • Watch the time: The ums and ahs of hesitation can eat up seconds. Make the most of your moments in the spotlight.

Presenting an effective case for support is a performance of sorts. You want to convey emotion – call it drama – to make it memorable. I don’t mean Broadway- or Hollywood-style drama. Tap into the drama that drives your organization, and you’ll have a powerful case for support.

Looking to develop or improve your case for support? Let’s talk.