Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE
Do your prospective donors really know who you are?
Do your prospective donors really know who you are? Telling them who you are is a key component of your case for support.
If you haven't yet developed your case for support, read on. Also, I've just coauthored a guide on this with Margaret Guellich, CFRE, CharityChannel's Quick Guide to Developing Your Case for Support (CharityChannel Press) which you might find helpful.
Start with Your Strategic Plan
Although the case for support is not the same thing as the strategic plan, much of the information you need can usually be found in your strategic plan. Your case, as your plan, should start with mission, vision, and values. Your mission tells people who you are and what you do. Your vision tells the reader not only where you see your organization headed in the future, but how you envision your community at some point in the future, because your organization exists.
Values are important to your case because you want readers to see that your values resonate with theirs. Your values represent who you are as an organization and what your core business philosophy is. Your donors can look at your values or value statements to find out more about you, your organization, and how you operate.
If you don’t already have a values statement, this might need to be developed before you complete your case. To get your values statement started, you will find some helpful hints in my book, coauthored with Lynne Dean, Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Develop a Plan That Will Actually Be Used! In it, we recommend asking yourself:
- What values are so vital to us that we would be willing to lose otherwise good talent if the people involved were not shining examples of this value?
- What values would you continue to bring to your work with this organization, whether they were rewarded or not?
- Think of two or three people who you believe exemplify what this organization is all about. Now make a written list of all the things these people seem to have in common. What does this tell you about their values? Now look at three people who were a complete mismatch for the organization and ask how their apparent values were different from your first three “stars.”
Your values might include things such as:
Most organizations have a mission statement, although it is often too lengthy, too wordy, not up to date, or not in conformity with your values.
Clarifying your mission statement may be as easy as saying yes, the mission statement adequately describes the overall purpose of the organization. On the other hand, you may decide to integrate new elements or delete elements which no longer apply.
Your mission should concisely and accurately explain:
- Why does your organization exist?
- Who does the organization serve?
- What makes the organization unique?
- What is the organization most noted for in the community?
Your mission statement should be a specific, succinct articulation of what stakeholders wish your organization to be.
Examples of Concise Mission Statements
Here are some great examples of well-worded, concise mission statements:
- Make-A-Wish Foundation: We serve a unique and vital role in helping to strengthen and empower children battling life-threatening medical conditions.
- Charity Water: We’re a nonprofit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries.
- Livestrong Foundation: We unite, inspire, and empower people affected by cancer.
- Mt. Laurel Library (NJ): We inform enrich, connect, and transform our community.
- Alexander Dawson School challenges its students to achieve excellence of mind, body, and character through a rigorous college-preparatory program.
- Feeding America: A hunger-free America.
- Oceana: We seek to make our oceans as rich, healthy, and abundant as they once were.
- San Diego Zoo: To become a world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.
Vision for the Future
The vision statement for your organization may seem lofty; the purpose of the vision, after all, is to inspire both the community and the clients. The vision describes your organization’s preferred future state or what the organization wants to be in the future. You will want your vision to focus not just on how you see your organization in the future, but on what your vision is for your community in the future.
We describe a good vision statement as one that answers the question “what would a perfect world look like?” or “what would a world that no longer needed our organization look like?”
In addition to the vision for your organization, a good vision statement focuses on the vision you have for your community. Some questions you might ask to address this issue could include:
- What are the ultimate goals we are trying to achieve (i.e., end hunger, cure a disease, have a well-educated population, save a river)?
- What do we want our community to look like (i.e., free from violence, creative, strong workforce, a great place to live)?
If you don’t already have viable mission, values, and vision statements this might need some work before you can complete your case.