The Compelling Case: “1st in the Key 3”

By Mark Belcher, Partner

In the immortal words of our founder, Mrs. Leonard (Be) Haas, “every organization needs a good case, strong leadership and a winning strategy.”  Simple, right?  Well it would seem that those three items are a given and many organizations have some combination of the “Key 3”. It’s not surprising that the best among us do them all well.  Every group out there working to make a positive change in their communities, be it a school, hospital, community garden or a shelter is working hard to make a difference and there success or failure is rarely due to passion.  None of us would work the hours we do without passion for our missions, and although important, it’s not the secret sauce. Success can be traced back to those seemingly simple but incredibly important areas of case, leadership and strategy.

Why should I support your program?  What is it really doing to make a difference?  How are you different from all the other people doing this same type of work?  All good questions donors or potential donors are asking themselves and hopefully asking you… and if they are asking, your answers are the difference between yes and no.  Those questions should be the foundation for your “case”

I will not suggest here that the case is the most important of the “Key 3” as at any given time, leadership and strategy are imperatives that are essential to success.  However, your case is the basis for leaders developing and executing on good strategy.  Today’s philanthropists are becoming more and more sophisticated, and I tend to look at them more as investors than donors.  They are investing in your leaders to execute on a strategy that will move a needle.  You compel them to do so through your organization’s case.

Think of the case as your organization’s Mission and Vision in print for the whole world to see.  It has to grab your reader and keep their attention, so don’t bury your lead, and it has to communicate why now is the time…urgency.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but we spend more time working with clients on developing a good case than most any other single component of our work.  As we assist our partners with developing a Campaign Strategy, the first step is creating the case.  That document then becomes the basis for everything that comes next.  We take time to craft the document, making sure its capturing the vision and is compelling to the reader.  We test the document on volunteer leadership and other potential donors.  Then, we use the case to help our partners develop winning strategies

If your organization isn’t seeing the results you need, take some time and back up.  Start with the case…Is it relaying the message you want it to? Is it clear and concise? Is it answering questions for potential donors before they are asked? Is it written in a manner that compels the community to help you reach your goals?  Maybe it’s time to dust it off and take another look.