Major Gift Services

The Core Questions That Build a Case for Support

By Erik Rogers, Chief Strategist Major Gift Services

When meeting with a prospective major donor, you need to know something about the donor’s passions so you can present a customized case for support.

But you also need to give some thought to your own organization’s interests and motivations.

You’ve got to give more than a simple explanation of what you do and how you do it. Instead, convey the heart and essence of your organization so you can connect with the supporter’s interests and begin a partnership that will truly make a difference.

Ask yourself a few introspective questions to help form a concise, emotive case for support that aligns with a potential supporter’s heartbeat.

Why do you exist as an organization?

Now, notice I’m not asking, “What do we do?” or “How do we do it?” I’m asking about the issue that prompted the creation of your organization and how you uniquely address it.

Imagine a donor cornered you in an elevator and simply said, “Well, great, so you work for this organization. Why do you guys exist? Why are you different?” How would you answer? Maybe your organization exists for Kingdom-building or for impacting children or for taking care of animals. You need to have that explanation ready so you can introduce your organization in just two or three sentences and begin an important conversation about your mission.

How do you choose to make a difference? And how do you solidify that impact?

When talking to a donor, you need to clearly articulate two things: how you’re choosing to make a difference and what you’re specifically doing to make that impact. These are very different concepts that you need to address in your case for support.

For example, perhaps you choose to utilize cutting-edge technology to reach young adults with the gospel message. What you specifically do is utilize social media, apps, your website, or other online resources to impact your target audience and encourage them to follow Jesus Christ.

It’s important to state what you do AND how you do it because that could make a difference to the donor. Some donors just love your organization. They’re all in. They say something like, “Just tell me where you need the most impact.” But others are looking specifically for smaller projects that really interest them. When you find a donor like that, you need to find out what they truly care about and make sure you highlight certain projects that fit their passions.

Is your case for support donor-centric instead of organization-centric?

Organizations often ask me to review their current cases for support, and one of the main problems I notice is that these documents often focus on the ministries themselves. You need to understand that most of the time, a donor just wants to know how they can be the hero. So, when you write copy and put that case for support together, you need to talk less about your nonprofit and more about how the donor can make a difference through a partnership with your ministry.

This is a “donor-centric” approach, as opposed to an “org-centric approach.” Basically, you need to make sure the supporter understands that they are a vital piece of who you are, what you do, how you make a difference, and ultimately, why you exist.

If you can answer all these questions clearly and succinctly, you’ll have a much better chance of truly connecting with a major donor and forming a partnership that changes lives.

You can get more advice about approaching major donors in Erik’s Dunham Institute course, Major Gift Development: Your Case for Support. Check it out!


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Ready to take the next step? 
Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.

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