Keeping the case statement internal

I received an email from a very dear friend last week. She is a development professional and asked this question:

“Would you ever put a case statement inside your appeal letter?”

She qualified her question with the following information:

“I’m just wondering because I think I put together a pretty good case statement and our board loves it. They never had one, and they’re wanting to put it in the letters they send to their donors.”

In my response, I told her that I would NOT put the written case statement document for their annual campaign inside of the targeted mail envelope and I provided her with the following reasons:

  • From a philosophical stand, the case statement is an “internal document” and not an external one. We use it to develop solicitation materials, letter copy, and talking points for a face-to-face visit. Sending it out in a letter sends a bad message to board volunteers … that message is “it is OK to just hand donors this document”.
  • Reader surveys tell us that people don’t read any more. So, why send them “more to read” in the envelope? In fact, the case statement is typically all text and is not easy reading.
  • Typically, many case statements can be very dry with lots of facts, figures and program descriptions. Direct mail experts tell us that letter copy needs to be “emotional” and “engaging” and “story-oriented”. These are not adjectives I think of when I think of a case statement.
  • If you want to supplement the letter by including more material, I suggest taking key information from the case statement and massage it into a tri-fold – easy to read brochure with pictures and bullets – and include that in the envelope with the letter

I’ve taken the last few days to reflect upon this advice, and I still think it right on target.  However, I know there are many different schools of thought on the subject of case statements.

So, I’ve started asking donors for their input. I will share some of this donor input over the course of this week. However, I’m curious what advice you would’ve given my friend. Please weigh-in with your best “world class coaching” for my friend.


About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on April 11, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I fully agree, Erik. Having written copy for NPs for almost 20 years I can tell you that donors give from the heart and too much head knowledge is in the case statement. It is a resource not a product. And besides why should the board become familiar with the facts in it to share if you are going to send it out for all to see? It should be used to make the board feel knowledgeable as they speak about the organization. This empowers them and encourages more one-on-one participation and advocacy.

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