by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
What's our most important goal for our Case for Support (CFS)? Getting people to read it.
Like our newsletter or E-blasts, if no one reads these documents, the news we want to disseminate goes nowhere. What are some characteristics then, of a CFS which garners attention and readership?
As an example, every CFS should contain a "History" page that walks readers through where the ministry has been. Use creative writing sparingly; use bullet points often. Consider two examples:
The AAA Pregnancy Center started in 1984, in the living room at the home of Bill and Mary Jones. There, a prayer group began gathering, praying about a way to address the abortion issue in a Christian fashion. At the meeting were 12 interested people, though more wanted to come. Two weeks later all would meet again and begin planning to create a ministry and obtain 501c3 status for our organization.
Or this:June 4, 1984—AAA Pregnancy Center's history begins with a meeting of 12 friends at the home of Bill and Mary Jones in Leighton Valley.
May 14, 1985—Our first client arrives on opening day at our first location: 284 Elm Street in Leighton Valley.
March 12, 1986—It's a boy! Jacob is the first child born to a AAA client. Today he is 27 years old; he and his wife have two children of their own.
January 9, 1989—AAA moves into a new home on Main Street. This location would serve us for 19 years.
In the first example, we see a paragraph with mostly superfluous information. The reader is already tired, and likely will not move on to further information on our History page.
In the second, we use almost the same number of words to communicate four milestones. With a bit of detective work, we might find fascinating information that will encourage and bring life to the entire ministry.
As a writer this is hard to admit, but our readers are drawn more to our photos than to our stunning prose. Those who support us want to see what we are doing, and photos are an excellent way to tell our story. We don't need professional photographers (though this would be great). We do need photos—that tell a story.
Tweet this! It is often more effective to show one client hugging her baby than it is to show fifty clients in a group photo.
It is often more effective to show one client hugging her baby than it is to show fifty clients in a group photo. The photo of one client tells a story; fifty faces is just another group shot.
In addition, use photography to highlight new initiatives, such as construction and renovation. Architectural drawings of new construction can be helpful, too.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
What goes inside a Case for Support? You can add more than the following, but here is a good start:
Cover LetterPersonalize a letter to the recipient, thanking your financial partner for reading, briefly outlining the reason for the CFS and giving a short overview of the projects or initiatives inside. This letter is less than a page. Say thanks, tell 'em why, and tell 'em how. That's it.
HistoryA brief, bulleted list of milestones, recognitions and key staff changes ("Myra Jones joined the PRC as CEO, beginning a 12-year tenure that would bring our ministry into the medical realm").
Where we areLet your friends know what you are accomplishing today. Make sure results are measurable. Our readers will pick up on attempts to be vague in our assessments. Consider two sentences; which is more effective in telling our story?:
One attempt: "We are seeing a lot of clients and they are telling us how much they appreciate what we do for them!"
Or, "A whopping 87% of our clients say they would recommend us to friends. In addition, a documented 83% of those who come to us considering ending their pregnancies ultimately choose life for their children."
A clear picture of why we are askingWhether the CFS is for a specific initiative or for overall funding, create a clear image for readers of the ministry's needs. "We need more funding for advertising" is not clear.
Instead, try, "Our Outreach Initiative includes $14,400 for a more powerful web presence, $5,845 for signage on our city's main artery, Highway 000, and $4,200 for TV ads on several cable channels that reach our main demographic of 18-24 year old women." Your plan can include even more details, but you see the point.
Give actual numbers. Providing details (keep it concise, but details matter) shows good stewardship and careful planning. Both of these characteristics connect positively with those who can give to you.
A clear appealExcept for those times when a CFS is sent as purely an informational piece for current donors, Ask. People are always more likely to give when asked. Best-selling author Nora Roberts has some words of wisdom here: "If you don't ask, the answer is always No."
Ways to GiveTweet this! When it comes to clarity, "Ways to Give" must be at the top of our list.When it comes to clarity, "Ways to Give" must be at the top of our list. No ask is complete without the "How" portion, and Ways to Give shows our friends specific opportunities to support the ministry.
Here are a few to keep in mind:
One Time Gift—Make sure a return envelope and response device are included with your CFS. Make sure online giving is presented, with your donation site prominently shown. Then check the web site and attempt to make a gift online. Experience it yourself and make sure it is easy.
Monthly Giving—Provide an opportunity to make a monthly (open-ended; not for just one year) commitment. Present this on your web site as well.
Stock Gifts—Explain how to make a stock gift. For more information on this, search the subject online. You will find verbiage and information from universities and major non-profits.
Memorial/Honorarium Gifts—Your response device should present opportunities for Memorial Gifts (honoring those who have passed away) and Honorarium Gifts (Honoring those still living). A large percentage of donors utilize these gift avenues. Let's make them available.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Reaching our monthly supporters
Your Case for Support can be sent to your monthly supporters as a way to keep them informed and invested in the ministry. The following is a cover letter to introduce this document to your monthly supporters. This letter is geared toward a 2015 Annual Plan:
Dear Joe and Jane,
Each month you invest in (name of ministry), making you a vital part of our team and a catalyst in our bright future.
Inside this packet is our 2015 Vision, a look at where we have been, where we are and where we are headed in the coming you. We wanted you to have this report so you could see that your investment continues to change the lives of those who come in our door.
Thank you for your belief in the mission of (name of center) and your commitment.
Together we are saving lives, and changing lives every day. It is an honor to serve alongside you in this mighty work!
CEO Board Chair
Click here to download this cover letter as a word document.
Each month, Advancement Trends in the Life Community brings you a sample "Thank you note" to send to your supporters. January's letter is below:
Dear George and Laura,
As we begin 2015 we do so with an optimism that can only grow in the coming year.
Why? Because I'm seeing a trend in those who come in our door. More than ever, they see that we are a place of safety and of hope.
Those that visit us quickly realize that we can be trusted. We tell the truth, and just as important, we choose to love them without conditions.
As a result, I believe we are going to see more and more of our clients choose life for their children, and make other positive decisions for themselves, too.
Quite honestly, you make this happen. Your financial partnership makes this ministry stronger every day; and even brighter days are ahead.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Click here to download this thank you letter as a word document.
The board of directors plays many roles in a ministry, from visionaries to decision-makers to guardians of the ministry's public trust.
At board meetings we might be evaluating the chief executive or creating competitive benefits packages, making sure our staff is compensated justly. But outside of the board room we have a role just as vital: Ambassador.
Many of our constituents will judge our ministry by more than the newsletter, the events or even what they perceive to be going on inside our doors on a regular business day: They will evaluate our ministry based on the board members and the way we represent the organization.
So what are a few ideas on how we can be effective Ambassadors?
Name TagsReally? Is that all there is to this? No, but this is a beginning: Every board member should have his or her own permanent name badge (not one of those cheap, plastic badges—let's go for metal) telling constituents at events: Mary Jones—Board of Directors. This is a seemingly small touch, but a first impression like this makes a difference. At any ministry function where the public is involved, we ought to wear these in order to send a message of credibility.
Tweet this: At any ministry function where the public is involved, we ought to wear these in order to send a message of credibility.
As an Ambassador, why not write a note to those friends who support the ministry financially, once a year? Each board member should have a list of donors (some ministries will include amounts for board members, others may choose not to do so). Pick out a number of friends who we can thank, and jot a note to each. Most Christians give to seven ministries but in times of economic uncertainty, this number drops to three. These notes will likely make our ministry one of the three.
Invite othersAn Ambassador makes introductions. Pick three friends in 2015 who are not currently giving to the ministry, but whom you believe could, if they knew more. Invite them to lunch (or perhaps have an evening of dessert at your home for all of them) and include your executive director. Make the introduction, allow them to begin a relationship with your ministry's leader. This could lead to long-term ministry funding.
Three short ideas, none of which are time consuming. An Ambassador does all three and the ministry is stronger for years to come.
Our donors have earned our thanks. They are partners in the ministry in every sense of the word and we can't say this enough: Our donors sacrifice their hard-earned resources so that babies will experience life and moms and dads might experience abundant life.
These friends not only deserve our thanks, but our regular appreciation and celebration, too. So what might we celebrate?
AnniversariesIf someone has been faithful to our ministry every month throughout an entire year, let's let them know. Whether through a special card or a small gift—they need to know that we know they are faithful.
Many ministries have donors who have stood the test of time for five, ten, even twenty or more years. Think of creative, cost-effective ways to let them know. Try to think of something thoughtful they will remember, and keep.
By the way, "cost effective" is important. Let's not turn our appreciation into, "If you give for 12 straight months we offer a gold-plated . . ."After all, our supporters usually shy away from recognition—this isn't to be commercialized.
MilestonesKeep a database of the most faithful; those who have stayed with the ministry over time in different ways. Many will be monthly supporters; others will be those who give regularly in other ways, or who can always be counted on to major gifts.
This is a subjective list; you will know best as you begin to put the list together.
When our ministry reaches a milestone (1,000th client, 500th baby born—you get the picture), let's make sure our most faithful friends know.
We can create a little card with our announcement, send it to these friends and say, "Dear John and Jane . . . Just thought you would want to know—you've played such a major role in this milestone!"
The bottom line? Stay in touch with those who mean so much to us—building relationships that last.
Each month, Advancement Trends in the Life Community brings you a sample "Thank you note" to send to your supporters. December's letter is below:
Dear Brad & Angelina,
Whenever one aspires to a great work, there are naysayers. These are the people who can always find a reason why an idea will not work.
They pride themselves on being the first to have discovered the down side of a great endeavor. And if the idea by chance does not succeed, those golden words, "I told you so!" are first out of their mouths.
We have big dreams here. We want to see our community free from abortion. We want a city where every woman or couple facing an unplanned pregnancy chooses . . . Life.
There are naysayers out there, I'm sure. Some will think this goal is too audacious. Others will use words like "not feasible," or "unrealistic."
Your gift however, reminds me that many of us still believe the unthinkable can become reality and that the impossible is only impossible until someone accomplishes the task. And that with God, all things are possible.
Thank you for being a part of our team. Together, let's keep focusing on the impossible—until it is proven . . . Possible.
Okay, so you've got just 10 minutes. Perhaps it's almost time for lunch. Or the day is almost over. Or you are between appointments. Maybe you are at an appointment in the waiting room. And there are those 10 minutes.
What are a few ways to use those few ticks of the clock to build a long-term development plan?
Run a reportIf you are in the office, use your donor software to run a quick report. Here are some ideas:
Jot a noteIf you have your Top 100 list, pull out a note card and write that quick note. In 10 minutes you might be able to write two!
Google, Bing . . .Yep, think of a financial partner you don't truly know. Find out more by Googling this person. You might find employment (Linked In), relationships (Facebook), where they live, interests and more. You may even find out why your ministry is important to them, who knows? As in any strong relationship, the more we know about a person, the stronger the relationship can be. Google is only a starting point, because relationships grow through conversations. But it is a 10-Minute Start.
Break down a major projectWhat is that major initiative the ministry is working toward? If there is one on the drawing table, write down the cost figures and break them down into bite-sized pieces. You might be creating an effective ask for a future appeal letter.
Ten minutes is not a lot of time, but if we use these increments of time to be more effective in our work we will not only free up space in our calendar, we will also build our long-term funding in the process.
While time is always at a premium in our work, thinking long-term will not only save time over the space of a year; it will also bring powerful results that can begin even now.
As we look at 2015, let's consider some ideas that will benefit our advancement plan for a long time to come.
Scour that database!Regularly searching for information in our donor software isn't just for the nerds and statisticians. It's vital for anyone who wants to see relationships and our bottom line improve.
Placing time in our regular schedule for research should be an integral part of our day in advancement. So what are we looking for?
Forgotten monthly donors—Check back a few years and find those who were giving monthly, but are no longer doing so. Some drop off because of moves or financial issues, but many either forget or lose interest because they feel forgotten. Our job is to remember!
Make a list of these friends, and if you know, jot down reasons why they stopped their monthly giving ("The Jones family moved"). Then, find those who might be motivated to give again, prioritize and plan ways to reconnect with these families, either by an appeal letter, a face to face visit—or whatever we need to do in order to begin rebuilding a relationship. Rebuilding doesn't need to start with an ask; it can be as simple as saying hello on the phone and telling our friend that we simply want to reconnect. Work on relationship, then the time to ask will be clearer.
One check and that's it—Go back 1-2 years and find those who wrote a check for $50 or more from an appeal letter or out of the blue. Consider an appeal letter to these friends, giving them a specific need and asking for a gift at least equal to, and perhaps 1.5 times the amount of this person's most recent gift.
A Google A Day—Might be the answer for getting to know those who give to us. I once Googled a major donor and found out that he split his time between the public sector (working for a University) and the private sector (researching energy issues). Gifts soared as he worked in the private sector, then flattened as he moved back into the university setting. We found that the best time to ask for major gifts was when he was working with major corporations—a valuable piece of information.
Many of those who can give major gifts can be found on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines. This isn't stalking; it is vital research that can help us understand occupations, interests and more as we build good relationships. I even found one to be an author and we had the opportunity to talk publishing, information I never would have known without research. Knowing our people well builds relationships. The stronger the relationship, the more likely our friends will think of us when they give.
Commentary with Kirk
We're told that less is sometimes more and when it comes to a third fundraising event (or 4th or 5th), we need to think critically about its benefits and possible consequences to our long-term funding success.
So why not have a discussion? Let's look at questions and answers, and see if we can find some ground to stand on when we are questioned about whether a third event is always needed or necessary:
If we are going to build our budget, our third event is necessary. Look what we would lose if we eliminated this fundraiser!Generally this third event means we have either two events in the spring (January through May) or two in the fall (September through mid-November). Because events rarely occur in the summer or in the Christmas season, having two events in either spring or fall means that we are going to have a season where we are constantly in "event" mode.
This is not to say that we always eliminate a third event. We do however, need to look at this event in light of whether it is actually advancing our overall fundraising plan. Keep in mind: Every minute spent on a third event is time not spent on other revenue enhancing projects.
We already have a third event. If we are going to drop one of our events, how do we choose which one goes?To answer this question, let's throw out a principle. Unless an event is raising a significant percentage of your overall revenue, we must improve it or remove it. The word "significant" will have different meanings for different organizations. Here is a rough idea:
If we are not reaching these rough benchmarks, we either need to fix these events, or get rid of them as they are eating up one of our most vital resources: Time.
My guess is that if we look at each of our three events, we will find one that falls close to these numbers and needs a good look.
One caveat: If your banquet is falling below our suggested numbers, choose this one to fix. A fundraising dinner should be your strongest overall event; if it is not, there is great room to grow.
How do we replace the lost revenue?Most of our ministries miss opportunities in two areas: Monthly Support and Major Gifts. By shifting our focus toward building these two revenue streams, we might find a long-term, foundational increase in funding.
For instance, adding 25 monthly supporters over the course of a year (at about $40 per monthly gift) adds $1000 per month or $12,000 each year . . . And this will only increase in years to come as we add more supporters.
Consider major gifts, too. If we create a strong strategic plan (For the coming 3-5 years) and show a major supporter specific ways a major gift will be utilized, we will see these friends of the ministry respond.
What if we took the time we spend on that third event and met with one major supporter each month and asked for a gift of say, $5,000, what might happen? We are told that when we get to know someone who can make a major gift and truly build a relationship, when we make a reasonable, well-thought-out ask, the odds of a gift are more than 80%. At an average major gift of $5,000 then, twelve meetings would, in one year, likely mean some $50,000 in funding.
Different centers will see varying results, certainly. But perhaps we need to shift our thinking from "event" to "let's simply lay out a major vision and ask."
Should we always seek to eliminate a third event?No, we're not giving a hard and fast rule here. We do however, want to help us consider whether a third event is necessary to move toward a higher income figure.
On the other side of this, many centers have a third event that is totally unrelated to other events and in fact, reaches a different group of people. A golf event is a good example here. Some ministries are raising $50,000, $75,000 and more through golf events—completely separately from banquets, walks, baby bottle campaigns and other events.
The point? A third event is not automatically "bad," but we do need to make sure it is a significant fundraising avenue. And as we look at three events, let's make sure we do not lose focus on our other revenue streams.
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