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July 6, 2020
 
Don’t Be Shy. Make Your Case. Boldly!
Book - Making a Case Donors Will Love
People solicit other people when raising funds for nonprofits, but the written word plays an important role—and can spell the difference between rousing success and what could have been—as outlined in Making a Case Your Donors Will Love.

Written by Jerold Panas, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit fundraisers and author or co-author of 18 books on the subject, makes a convincing case, as one would expect, for how to make your case.

Above all else, the case is meant to inspire and motivate the reader to join your cause and support it with dollars. But money is not the focus of the written case statement. “Instead,” Panas writes, “your case is about challenges, about new ideas in confrontation with the old. You define the objectives, dispel questions, propel actions. You light the candles.”

The case is important precisely because it will be used in a number of ways...by seeking agreement among your organizations leaders and board members...to inform key audiences of the need and of your dreams...enlist new friends and leaders to your cause...cultivate donors...serve as a source document for other materials for your fundraising campaign.

It’s your job, as the writer, “to put it all in a package and develop an undeniable, irresistible, and urgent case for support,” Panas asserts.

Getting down to brass tacks, he provides numerous specifics about what works and what to avoid. For example:
  • Keep your mission up to date, since that’s the single greatest motivation for donors.

  • Use statistics sparingly. Better to use words to paint a picture of your mission in action.

  • Talk endlessly about the future, since your goal is to engage donors “to transform your organization’s history into a great tomorrow of incalculable service.”

  • Break the so-called rules of good writing in the service of making your copy sing. It’s OK, for example, to end sentences with a preposition, split infinitives, or write one-word paragraphs.

  • Be scrupulous about checking for typos, misspellings, missed words, and columns of figures that don’t sum correctly.
To make the drafting process go as smoothly as possible, Panas suggests collecting key information, from budgets to membership information to campaign plans and data, before starting to write. He lists 18 items and provides what he calls a “fail proof” checklist in the appendix.

Case statements, of course, don’t move directly from the writer’s hand to their intended audience. A committee intervenes. People take delight in critiquing others’ work, and it will happen to your case statement. Pana advises the reader “to get ready for the pain,” but then offers helpful hints on how to approach and respond to the committee’s review, maintain your equilibrium, and still produce a stellar product. This alone may be worth the price of the book.

Adopting his own advice, Panas writes in an engaging, conversational tone. He includes an interview with himself in “Questions I’m most often asking a bout case statements,” the answers to which provide a good summary of the book.

Since case statements are all about grabbing the reader, Panas also helpfully includes an appendix of opening and closing paragraphs from successful case statements, an effective way to get readers thinking about style, persuasiveness, conviction, and passion.

Writing is never perfected, and even the most experienced authors learn from others, as will case writers—novice and experienced alike—who read this book.

Making a Case Your Donors Will Love is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy

August 2014
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