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What's right for you: Fancy or plain?
What should you spend on a case?
The secret's in the story. Good looks are optional.

Why would you want to spend good money on a tight, polished case statement? Why not go with just a Word document and be done with it?

Good question. There's no single, always-right answer to this.

A well-written, visually exciting case might well be premature, even unnecessary, for some capital campaigns. Jerry Panas, a superstar of effective case communications, likes to use a Word document stamped "DRAFT" on its cover during the "quiet phase" of a campaign. And there are still consultants wandering around telling charities that a case is similar to a business proposal (translation: boring and numbers-driven). Maybe, a bit. Mostly no.

Yes, a supply closet full of expensively printed case statements that never saw the whites of a prospect's eyes is a sad waste. But that's a production problem (order only what you need) or a solicitation problem (train more volunteers), not a communications problem.

Any good case, expensively printed or not, does this one thing well: it rapidly explains why your project matters.

But a good case can do so much more. For one thing, it can give your solicitors supreme confidence in the project. Enter expensive production values -- terrific writing, great design, astounding photography, museum-quality printing.

A tightly argued, entertainingly visual, and well-produced case statement can give a solicitor lots of added faith. It argues powerfully for your oragnization's professionalism. It makes a solid first impression. It makes a strong lasting impression, in its role as leave-behind. The solicitor never has to wonder what to talk about: it's all there in the case, easy to find, dramatically told. As the key document the solicitor presents to the prospect, the case can be more than just information. It can be part of a solicitor's wardrobe, when dressing for success.

Charities often worry, "If we spend a lot on the look of a case, won't people accuse us of wasting money?" Sure. And they should. You shouldn't spend just on looks. Looks are superficial. Good printing and decent design are not enough. Somebody wonderful has to tell your story for you. Hire a competent writer who specializes in fundraising communications.

A case statement with a bad writer at the wheel is like a movie with a lousy script. No matter how much you spend on cosmetics, you cannot overcome a story that doesn't grab me.
Copyright © 2005-2015 & ∞, by Tom Ahern and Ahern Donor Communications, Ink. All rights reserved. Cool portrait photo: Jonathan Feist
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