All aboard! Leadership buy-in and your case for support

Your case makes the argument for why donors should give to your worthy cause. I’ve written hundreds of these documents over the years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: Your top leaders—usually that means the board chair, campaign chair, senior administrative officer and chief development officer—must all be on board.

They must feel good about the case. They must buy in to its content and its writing style.

Leadership buy-in matters. Here’s why:

Leaders are great at influencing the focus, themes and scope of your case for support.

  • Your board and campaign chairs know your donor community. Often, they have relationships going back decades, even generations, with families, individuals and businesses known for their generosity and capacity to give. No one knows better than your top voluntary leaders what these prospective donors will respond to and why.
  • Your chief administrative officer knows your organization. No one has a better handle on your mission, strategic plan and other core documents. Your case for support should be true to the concepts therein.
  • Your chief development officer knows fundraising. No one is better attuned to the capabilities of your development program. Working with your consulting team, he or she should assess available staffing, financial and other operational resources. Together they should make sure you have, or can get, what it will take to achieve the goals being proposed for your case. Before we commit those goals to paper.

When it comes to developing a strong, compelling case for support, the leaders are among any organization’s most valuable assets.

Leaders are great at asking for gifts, if the case resonates with them.

If the ideas align with their perspective. And if the words and format fit them like a glove. Of course, leaders who ask for gifts should also have strong solicitation skills, but their comfort with the case will go a long way toward instilling confidence when the time comes to sit down with a donor.

Your leaders are your fundraising bellwether.

If they don’t show interest in your case, how can you expect anyone else to? If they have concerns about its direction, how can you move forward? If they aren’t fully on board, you know you still have work to do.

To get leaders’ buy-in, ask for it.

Ask them all. Ask everyone who will review the draft of the case. In my experience, the most helpful feedback to any document comes from those who had a hand in creating it.

Ask them early. Before the draft is written. Leaders are busy, so it’s understandable that they often prefer to “react to a draft.” But they are the decision makers! If a first draft is off the mark at all, it’s almost always because the final arbiters were only minimally engaged, or not at all, from the start.

Ask them together. Before any interviews for the case, make sure your decision makers agree on what story you will tell. Getting them together in one room (or even one conference call) can be a scheduling challenge, but there’s no better way to minimize rewrites and get off to a trouble-free start.

Inspire them. That’s my job, but I take my cues from your leaders. (They inspire me, so I can inspire them.) In every case I write, I aim for goosebumps as well as clarity and completeness. When an idea has heart, people want to support it. And leaders feel great about asking them to.

Only your leaders can decide what funding goals you will pursue, how we should prioritize them in the document, how much space each topic deserves.

When it comes to developing a strong, compelling case for support, the leaders are among any organization’s most valuable assets. These men and women may not always be able to articulate the reasoning behind their insights, but they know when something’s missing. They know when the case feels right.

As your consultant and writer, I don’t make your case. My job is to guide, listen and organize what I hear from you, and to write it down using language that is easy to understand and, I hope, a pleasure to read.

Only your leaders can decide what funding goals you will pursue, how we should prioritize them in the document, how much space each topic deserves (A paragraph? A page?), how much emphasis to give the organization’s history, whether to address some thorny challenge. Only your leaders can speak to these and other aspects of your case. Their buy-in is indispensable.