Altered states: why we have a case for support

Don’t settle for mere applause

Second in a series about your case for support

Most days each of us engages many people who are making a case for us to do what they want.

You may be exempt if you live alone, have no pets, watch no TV, listen to no radio, read neither print nor online media, receive no mail and do not leave your home. Otherwise, we are social beings, interconnected and interdependent. Someone is always making a case for what we should do or believe or buy or support.

We reciprocate constantly. Kids and parents, students and teachers, entrepreneurs and customers, bosses and employees, lawyers, diplomats, evangelists, bureaucrats, activists, neighbours, spouses, siblings, marketers, manufacturers, online daters, politicians -- we all need or want something from someone.

And to get it, we often have to explain why and how it benefits the other party. We have to make our case.

Making the case is the essential task for fundraising. Long ago I heard someone say that “Fundraising is simply the execution of a good communications strategy.” That’s true. And although there are many moving parts – right message, right audience, and right channel and so on –the foundation is a powerful, compelling case for support.

 “Yes, yes” we say, nodding agreeably. But we are so accustomed to this concept that we seem to have long forgotten why we need a strong case for support, and what we want from it.

We need it because we are not dictators, genies or gods. Think of it this way:

- when you can’t just dictate what happens

- yet you want something specific to happen

- and that “thing” depends on the choices of other people

- then you must make a strong case for support.

Stated another way, making your case means communicating ideas and information in such a way that people do what you need them to do. The case is the means by which we created altered states of mind among donors and other supporters. We have to change their reality. Our case for support must take people through a series of altered states: 1) Be aware; 2) Be moved; 3) Become involved; and 4) Take action.

Note the progression. Many times clients seem to believe that if people become more aware of a need or issue or simply learns more about what our charity does, the case is well made. That’s a mistake: it’s only Step 1 of altering peoples’ consciousness – necessary, but not sufficient.

Often people seem willing to settle for any of what I call the “Four A’s” - Awareness, Agreement, Applause, and Accolades. All nice. All potentially useful. All well short of what we need.

What we need is a fifth A – Action – and for us that usually means concrete support.

The decision we work for is getting people to allocate their time, their money, their skills and influence to us. It’s true that we must tell our story well, and engage people appropriately, but without the case that justifies their trip from ignorance to action, they won’t take it.

Why harp on this? Because whatever good work we do now and might do in the future rests on what people decide today. Why should they decide for us? We’d better explain it well.

-- Larry Matthews

Next: Donors have options. You don’t.