What is a Case Statement?

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In each of our industries, we have the tendency to create our own lingo. It’s not intentional – it just takes too long to try to explain what we mean, so we come up with shorthand speak. Unfortunately, when others join the conversation, it might take a while to catch up. After 17 years in the nonprofit world, I’m realizing that ‘case statement’ is one of those terms.

So what is a case statement? It’s basically the story about your organization and the needs in the community that you’re serving (and how your community is being impacted because of the work you do). I’ll be covering more about that in the next few blog posts, so I’ll focus here on what the case statement is not.

First, it’s not your business plan. While there are probably pieces from the business plan that you’ll want to include, you’re writing this to motivate and inspire, not about all the details of how you’ll operate and the lengthy descriptions that need to be included in a business plan.

Second, It’s not your annual report. The case statement is a forward-looking document (that, yes, does include some history). The focus in on future impact that will happen with the help of the donor.

It’s not your grant template (although you could use some sections as a resource for some of your grant proposals).

Lastly, it’s not static. There was a time when printing limitations dictated that one piece would be professional designed and printed, but we’re now able to customize the case statement for each person – rather than just have one piece that we hand out to everyone.

Those a just a few ideas about what it is not. In addition, I’ve asked a couple of my partners in Help for Small Nonprofits to share one quick tip about writing a compelling case statement:

Sandy Rees says, “Address the need your organization meets and talk about why now is the time to meet the need. It creates a sense of urgency, which you’ll need to raise money NOW.”

Kent Stroman suggests that you “Put a personal face on your mission. Create a vivid, emotional picture of the positive effects delivered by the NPO.”

Thanks to Sandy and Kent for your tips! Please let me know in the comments section below what other thoughts and tips you’d like to share.



What is a Case Statement? — 5 Comments

  1. This information couldn’t come at a better time. We are going through the strategic planning process and during this process I learned about, and wrote, our Case Statement. After reading this blog, I am going to take a second look at what I wrote and implement the suggestions given at the end of this article. Great practical tips that make perfect sense. It was so helpful to learn what a Case Statement IS NOT. Many thanks!

    • That’s great – so glad you’re getting your case statement together (and doing it right). You’ll see several benefits just from having gone through the thought process of putting it together.