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Checklist for Your Fundraising Plan & Case for Support

As a pilot I love checklists. I hope you like this checklist for creating a Case for Support!
Photo by Joe McCrossen.

Are you creating a fundraising plan or a memo outlining why your project or organization needs more funding? Then you are drafting what is known in philanthropy as a “Case for Support.” You will be far more effective in speaking or communicating with people who might give you charitable gifts if you have addressed the items in this checklist. It will show others that you have done your homework and that you are open to input and suggestions.

Your case ought to state why you are deserving of support while demonstrating that you have asked yourself and your organization some critical questions about the past, present, and future. You’ll want to be clear on whom you serve, what you are observing and learning, and who else is in the mix.

Once you have finished sketching out answers to the items on this checklist, you’ll be in a position to put together a proper Case for Support. This often takes the form of a three-to-five-page written document or a slideshow. Some donors like to read documents, some like to flip through a “pitch deck” with you. And in many cases you can verbally walk through your points in a friendly, conversational way. This has never been easier with Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms.  

No matter the form of your Case for Support, you’ll want to begin testing it with a variety of groups, asking each to give feedback on what is compelling and what needs improved: 1) Friends & Family who will offer moral support and encouragement; 2) Volunteers and Board members of your organization; 3) Thought leaders, people who are experts in the field you work within, people whose good opinion you want to have; 4) Current supporters, members, funders; 4) Potential donors; 5) Beneficiaries of your work; 6) Partners and other nonprofit groups in your sector.  

Engaging your constituents, friends, current, and future philanthropists and funders is a way to build relationships, create community support for your project and organization, and to foster trust. When people feel included, they are likely to offer advice, counsel, broker introductions, and make gifts to support your vision.

Make your way through the checklist a little bit at a time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have all the answers right away. Form a task force or committee to co-create your Case for Support or hire a professional fundraising consultant. But trust me, the answers are within you and your organization. Good luck and let me know what you learn and what you’d like me to add to the Checklist! ~Kristine

☐ What are your organization’s values, vision, and mission?

☐ Capture the key milestones in the history of your organization, including your strengths and accomplishments. Make them short, but specific examples that illustrate evidence of your group’s impact.

☐ What were the biggest challenges you and your organization have faced in the past?

☐ What is the problem you are trying to solve now?

☐ Who benefits from your solution – this helps you define the constituent need, not your organizational need

☐ What is your solution to that problem?

☐ What are your goals in the next few years? 

☐ Why is your organization doing this work? What unique skills do you bring to the problem?

☐ Is your organization doing something no one has ever done before? Are you approaching this in a unique way? Do you have any particular advantage or expertise?

☐ How will you define success? And why do you believe you will be successful?

☐ What happens if your organization doesn’t do this?

☐ Who else is working on this problem? How long have they been doing this? What are they good at, what are they missing?

☐ How does your organization fit in with the ones above?

☐ How are you collaborating with other nonprofits?

☐ How are you similar to those groups? Different? The point isn’t to be totally different. It’s okay to do the same work. After all, you can’t cure cancer with just one university’s research lab, that’s why there are so many institutions focused on it.

☐ How much will this cost? How much do you need and by when?

☐ How much did your organization raise in the past three years? Include the following sources of revenue:

☐ Private Philanthropy

☐ Corporate Philanthropy

☐ Corporate practices/partnerships

☐ Foundations

☐ Individuals

☐ Public (bilaterials, multilaterals, local and federal government)

☐ If you don’t get all of the funding that you are asking for, what will you prioritize?

☐ Share 1-2 short stories about the work that demonstrate why this is so important to fund.

☐ What assets might you have to share with current and prospective supporters and on social media, including, but not limited to: maps; great images; stories; articles and videos; future travel and site visit opportunities; virtual events; meetings and convenings; scientific papers published; and beneficiaries who can tell a story about the problem and the solution.  

☐ What is your current budget, fully costed? Be sure to include project as well as support staff who help ensure the organization’s health and you, for example, policy, fundraising, marketing, finance, HR, operations, etc.

☐ Assuming your project/organization is partially- to fully-funded, what will happen in the first few years in terms of outcomes?

☐ What about milestones, what can we expect to see happen along the way?

☐ Do you require additional staffing, if so, what kind? How many? What skillsets would you need?

☐ What work will you stop doing in order to focus your time and resources to make this a reality?

☐ What can philanthropic support accomplish?

☐ Why is this urgent?

☐ What are the benefits to the donor, to the beneficiaries/clients/cause served, to society at large, to your organization?

☐ What are gifts at different levels going to make possible?

☐ Do you have any naming opportunities for gifts of a certain size?

☐ How will you recognize gifts of all sizes?

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