Case statements are largely thought of as a fundraising tool, but marketing should be involved in writing them. Here’s why your marketing department should assist in this all-important task.

Unfortunately, case statements are rarely spoken of outside the context of an upcoming capital campaign. 

A big need confronts us, lots of money needs to be raised, and that demands laser-focused clarity on why donors should give to the campaign – and why they should consider giving a lot.

Another seemingly innocuous error institutions make is to write up the case statement without bringing in the marketing team. 

And why would they?

A case statement is a tool for fundraisers, right?

Yes… and no.

First, let’s define what a case statement is. It’s always important to define the project you’re working on so that you get all the right stakeholders in on the project. 

What is a Case Statement?

Professor Timothy Seiler at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, a veteran fundraiser who literally wrote the book on cases for support, says “A case is the general argument why a charitable organization deserves gift support.”

In marketing terms, a case statement is a lot like your institution’s value proposition

Your value proposition tells your audience why they should enroll in your school. Your case for support tells them why they should give money to support your school.

Your value proposition is directed to prospective students. But your case statement is more directed to prospective donors.

Also like a value proposition, your case statement should answer your audience’s critical questions.

A nonprofit organization’s case statement answers the questions, “How does this agency help people?” “Whom do we help?” “What vital services do we offer?” “What is our agency’s track record?” “What are the organization’s plans for the future?” “Why does this agency merit support?”

– Stanley Weinstein

So doesn’t this mean that value propositions are for marketers and case statements for fundraisers?

Not necessarily.

It is true that enrollment marketers should be the “guardians” of your institution’s value proposition. It’s also true that the advancement department should be the steward of your institution’s case for support. 

But these statements (or arguments) should be known and used when needed by both departments.

Case statements and value propositions are profoundly related to each other.

To see how closely these are connected, let’s make a comparison of two fundamental questions. 

    • Why should prospective students enroll at your school? 
    • Why should donors give to you?
Value Proposition
“You should enroll because our…”
Case Statement
“You should give because your gift…”
Programs are unique Keeps these unique programs running
Teachers are world-class Makes it possible to attract
world-class professors
Campus is academically
inspiring and positive
Maintains the beauty and utility
of your inspiring campus

As you can see, each reason you give to students for enrolling is inherently related to each reason a donor should give to your institution. 

That’s why both marketing and development should be working together as you craft your school’s case statement.

But there’s something else to consider here.

Case statements should be used for more than capital campaigns.

I’ve been a part of many brainstorming meetings or retreats where higher education institutions invest a lot of money and time to create the structure of their education value proposition or case statement. 

Personally, I enjoy these meetings because we get to the heart of why the audience should respond to the marketing messaging.

But more often than not, the statements we come up with are used for one campaign and then are largely forgotten. 

This is a terrible waste of time, money, and potential! 

These statements should be used as the guiding compass for all future messaging until your institution decides to revamp them. 

I like how fundraising copywriter Tom Ahern put it… A good, up-to-date case statement is a key organizational asset.

The case explains who you are, why you matter, what you’ve accomplished, and where you are going. It is your agency’s most fundamental communications document. It is the source of all your messaging. It is the blueprint and basis for every effort you make to influence donors and prospects, through your direct mail, your Web site, your newsletters, your annual report and other brochures, your advertising, your public relations, and your events.

[Emphasis mine]

In a perfect world, your institution’s case statement should be distributed and read in all the various departments so that everyone’s on board and consistently using it as a springboard for all their messaging.

Case statements are the blueprint of your nonprofit's messaging.

Case statements are the blueprint for all your messaging.

When we create a marketing plan for our clients, we have an entire section showing how to use the slogans, phrases, and language we’ve crafted for them in all of their future marketing material.

I highly recommend that you do this using both your institution’s value proposition and case statement.

In my experience, it’s always best that each of these teams (i.e., marketing and development) are given primary responsibility for stewarding the messaging around these seminal statements.

However, these statements shouldn’t stay locked up within these teams. They should be shared and used in all of your school’s messaging campaigns.

Want to know how well your value proposition or case statement is being used in your messaging? Contact us today and schedule a multi-channel marketing audit.


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Featured image by Boonchok via Adobe Stock
Image of ‘architects working with blueprints’ by REDPIXEL via Adobe Stock

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