Trustees are uniquely positioned to share their health care organization's case for seeking charitable support with prospective donors. Board members' trusted voice carries unmatched credibility and is amplified with prospective donors. Therefore, it is important for trustees to understand how to express the organization's rationale for raising charitable dollars to support its work.
The health care organization's case for support is the cornerstone of communications to donors for several reasons. The case:
- blends inspirational storytelling and investment prospectus in one message
- shares the organization's compelling vision for providing community benefit rather than focusing on the organization's needs
- validates the appropriateness and urgency of seeking community charitable support
- builds internal consensus and ownership, raises community awareness and forges commitment from community stakeholders
- interprets and breathes life into the organization's mission by sharing the stories of real people in ways that illustrate the mission's human impact
- demonstrates the organization's credibility as a well-managed and consistent steward over time that merits confidence and trust
- supports how the organization is uniquely capable of advancing an initiative that provides solutions or delivers other value through facts and logic.
Ultimately, the case for support illuminates why a donor — who likely receives numerous requests for financial support —would want to join the organization's cause by investing financial resources.
Crafting the case for support is a task to approach with both heart and head in order to create a document that balances providing substantive information to inform decision-making while illustrating the emotional impact of the mission that will touch donors' hearts and inspire action. Ultimately, a well-crafted case allows donors to decide if the proposed project appeals to their values, aspirations and good judgment.
The case also must align with the organization's existing brand and experience. As Jim Collins notes in his monograph "Good to Great and the Social Sectors," the organization's overarching brand is a significant lever in enabling supporters to "believe not only in your mission, but in your capacity to deliver on that mission." This not only enables an integrated communications strategy that reinforces itself but also helps build trust.
Being an advocate for the organization by sharing the case with others also is an opportunity for trustees to share their genuine passion. Many trustees have a personal reason for caring about the organization's mission. It may be an intellectual appreciation for the importance of good medical care or a concern for other human beings. Alternatively, a board member may have had a health care experience that changed or even transformed him or her. In these situations, one of the most meaningful things a trustee can do is share his or her own story.
In telling their story, board members are demonstrating their own authenticity. Prospective donors aren't looking for a slick communicator who rattles off a case for support with expertise — they do not place great stock in the flawless delivery. Instead, they want honest communication from someone they can trust to help them get involved in something meaningful. So, while it is helpful to understand the elements of case and the levers that create a more compelling communication, trustees should avoid getting bogged down in the technical aspects and instead focus on why the organization's mission and proposed plan resonate with their own values and inspire their own action. Ultimately, there is no more compelling message than the one that comes from a messenger who truly believes.
Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP (BTaylor@AccordantPhilanthropy.com), is president and principal consultant of Accordant Philanthropy, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., author of Healthcare Philanthropy: Advance Charitable Giving to Your Organization's Mission (Health Administration Press, 2012) and editor of Redefining Healthcare Philanthropy (Association for Healthcare Philanthropy Press, 2014).