November, 2010To write a great case, you take on a new job title.
I invite you to participate in Yale Tomorrow [question #1: Why am I contacting you?], a five-year, $3 billion campaign [question #2: What is the scope of the campaign?] to build the future of our University [question #3: Why does the campaign matter to the institution?]. I seek your support to ensure that the accomplishment of recent years is not remembered merely as a bright moment in Yale's long history [question #4: What is the urgent problem that drives the campaign?], but rather as the foundation for a Yale of permanently greater breadth and strength, a Yale with the capacity to contribute-by means of its scholarship and its graduates-not only to the nation but also to the world [question #5: What is the promise of the campaign?].
Even our most loyal supporters might wonder, after examining the spectacular performance of our Investments Office these past two decades, whether Yale needs to augment still further its already abundant financial resources. It is important to recognize that most of our existing endowment funds were given by donors of the past and present to be used for specifically designated purposes. Thus, most of our endowment provides a strong foundation for our current activities, while the relatively small fraction of the endowment that is unrestricted permits only limited scope for innovation.
So the Philharmonic's printed case opens with the frank statement: "A symphony is a tough business. Every time you perform, you lose money ... if you depend on ticket sales alone."
The case then reveals that all the very best symphonies have structural deficits. The Boston Symphony does, the National Symphony does, the Philadelphia Orchestra does.
A structural deficit, the case argues, has in fact become something of an indicator of top-tier musicianship among U.S. symphonies. Truth to tell, the case argues, if your symphony doesn't have a structural deficit, maybe you (Dear Live Classical Music Lover and Potential Supporter) should wonder why not. After all, top professional musicians, interesting conductors, acoustically perfect performance venues, and celebrity guest soloists do cost serious money.
>>> Takeaway >>> Among the very first things you should do when writing a case for support is sit down and make a list of all the questions your typical gift prospect will have. Then find the answers. You cannot safely skip this step, guaranteed.
Adapted from Seeing Through a Donor's Eyes, How to Make a Persuasive Case for Everything by Tom Ahern, 2009, Emerson & Church
Visit Tom Ahern at http://www/ahercomm.com