The FAMCare Blog

How to Use Case Studies to Improve Fundraising

Posted by George Ritacco on Oct 25, 2013 4:00:00 PM


The key to great fundraising is to get people excited about your non-profit.

And to get them excited, the best method is to tell the stories of how you change your clients’ lives. If increasing your fundraising would lessen your budget worries, learn to tell better stories.

A great framework for telling client stories is the case study. It provides the structure for both gathering the right information about your clients and also a method for telling the story. Below you will find specific advice on what makes for great case studies and also some ideas on how to best deliver this kind of content. But before getting to that, let’s very briefly mention issues of privacy and respect that can sometimes arise with case studies.

Privacy And Case Studies 

When you tell client stories, you want to run as far as possible from anything that even hints at manipulation or anything that feels invasive. If you deal in areas of your clients lives that are particularly sensitive, you don’t necessarily need to rule out case studies. But you do need to carefully consider how you present it. Perhaps giving some specifics but without identifying information is the solution.

In general, keep yourself out of hot water by using simple common sense. If it doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t. Also, be sure to check with a legal professional if anything is at all questionable. Even if there is no sensitive information involved, you should probably have a waiver form allowing the information to be used.

Gathering Information

Many non-profits that create case studies make the process too complicated. There is no reason to go overboard. Never forget that good stories are clear, simple and focus on the most important stuff (while also eliminating the boring parts).

A great technique is the “Before and After Method.” The first step of this process is to list everything relevant to creating a ‘Before Portrait’ of your client. Maybe it is a financial situation that they can’t solve without a needed skill. Perhaps it is a health issue that they don’t have the necessary knowledge to manage properly.

Whatever you help them overcome, right down every related ‘Before’ circumstance. List as many ways as possible that this lack of skill or education affects their life – and be as specific as you can.

Now move to the ‘After Portrait.’ Now you will be listing all the benefits – the ways your client’s life has improved because of the outcome achieved. The more specifics the better, but do not feel pressure to go overboard with quantity. Focus on quality and the real ways your client’s life has improved.

The final step of this process is to draw connections between the ‘Before’ list and the ‘After’ list. Every before is a problem, and every after is the problem solved. This problem-solution dynamic is a powerful way to tell a case study story.

The Final Ingredient

With the before and after in place, all you need for a good case study is the step-by-step actions that were taken to get from one to the other. Every good story needs action, and your case study is no exception.

A common mistake is to load up the description of action with too much jargon and too much irrelevant information. People who are not on the inside of your profession are not going to relate to that. Give them a few clear statements on the actions taken and then move on to a focus on the successful ‘After’ outcome for your client.

Formats To Deliver Your Case Studies

The end goal for your case studies is to use it to get potential donors excited about your work and more willing to open their wallets. To do that, it has to be delivered in an easily digestible way. Here are a few ideas of how to format your client stories.

  • Video – This is a very powerful way because it allows the people involved to speak directly for themselves. You can interview clients (if appropriate), the caseworkers involved, and the head of the non-profit. Remember that there is no need to make it a Hollywood production – even iPhones today make good quality video. The key is to focus on the before, the actions taken, and the after.
  • Brochures – There are plenty of ways that a brochure can be put together. One of the most effective ways is to simply have a bullet list of ‘Befores,’ a bullet list of ‘Actions Taken,’ and a final list of ‘Afters.’ If appropriate, share a picture of the client next to each list to better personalize it.
  • Blog Posts – If you have a blog, do occasional ‘Case Study’ posts. Then send out a link to the post to your email list. At the bottom of the post, it is recommended you say something like “Want to help others achieve these great results? Click here to learn more about donating.”

You can probably come up with a lot of other ideas for delivering this kind of content. Once you have great stories to tell, it is easy to think of ways to actually tell them.

Thanks for reading this blog post. If you need help discovering an affordable case management software solution that will improve your services to your clients, please click here to learn more.

Topics: Fundraising Ideas, FAMCare Tips and Tools

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