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Jerold Panas

Perspectives on Philanthropy
from Jerold Panas



Books by Jerold Panas

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120 Days


Fundraising Habits


Making the Case


Mega Gifts


Making Your Case...Forcefully
The seven uses of a case statement

We live in an old farmhouse in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Population, 300. Thankfully, we have a Volunteer Fire Department.

I’m talking to Skip the other day. He’s the Chief of the Volunteers.

I ask him what his crew does first when they get to a fire. “Well, we immediately drench the house with water," he says. "Then we break open the windows to get our equipment inside. Break down a door if necessary.”

“And next?” I ask.

Institute for Charitable Giving

“We check to make sure we have the right address.”

I tell this story because it reminds me how critical it is to get things right.

My topic today, not so inflammatory, is Case Statements and the seven ways to use them. But before we get started, it’s useful to recount the reasons people give. You must cover each one in your Case Statement.

Whatever the area of fundraising, always keep in mind that people give because:

1) They believe in the work of your organization and its unique qualifications to provide the program and services you propose.

2) They are persuaded their gift will change lives or save lives.

3) They have the money to give. Without appropriate financial capacity, there can be no gift.

4) They understand that because of the investment, they'll make an impact of everlasting value.

5) There is philanthropic intent. Regardless of net worth or annual income, if there isn’t philanthropic intent there probably won't be a gift.

6) They will be joining others in a worthy cause. Donors like to know they're not alone, that others are joining this noble program. Everyone enjoys being part of the bandwagon effect.

7) You ask them to make an investment. It’s amazing what you don’t raise when you don’t ask.

With these seven reasons in mind, let's move on to the uses of the Case Statement.

Shed light

A long time ago, when I first graduated from college, I was planning a trip to London and called a small hotel there to reserve a room for my stay.

“Do you want a room with a shower or a bath?” the clerk asked.

“What’s the difference?” I responded, assuming it was price.

“Well,” said the clerk, “with the bath, you sit down.”

You can see how easy it is to misconstrue. Your job in developing a Case is to shed light on the darkness, as the psalmist says. To leave nothing to question.

There are seven basic ways a Case Statement is used. You need to understand each.

1) The Case assures and secures agreement, understanding, and commitment among your primary leaders and board members. There can be no question that there's total dedication to the cause and precise understanding of the institution’s objectives and long-range goals. Everyone must agree.

2) It provides direction and a divine strategy for presenting your vision and cause most effectively to your primary constituents. In other words, your Case Statement becomes an expert witness for your mission.

3) The Case informs leaders and workers of your program and audacious dreams. It demonstrates and substantiates how the success of the endeavor will work to the immense and unending benefit of those you serve.

4) The effective Case enlists friends and new leaders to your cause, in sufficient numbers, and at the proper level to win the effort. It’s effective at this because it defines the purpose of the proposed program and shapes the destiny of the organization.

5) It is an early working document and cultivation piece for prospective major donors. I let prospects know it’s still in draft form, a work in progress -- but I want them to be among the first to review it and suggest changes. In this way, the reader takes ownership.

6) The Case is a document that helps others endorse and share your vision -- and accept greater and ever-expanding responsibility of identifying with your invincible mission and dreams.

7) The Case becomes the sourcebook and guide for the writing of subsequent publications, articles, foundation proposals, and video presentations. It transforms the mission into results.

Writing a motivating and highly readable Case Statement is hard work. It requires wordsmithing.
Write your Case the same way the popular crime novelist, Elmore Leonard, writes his mystery books. He's a literary genius who writes re-readable thrillers. When asked to explain why his books are so popular and so easy to read, Leonard answered: “It’s simple. I just leave out the parts that readers skip.”

The effective Case Statement has the distinctive character and the near finality of a beautiful Bach Barita. It begins by breaking the silence and ends by returning the silence — it leaves everything in between completely resolved. The Case and the reader — they are making beautiful music together.

If you’re the one doing the writing, you might not be as driven as Isaac Asimov, but now you can sympathize with him.

He said: “Thinking is the activity I love best, and writing is simply thinking through my fingers. I can write up to 18 hours a day. I’ve done better than 15 pages a day. Nothing interferes with my concentration. You can put on an orgy and I wouldn’t even look up. Well, maybe once!”

Now that's dedication.

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