A big part of what I do with my non-profit clients is help them to develop and refine their case for support? What’s a “case?” It’s simply a collection of compelling reasons (both data and stories) as to why an organization is worthy of support. You’ve probably made a case for support at some point in your career – be it a letter, a grant proposal or a sales conversation over coffee.
I’ve written in the past about strengthening your case for support, but recently I read a book that gave me an added distinction that I’m implementing in my work.
The book is called Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination by Hugh MacLeod. If you’re not familiar with MacLeod’s art and tongue-in-cheek humor and cartoons, this book is a great introduction. His “Evil Plans” are any big dream you have for your company, for your art, for your life. In it, he talked about the power of stories to fill the “narrative gaps” each of us has in our lives.
This “narrative gap” is the space between your story (or cause or product), and the donor’s story of their own life. Each donor has their own story they’re telling (themselves if no one else), about the type of person they are, their achievements, their family, their impact. Tell them a story that will make their story better, and they will not only respond, but will proudly share. Your case for support has to bridge the narrative gap between your cause and their gift.
“We like telling these stories because they defy the odds – and that is what gives us hope. Hope of filling in our own ‘narrative gaps.’ Whatever your Evil Plan might be, there has to be some sort of sense of adventure, some sort of ‘triumph over adversity’ baked in. Otherwise, people won’t want to talk about it, and your story won’t spread. People aren’t merely buying your product, your Evil Plan; they are buying the story you are telling… a story that’s not just about you, but about them, and what they could be.”
Stories, bold vision, urgent needs – daring, bold and against the odds – inspire all of us more than safe, practical plans. It turns a campaign into an adventure, a game-changer, a story to be told around the campfire at a later date.
So look again at your case for support. Is it more about logic than adventure? What stories are you telling that a donor would be eager to share? How can you bridge the narrative gap and bring your own “Evil Plan” to fruition?