26 Aug How to Write a Case Study for Your Non Profit
You know the joy of completing a successful project or working with someone who desperately needs your non profit’s services. You also know if you could share this one story with donors and volunteers, you’d help them see your organization’s vision and ignite a passion in them to join you in the work.
But how exactly do you write a case study that accomplishes it all?
Before we get into the details of how to do a case study, keep in mind your project doesn’t have to be a novel or an academic essay. Keeping your document short, concise and to the point will ensure it’s read to completion and that it’s easily understood.
Choose Your Project
Every project and every constituent holds a special place in your heart. You may deal day to day with the business end of things, but you haven’t forgotten why you do the work you do: for the people you help. Think carefully about recent projects that reflect your mission and might inspire others to join you in that mission. Also consider who might be most open to sharing their experience. Some people prefer more privacy than others, and you will likely already know who would not want to be considered.
Write Out What You Know
You may know the basics of the situation, but if your organization includes other staff members or volunteers, they may know more about the specifics than you do. Identify who has key pieces of information and ask them to help you write down what you all know about the constituent or project.
Contact Your Client
If your study revolves around a specific person, family or small group, talk to them about allowing you to tell their story. Depending on your non profit, some may be more willing to share than others. Do not try to coerce someone into sharing a personal story they aren’t ready to share. Do, however, consider if you can share the story with a change of name or a few identifying elements like age and/or location that might protect your constituent’s identity. Depending on the situation, it might be wise to have someone from your organization this person trusts to talk to them about how their information would be used. After you’ve received a verbal agreement, have your attorney draft an agreement outlining how the information will be used and whether or not details will be changed to protect privacy.
If you are writing non profit case studies about a projects like providing clean water to an impoverished nation or saving a specific species of animal, you may have all the information you need and can write your study without violating any expected privacy.
Create a Questionnaire
Once you’ve received permission, draft a questionnaire that asks for all the information you’d like to include. Even if you know the answers to some of the questions, ask them anyway. You may receive different or more in depth information than you already had. Talk to your constituent about whether they would prefer to answer your questions through email, over the phone or in person. You want to make the process as easy as possible for your constituent to get the information to you. Also talk about a timeline so they know when you’ll need their information and you can create a plan for following up.
Include in your questionnaire a request for any pictures you like to use. Again, if you think privacy is an issue you may need to consider using stock photos.
Choose a Design
If you have a graphic designer on staff, you’re probably covered when it comes to designing your non profit case study. You still want to know what works and what doesn’t. Take some time to read through marketing case studies presented by other organizations. Make notes about what you like and don’t like. You can use this as a starting point for working with your graphic designer.
If you don’t have a graphic designer, the easiest place to start is with a template. We really like working with Envato’s Graphic River. You can download templates for a variety of software from Microsoft Word and Powerpoint to Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. Most templates have many more pages than you will need, which means you can pick and choose which page designs go best with your information. You can also use the same basic template for multiple projects, which allows you to create branding without having everything look exactly alike.
Put It All Together
You finally have all the elements and you’re ready to move forward. Here’s a basic outline for the flow of your study:
- Who your subject is (including your contact person if possible)
- Why did your subject seek our help or why did you seek to help this person/location/issue?
- What solution did you offer?
- What was the timeline for implementation?
- What were the results from the project?
- Is the project on-going?
- How did this project help your subject reach their goal?
- Why does this matter?
- What’s the future plans in relation to this project?
Not all these questions may apply, but use as many as possible. Including pictures, pull quotes, graphs, charts and bulleted lists will break up the text and draw attention to the most important details.
Once you’ve written out the information and plugged it into your design, make sure to have someone else within your company proofread it for clarity, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Finally, if you are writing someone’s specific story, email it to them and ask for a final approval. You are telling their story, so you want to make sure it really represents the whole truth.
Case studies can play an important role in your non profit content marketing strategy. Writing a teaser blog post and linking it to the download page will drive traffic and allow you to capture contact information. You can use links to the case study as part of your non profit social media campaign for months. You may also want to share the case study through email with donors, volunteers or other prospects. Seeing the final results of your work speaks volumes to your community.