How to write a charity case study

Pro tips to create case studies with personality

Charity case studies are an effective and essential part of the charity copywriter’s job. A well-written and impact charity case study explains the life-changing impact that your charity has, which can inspire others to give, get involved and support you. 

Search online and you’ll be able to find thousands of charity case studies, so what sets out the best from the rest? A compelling case study not only captures the impact of your charity’s work but also connects on a human level, establishing an emotional connection with your audience. At 42group, we call this building human connections – and it’s at the core of great charity copywriting, content and case studies. 

In this blog post, we’re going to explore what makes a great charity case study, look at some of our favourites and provide a basic checklist of everything you need to include in a case study for your charity. 

Why write charity case studies?

Charity case studies capture the core of what you do and establish a strong connection with your audience on many levels. Here are some reasons why charity case studies are effective and a core part of every charity marketing strategy.

Create an emotional connection

  • Humanising the cause: Case studies that focus on individual stories enable potential donors to see the real human impact of their contributions. While every charity says it helps people, case studies show it. A case study that presents the challenges, struggles, and triumphs of real people can evoke empathy and compassion and compel readers to take action. They’re highly powerful.
  • Relatability: Case studies challenge and change perceptions. When potential donors can position themselves in the stories shared, the cause becomes personal. Relatability is a clear and strong motivator for financial support.

Demonstrate impact

  • Tangible outcomes: Charity case studies that clearly illustrate the outcomes of your work provide a clear illustration of where your money is going – and the lives it’s changing. For example, a case study that shows how £100 can fund a food bank to provide essential supplies for a family in need for a month makes the impact of a donation tangible.
  • Success stories: Success stories about the impact of previous donations – and the positive outcomes that this funding can have –  can motivate new donors. Knowing that their money will contribute to a proven track record of success is critical. Case studies are as important for new charities as well as old ones. Motivating donors to continue contributing can be just as challenging as inspiring new donors.

Build trust

  • Transparency: We exist in an era where trust is declining in charities and they face a battle to maintain it. Detailed case studies that explain how funds are used can build trust with potential donors. For example, by breaking down expenses and showing the direct correlation between donations and outcomes, charities can tackle and alleviate concerns about financial mismanagement.
  • Accountability: Regular updates and follow-up case studies focusing on ongoing projects can demonstrate a charity’s commitment to accountability. They build trust and transparency – key to establishing relationships with donors. That’s importance because: see above.

Creating urgency

  • Highlighting ongoing needs: While showcasing achievements, case studies can also highlight crucialongoing funding needs and challenges. This can create a sense of urgency, prompting potential donors to act without delay.
  • Drive specific campaigns: Case studies can be tied to specific campaigns or time-sensitive projects to motivate donors to give immediately. It’s especially effective when donations are time-limited and contribute to a larger goal. Case studies can help establish targets and provide relevance for readers.
  • Involvement beyond money: People are more likely to donate if they feel they are joining a collective effort rather than acting in isolation. Case studies can establish and communicate this sense of community – ensuring individual donors of any size can understand they’re part of something larger.

The building blocks of a charity case study

Charity case studies are more than narrative accounts, they’re strategic tools to express impact. It’s a critical difference that the best charity copywriters understand.

Case studies can be written in several ways:

  • As narrative accounts
  • Broken down into sections
  • In the first person
  • In the third-person
  • As Q&As

Whatever style you want to us for your case study, here are some of the core components you must include.

  • Introduction: Set the scene by providing background information on the charity, the problem and the affected individuals or communities.
  • Challenge: It’s important to identify and communicate the specific challenges or needs that the charity addresses. This section provides information about why the charity’s involvement was critical.
  • Action: This is where we get unto the meat of your content! Briefly detail the response to the challenge and specifically what the charity did, keeping things grounded in reality. It’s up to you how you approach it,, but this could include the strategies employed, activities undertaken and resources allocated. Keep things brief and conversational rather than too detailed.
  • Outcome and impact: We think it’s critical to explain the outcome the involvement of the charity had and showcases its impact. You’ll want to mix up quantitative data (like numbers served or funds raised) with qualitative insights (like personal stories) to create a rational and an emotional connection with readers. 
  • Testimonials and endorsements: Readers want validation that they’re reading the trust. Including testimonials from other donors, partners or contributors – especially those who have been directly impacted by the charity’s work – provide credibility among your readers. 
  • Reflection and future outlook: Charities are always needed so a case study reflects a point in time. In your case, be sure to reflect on lessons you’ve learned – including any challenges that remain – and how they’re going to shape the future of your work. Acknowledging problems increases trust, transparency and confidence.
  • Clear and direct CTA: Case studies are powerful tools  to inspire action, so always end with a clear, direct call to action. That might be encouraging them to donate, learn more or something else. Make it easy for your readers to follow instructions.

Will following these rule help you write a great case study? Yes – but you should alos trust your instincts and insights into your audience. The best – and highest performing – case studies have personality and are written with a direct purpose. Here are some examples that we like…

Our favourite UK charity case studies

Here are some of our favourite charity case studies that encompass the elements that we’ve outlined above. These charity copywriters here have found a unique and compelling way to communicate their stories.

We’ve included these here to showcase great practice and provide inspiration.

The British Heart Foundation’s Personal Stories

The British Heart Foundation effectively uses personal stories to highlight the impact of their research and support for patients with heart problems. 

They know that these case studies create an emotional connection with readers, highlighting the life changing work of the charityand the impact of donations. 

Key Takeaway: The BHF does an incredible job of personalising the impact of donation. Using real stories is always the best way to do this – as the BHF example shows.

Oxfam’s Impact Reports

Oxfam is a globally recognised charity that has established a unique tone of voice and communications approach. It’s impact reports provide detail about their work backed up by robust data and interspersed with personal stories. Oxfam’s impact reports provide information non its impact and a compelling reason for donations. 

Key Takeaway: Data matters to donators. Incorporating data and personal stories is powerful, as Ofam show.

The Royal British Legion’s Remembrance Campaigns

The Royal British Legion uses case studies to create emotional connections with veterans and their families. Every year the Royal British Legion adds new stories and personal refelctions on what remembrance means, which ensures the charity remains relevant.

Key Takeaway: The Royal British Legion create connections with donors by reflection on history and ensuring its modern-day relevance. 

Crafting Your Charity Case Study: A Step-by-Step Guide

OK, so you want to create a case study (or series of case studies) but don’t know where to start? We’re going to walk you through how 42group approaches every charity case study project. We don’t sit down and start writing, but spend a large amount of time on research, planning and reflection to ensure it’s going to deliver the outcomes you want. 

Here’s 42group’s step-by-step guide to creating a charity case study:

Create a case study strategy

A case study is one part of a wider communications and engagement strategy. Before we write, we understand what part the case study will play in your plan and where in the giving funnel it’s going to land. 

Are your readers aware of what the charity does? What are they looking for in a case study? What’s motivated previous donors? What campaigns have been successful? What are similar charities doing? What’s sector best practice?

There are lots of questions but the process can be completed quickly. The idea is to help us build a picture of your audience and understand the kind of content that will be effective.

Identify your story

You’ll need to choose a story that exemplifies your charity’s mission and impact. If we work with you, we’re going to look for narratives that have a strong emotional core and clear outcomes. We’ll want to ensure that sources are able to speak to us and that we can share both the personal story and quantify the impact (ideally through data).

Gather information

Before we begin to write, we gather information. This could include directly conducting interviews or identifying suitable secondary sources. The idea is to understand your case study from as many perspectives as possible – which enables us to communicate its impact. At 42group, we record all interviews and transcribe them, which ensures we’re able to capture the case study with clarity and also avoid any misunderstandings or issues.

Dig into data

Interviews and personal perspectives are essential, but we really want data too. We’ll work with you to identify several sources of data (which enables us to validate it), and analyse it to pull out the relevant facts and figures to support the claims that we make in your case study. All sources must be referenced and validated before we’re confident using them in a public case study.

Build a strong structure

We’re going to start writing now, right? Not quite. We don’t write complete case studies until we’ve developed a structure and an approach and had this agreed. We’ll sketch out the skeleton structure of the case, dropping in stats and stories in the outline. In some cases, we’ll even write the intro to provide a sample of how the case study will be. 

This part of the process is critical as it ensures the case study will deliver the impact and outcomes that you want. Not every agency does this and this can result in unfocused on unclear case studies that don’t deliver impact.

Write with empathy and insight

Case studies can sometimes feel a little mechanical, especially if they’re created to conform to a template. This is where the art of a charity copywriter comes in. At 42group, we specialise in using empathetic language to tell your story. This isn’t about being emotionally manipulative, but treating everyone involved with dignity and respect – as well as communicating with clarity the outcomes and impact.

Incorporate media

Case studies are words on a page (or a screen) but the best incorporate medica. We always recommend that you enhance your case study with photos, videos and infographics where possible to make it more engaging and accessible.

Review and revise

Once written, your case study should be reviewed by all relevant stakeholders, including those involved in the process. In most cases, this is up to you to manage. We recommend one round of edits before producing the final case study (but in the real world, this can often become multiple rounds of amends…). 

However long it takes, the aim is to create a case study that’s both accurate and engaging. There’s a tension sometimes for stakeholders to dull content, removing personality to kep it plan – but we’ll always fight the corner for content that’s going to inform, inspire and create human connections.

Analyse, review and refine

When they’re completed case studies are done, right? We always recommend reviewing and updating case studies basedon feedback. This could be stats generated by web analytics or data on donations. As an agency, we’ll work with you to review and refine your case studies to ensure they remain relevant.

Create great charity case studies with 42group

We know creating charity case studies is hard, but we do it anyway because we love it. Contact us today and we’ll work with you to create unique case studies with personality that get results.

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