South Jersey Dream Center

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Nonprofit Organizations
North America

Blackbaud University’s Best Practices workshop helps center craft compelling case for support.


As South Jersey Dream Center answers cascading problems of poverty that impact 1 in 10 people in South Jersey, the center’s executive director boosted the storytelling power of her case statement with guidance from Blackbaud University’s Organizational Best Practices courses.

While it’s typical for a nonprofit organization to develop statements on mission, vision, and values, having an in-depth case statement that fully reveals “Who we are,” “What we do,” and “Why you should support us,” is less common.

Natalie Fortunato thought she had her case statement covered for the South Jersey Dream Center. She founded the nonprofit with her husband in 2010 as an outreach of their church, serves as the center’s executive director, and considers marketing one of her strengths. With online research, she had created what seemed like a “pretty cool” 10-page statement, centered on breaking the cycle of poverty in New Jersey.

But with the benefit of a three-hour Blackbaud University workshop covering best practices in storytelling, writing, and design, she reconsidered the possibilities and reformatted the document into a totally transformed, dynamic case for support.

“Our new case statement is a living, breathing document that helps us communicate the heart of our mission, backs it up with data, and shares our future,” Fortunato said. “It’s like our pulse, and I know that sounds very dramatic, but that’s how I feel about it.”

A Curriculum to Strengthen and Engage the Entire Social Good Community

In addition to courses on how to master Blackbaud solutions, Blackbaud University offers a curriculum of 40-plus Organizational Best Practices courses that put products aside and guide members of the social good community in how to advance their respective missions. Built around three pillars—Essentials, Fundraising, and Marketing—Organizational Best Practices courses prepare you for Blackbaud University Fundraising and Marketing certifications, with the instructor-led workshops also translating into Continuing Professional Education (CPE) and Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credits.

The online Fundraising – Case Statements workshop is discussion-based, and designed to engage participants, with each receiving a workbook for in-class activities and next steps. “You leave with something tangible and actionable,” said Amy Matthews, a Blackbaud University senior instructor. Before Blackbaud, Matthews worked for a Habitat for Humanity chapter, which helps her relate to her students and their work. “My goal is for you to leave class feeling more comfortable and more confident in whatever topic we’re covering,” she explained.

She helped launch the Best Practices curriculum and considers the Case Statements class one of the most impactful. “Every organization should have a case statement,” Matthews said.

Enhancing the ‘Whole Organization’

South Jersey Dream Center’s prev ious case statement had the essentials but “no zing,” Fortunato said. “The storytelling that I learned in class made my content richer.” She also learned more about page layout, the impact of photos and selecting statistics, which she can pull easily from records collected with the cloud-based fundraising and relationship management solution Blackbaud eTapestry®.

“Every move we make is documented with Blackbaud eTapestry. Every contact, every hour of volunteer work, every meeting, every diaper, every pound of food is documented,” she added. “It’s not just random information, a bunch of data. It translates into funds.”

The vibrant new case statement illustrates how South Jersey Dream Center has provided half a million pounds of food, clothing, baby items, and other basic necessities to those in need, while striving to break the cycle of poverty in people’s lives with personal, spiritual, and vocational training.

South Jersey Dream Center has shared the case statement by email with the center’s monthly supporters, and Fortunato draws on it for pitch decks, digital presentations, and grant applications—saving time, because it usually has everything she needs. Not long after the course, her new case statement helped her make a persuasive case for more than $6,000 in grant funding to combat hunger in the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, as New Jersey saw a 50% increase in the need for food assistance.

“It’s very rewarding to see a student take the concepts that we talked about and put them into practice,” Matthews said.

Fortunato admits she didn’t expect her time in class to prove so valuable. “I was pleasantly surprised that the courses Blackbaud University offered weren’t just about how to use Blackbaud products, as far as the mechanics of it,” Fortunato said. “You helped us enhance our whole organization.”

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South Jersey Dream Center
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