The dictionary definition of case study is “an intensive description and analysis of an individual unit, such as a person or a community, stressing developmental factors in relation to environment.” So what does this have to do with non-profits? Well, when positioned correctly, a non-profit case study can be helpful to the organization from both an internal and external perspective.
Case studies have been used for many years by businesses to show that customers have successfully implemented the company’s products and services. Instead of talking about how great the product is, case studies actually allow people to see how products and services are used in real situations. They can be used in a similar fashion within the non-profit sector.
Case studies are not a new concept for non-profits. Some organizations have been using them for years seeing the benefits! When a community in Long Beach California was experiencing higher than average medical care utilization rates, the American Lung Association put together a case study to show how one of their programs helped the residents. The Lung Association incorporated a video into the case study, a tactic that is becoming more popular in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.
There are situations where one non-profit conducts a case study and other non-profits can learn from that study. For instance, back in 2007 the Salvation Army in the U.K was struggling with rising costs and falling donor volume. They developed a case study to show that they met the challenge by building on their mail campaign and adding television, as well as digital advertising to their outreach efforts. The end result, as outlined in their case study, was that the Salvation Army saw an instant increase in donor levels.
Another example of a non-profit case study that can help other non-profits is the Community Builders Southeast. Outlined in Non-profit Quarterly, the humanitarian organization explained through a case study how they dealt with the challenge associated with executive transition.
Here’s a summary of benefits associated with non-profit case studies:
- Creates vision for change and innovation
- Allows for study of rare phenomena
- Strong method to challenge assumptions
- Helps to stimulate new research
- Good way to see new technology at work
From an internal perspective, a non-profit case study can give the organization insight into their own day-to-day operations. For instance, they can discover how they stack up against other non-profits of similar size and scope. From an external point of view, case studies can give outsiders, such as potential donors and partners, a look at how the non-profit is of value. Since case studies often focus on real life examples that demonstrate how the organization has helped a specific individual or group of people, they can be really powerful when it comes to marketing.