Thursday, 19 February 2015

Read all about it: Case studies made easy

Written by Claire Chapman, Information and Membership Officer, One East Midlands

In my last few weeks at One East Midlands (I’m leaving for South Yorkshire VCS pastures new at the start of March) I have been on a bit of a case study writing frenzy; whether its highlighting ERDF funded VCS projects, focusing on groups who have received training through an ESF funded project or just showcasing the great work of our members.

Throughout my almost five years providing communications support to a VCS infrastructure organisation I have lost count of the number of case studies I have written but not of the lessons I’ve learned writing them. My learning from the process is easily shared, making the experience as simple as possible for the project or organisation you are focusing on.

So here goes with my top five case study lessons:

1.    Do your homework. By researching your case studies in advance, making use of both the organisation’s website and other research that has highlighted the project, you will already have the majority of information you need for your case study so won’t need to rely on your case study organisation to spend time gathering it for you.
2.    Don’t be a time waster. All VCS organisations and projects are busy and even though they will always be grateful for the publicity they don’t have time to spend hours assisting you. Tell them you only need half an hour of their time and give them your questions in advance so they come prepared. Only relying on them for a quick proof at the end, and by using times convenient for them, your case study won’t see you as a time waster.
3.    Add some colour. Whether it’s a photograph (you can save even more time by taking this yourself), quote from a service user or volunteer or even just a logo you turn a page of text into something that shouts out to be read.
4.    There is such a thing as free publicity. It is one thing adding the final case study to your website and hoping someone will find it, but by making the effort to spread it wider, through social media, your local press, in-house publications or by distributing copies at your events those featured will know you’re really spreading the word out and promoting their great work.
5.    Do their own thing. My final lesson is give the featured organisation their own copy of the case study to use and show off as they wish, allowing them to show to others their great work and the support they’ve received from you.

Bearing all that in mind, don’t forget that it’s a case study and not a free advertorial for those featured. It can be difficult to explain to an organisation that re-writing the entire case study adding “excellent”, “fantastic” or “superb” to every sentence distracts from the point of the example study. Changing it back requires more than a little tact and diplomacy!

To look through the many case studies produced by One East Midlands visit

P.S. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the East Midlands voluntary and community sector, its staff and volunteers, who I have worked with since joining One East Midlands in June 2010 and wish you all the greatest success for the future.

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