December 15, 2018
 
Raising Money Starts With Writing for Donors

Asking others to donate money to your cause requires you to make a persuasive case, which starts with putting it down on paper, regarded by some as a forbidding task, but which, as Seeing through a Donor’s Eye shows, is really not that difficult.

Written by Tom Ahern, a top fundraising consultant, Seeing through a Donor’s Eye makes the case, so to speak, for crafting a compelling written statement to support any number of fundraising-related initiatives, from email messaging, direct mail, and advertising to annual reports, planned giving programs, and capital campaigns.

Writing a great case is easy, Ahern contends, if you pretend that you know nothing about your organization and ask yourself basic, skeptical questions that outsiders tend to ask. For example:
  • Why is your mission/plan/program so vital?
  • Why is your solution so good/proven/unique?
  • Why is now so urgent?
  • Why do you need donors at all?
Case statements draw from a broad swath of information about the organization, including strategic plans, written histories and other background resources, press and promotional materials, testimonials, and interviews with key stakeholders.

Picking the best facts and stories from that trove of information is what drives the case statement. If you have 25 statistics, Ahern suggests picking one as the best “because it vividly reveals something worth knowing.” If you have a dozen testimonials, “pick the three juiciest...ones that make a point, that depict you as effective, that reveal the promise of your plan.”

In the end (and perhaps from the beginning), your case statement tells your organization’s story. When you’ve told the story—when you’ve made your case—your audience, which may have started out being skeptical, understands your idea and believes in it, writes Ahern. Most importantly, they are ready to act in support of your case.

Because many people are often more fully persuaded by seeing for themselves, conducting a tour of your organization can be a powerful way to enlist them to your cause. And because often this is not practical, Ahern suggests including a virtual tour in your case: Get out of your chair, walk around, take notes on everything you see, hear, smell, and touch. Then, write a narrative that shares these impressions with the reader.

Example: “Smell that sharp odor? That’s hot, welded steel. These kids didn’t have that odor in their lives until we started this program. And why does it matter? Because it’s also the smell of a better future. These kids will have a well-paying job for life, in the steel industry...”

Compelling words and strong visual presentation help make your case, but it isn’t made until you ask the reader for action. Ahern writes that the call for action gives the reader two essentials: 1) clear direction, by having her answer the question, “What exactly do you want me to do?, and 2) emotional satisfaction, by having her think, “My choice to become a donor is a real opportunity to change the world.”

Seeing through a Donor’s Eye is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
May 2013


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