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June 25, 2022
Practical Guide Shows How Anyone Can Write to Raise More Money
Book - How to Write Fundraising Materials
Paradoxically, the people who run nonprofits, those who best know its mission and needs, often stumble when appealing to donors in writing. They need stumble no more. They only need to read, absorb, and act on the rich lessons in How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money.

This newly published book by Tom Ahern, a widely and highly regarded communications expert, from the first page to the last translates fundraising best practices into effective writing that anyone can master.

Creating those materials starts with understanding that readers read messages that interest them. Ahern writes: “Writing isn’t about writing. Ultimately, it’s about interesting the reader and sustaining that interest...It’s not about you at all. It’s about the eyes and minds on the receiving end.”

No matter what you create, be it a direct mail solicitation, the cover story on your donor newsletter, or an email alert can be of high interest to readers, if properly constructed. It’s about being donor centric and appealing to human psychology, and to help, Ahern offers a checklist to consider when writing for donors or prospects.

Not assuming anything, Ahern asks the reader to understand the difference between suspects and prospects, and what constitutes a donor. Briefly, suspects are people you think might give a gift, but don’t have proof that they are interested in doing so. Prospects are people who have shown some interest in your mission, perhaps by making an initial gift or asking to be put on your mailing list. A one-time donor is still a prospect, he writes, because the renewal rate for first timers is low. Not until they have made two gifts should you consider a person a donor, according to Ahern.

Fundraising materials—indeed, fundraising campaigns—start with a written strategy that gets all the players involved with the effort on the same page, and answers three questions:
  1. Who is your specific, target audience?
  2. What do you want that target audience to do once they’ve encountered your communication?
  3. What’s in it for them if they do the action you’re proposing?
It’s vital, Ahern argues, that the organization’s leadership and board buy into the strategy, but, he warns, it’s equally important to be wary in determining who gets to sign off on the materials to be used, especially fundraising committees.

Committees, he writes, by their nature want to protect the organization’s image and therefore end up “blandifying” copy by removing the interesting, bold, controversial parts. This he calls a big mistake: “You cannot bore people into paying attention. You cannot bore people into becoming supporters. You cannot bore people into acting on your behalf.”

Often, when reading a how-to, if you come away with two or three ideas that you feel are worth pursuing, it has been a valuable read. It’s no exaggeration to say that gems are to be found on nearly every one of the 175 pages of this book, which does a superb job of explaining the art, science, and secrets of writing fundraising materials that anyone can use to raise more money.

How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money is available is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
Posted: April 2013
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