9. Your Case Is More About the Donor Than Your Organization



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About this episode

Today on The Intentional Fundraiser Podcast, we are honored to welcome Tom Ahern. Tom modestly refers to himself as a fundraising copywriter. And the truth is he is the best fundraising copywriter on the planet. He's also author of so many books. In this episode, I wanted to spend some time with Tom unpacking the wisdom of his most recent book Turning Doubters into Donors – How to Make a Compelling Case for Your Cause.


Our guest

Tom Ahern, Ahern Communications, Author & Speaker.


"Here's your basic selling message, as far as I'm concerned, in fundraising: We need you. Three words, that's it. It's the same for everybody."  

- Tom Ahern, Ahern Communications, Author & Speaker


A quick peek

Tammy Zonker (00:09:41):
Turning Doubters Into Donors and talk about case for support. And I was so touched by the book. You begin with a really adoring tribute to the legendary fundraiser, Jerry Panas, who passed away in 2018. He was also a fundraising hero of mine. I was fortunate to meet him at my very first fundraising conference which was the Girl Scouts of the USA National Conference out east and he was the keynote speaker. And I had just moved from a 15 year career in the IBM dealer business network and had made this leap, took a huge pay cut. And after his talk, I went up and introduced myself, had him sign my book, of course. And I told him how the transition I had made, and he signed my book. He said, "Tammy, congratulations on moving from success to significance."

Tom Ahern (00:41:02):
What's happening? And the plausible explanation is that people give from disposable income. And until you kind of age into your prime giving years, which Jeff Brooks says about 55 and up, you don't have all that much disposable income. And so, you'll hear well-meaning people suggest that we must have younger donors. And the truth is not really, not financially, you don't. It's nice... I mean, everybody's base is going to have of all ages, right? But the people that have the most disposable income are the people at the end of their life. I'm not trying to put them in their graves, but 55 and up, not the people who are 20 somethings and 30 somethings who are building their lives.

Tammy Zonker (00:44:37):
It would take something, but I think that's the opportunity to increase overall retention. And then we wouldn't have this sliding seven year window, where do I choose? But what if we could take better care of donors, acknowledge and engage first time donors, acknowledge lifetime giving, longevity, even at making multiple modest gifts a year. People who have given for years and years, they're like this anomaly. But what if we actually recognized it and could grow that pool?

Tom Ahern (00:49:55):
Rule number one. No, you do talk about yourself, but you're talking about whatever the mission is in the context of why we need you, not your help, you, the real you, and that's identity based.

Tammy Zonker (00:50:21):
And then what they have in common. And again, Tom, I've read every book you've ever written, and most of them, multiple times. And what I've learned from you is that what they have in common is, again, impact in the community, in the state, in the world.

Tom Ahern (00:52:10):
Case for support, first of all, don't be intimidated. They're relatively easy. If you remember, it requires three words, we need you, and then a little bit of justification of that, but not a ton, necessarily. Urgency is often thrown in with those kind of fly by case comments. Basically, this problem will get worse unless we have your help and that's... You're back and forth. Once you understand the basic principles under this, you're going to be writing much better stuff. It's going to be more interesting to the reader, for sure, but the real reward, of course, is the mission grows because more money comes in.


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Links mentioned in this episode

The No Nonsense Guide to Help You Prepare a Case for Your Cause

Asking for Money? Compliment the Donor, Not Your Organization

Green Peace USA online case for support

Visual Thesaurus

The Case Writers website

Jeff Brooks  

Mary Cahalane

The Coopers



Books mentioned in this episode 

Turning Doubters into Donors 2nd edition

The Eleven Questions Every Donor Asks & The Answers They Crave

Made to Stick by Dan Heath & Chip Heath


Connect with our guest online

Twitter / LinkedinWebsite


Connect with Tammy Zonker on social

You can also connect with Tammy on Twitter and Instagram at @tammyzonker, and on LinkedIn.


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