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Friday, January 19, 2018

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A campaign case is a series of talking points
Tom Ahern

January, 2010

Report from the front lines

First Bob called. He's with a college. Head of communications. Then Jen called. She's with a hospital. VP in charge of major gifts.

Both have new capital campaigns in hand. Both have written cases for their campaigns. And both are getting those cases rammed back down their throats by aggressive internal critics.

I've read both cases. They are strong: persuasively rational, emotionally satisfying, crisply written. Ready for release.

Yet the internal critics howl for changes. "Improvements." Additions and redrafts. Jen and Bob are now at their wit's end, and I am a collegial shoulder to weep on.

If you run into this situation yourself, remember, please: it might well be that your demanding internal critics do not actually know how a campaign case is used. In other words, they are critiquing in a vacuum. Which is the polite way of saying they don't know what they're talking about.

A campaign case is a tool. It exists to help with a job. That job is the solicitation of major gifts.

Criticizing a campaign case if you've never seen how major solicitations are successfully made is like trying to design a hammer without ever having seen someone nail.

It's a reference and a leave-behind

I'm just back from speaking up in Toronto, at the 2009 AFP Congress, a tightly crafted and energy-filled event.

One of the wonderful things about going to so many conferences is I get a chance to buttonhole experts like Guy Mallabone, CFRE, VP External Relations at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary. Guy is an extraordinarily successful fundraiser. Joyful, funny, really tall. In 2009 he was named one of Alberta's 50 Most Influential People. Asking for major gifts is part of daily life for him.

I asked Guy to take me step by step through how he physically uses a case in a typical meeting with a prospect. This is how he likes to work:

1. He goes in, case in hand. He puts the case on the desk but doesn't open it right away, nor does he hand it off to the prospect. The last thing he wants is for someone to be flipping through a document while he's talking.

And talking is the point. When the moment's right, Guy opens the case and draws the prospect's attention to a key talking point, mentioned either in the text or in an illustration.

2. The conversation continues. Guy's listening. He draws the prospect's attention to another key talking point in the case, something especially relevant to the prospect's interests.

3. Ultimately Guy makes the ask. When he departs, he leaves the case behind with the prospect, as a handy reference.

And that's how the tool is used. It acts (1) as a quick reference document during the ask and (2) as a leave-behind once the ask is made. It is not sent in advance. The first time the prospect sees the case, there's an interpreter present, and that interpreter is Guy.

Tom Ahern is just plain great! I could go on and on but - all you have to do is go to his website and see for yourself -    


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