Given the pandemic and the grants rat race, maybe your org. is thinking of moving more into fundraising from individuals…?

Tom Ahern

Is a brochure the best way to present your case to individuals?


S., creative guru, never-fail fundraiser (and admired friend) wrote me:

“Quick question for you … perhaps? 
“Have you ever done a case for support as a series of individual pages … or do you tend to write for a booklet form?”
Brief background on the .org she’s writing for:

“Local org that works with immigrants is opening a dedicated business incubation space for the very same women. If I had the cash, I’d just fund the damn thing myself – it’s a no brainer.”

The .org is well known and loved locally. But grants are drying up.
“I’m worried that a polished case booklet might look/feel too ‘pro’ for them. Thinking in terms of a case package – but maybe that’s too fussy.”
“So, dear Tom, your ‘I was waiting for my coffee in the microwave while I wrote this’ response appreciated.
“With love and bourbon, as always … S.”


My chatty response…

So good to hear from you, S!
There are no rules, as you well know, you breaker of rules supreme.

That said…
I usually start a case investigation by asking the client, “How do you plan on using this … physically?”
A case is a tool.

I treat it as a tool that will be doing all sorts of duties: as an introduction, as a leave-behind, as a pep rally, as a way (primarily) of connecting with the pre-existing identities of potential individual donors.
Looking “too pro” is not necessarily a bad thing, either.

It’s the secret sauce of the internet, as you well know: tiny org.s can look like IBM. I.e., they can est. credibility almost instantly by looking “that” professional.
“Wow, I heard ‘immigrant’ and thought ‘grassroots’ and, well, frankly, you know (cough, cough) … I wondered. And yet I saw this case … and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one better. You had me with the cover. You had me with your self-confidence AND what you’ve already accomplished.”
With cases (again, as you know so well) you write to a “certain someone.”

You have a target person clearly in your head.

Then you turn that potential skeptic into a champion, by getting ahead of all the predictable biases and objections and doubts … and killing those things DEAD.

And THEN you give them a FRESH story they can tell to all their friends!
My crude case-development process is to start sketching rectangles and mapping out the story arc (the headlines and key images).

Of course, I’ve done a ton of research beforehand (online and interviews).

I’m not guessing at what to say. I’m SELECTING what to say, to a specific target audience.
So, back to your original question: Brochure good?

Maybe. Nothing’s poured into a mold (and a brochure is a mold) until I have the right story for my target audience figured out.

Sometimes that story begins with just a couple of emotional triggers:

“What makes them angry? What gives them hope?”
~ tom Ahern at

  • Tom Ahern