Tag: Tom Ahern

Breaking the Ignorance Ceiling

Why this book screamed to be made In the US, as of 2017, there were something like 1.3 million government-sanctioned charitable organizations. It’s a growing sector: at current rates, about 47,000 new US charities are born each year.[1] Is that a lot or a little, for a nation of some 330 million? I say it’s a lot. After all, the same population gets by with… Read more »

“In a billion-dollar campaign case,” she wondered, “where do you stick the ‘letter from the Dean’?”

Ummmmmmm…. Good question, Echo. ¶ In our little world [The Case Writers], where we pretty much get to write and design whatever we think is best, working with a group of clients who want exactly that, every “normal” element is questionable. You start each day with this question, “What if everything I think I know is wrong?” ¶ In other words, if something normally… Read more »

Return On Investment – A new age of business-mindedness dawns for nonprofit enterprises

Suddenly it seems like everyone’s talking about it. Or maybe “finally” is better than suddenly. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has gotten weighty on the subject. On June 7, it featured a scathing article by Amanda Pearce, CFRE, under the headline, “Nonprofit is a Tax Status, NOT a Business Model.” Even US charity watchdogs have admitted they got it wrong. In case no one at… Read more »

My Top Eleven and Three-Quarters Bits of Advice for Winning at Donor Communications – Part II

7. Donors aren’t forever. Mostly. Again: Why do you need a donor acquisition program as well as a donor relationship program? Because donors come and go, like pee holes in the snow. A couple of years ago, I polled experts around the world with the question, “How long does the average donor stick with a charity?” There was a gawdly lot of hemming and… Read more »

My Top Eleven and Three-Quarters Bits of Advice for Winning at Donor Communications – Part I

1. Why Eleven and Three-Quarters? Be a little less predictable. “10 Top Tips” is predictable. “11 Top Tips” is a little less predictable, but still pretty obvious. I ripped this idea off, as most of you immediately recognized, from Harry Potter’s Track Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross Station. Steal well. And often. But don’t steal from failures. Which means you’ll have to learn… Read more »

My Top Eleven and Three-Quarters Bits of Advice for Winning at Donor Communications… part one in a two-part series

1. Why Eleven and Three-Quarters? Be a little less predictable. “10 Top Tips” is predictable. “11 Top Tips” is a little less predictable, but still pretty obvious. I ripped this idea off, as most of you immediately recognized, from Harry Potter’s Track Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross Station. Steal well. And often. But don’t steal from failures. Which means you’ll have to learn… Read more »

Why profitable fundraising communications are the work of specialists, not generalists … and why a standard-issue, untrained university marcomms department will almost certainly fail to deliver strong results when given a fundraising assignment which depends on an effective call to action

This just in: A fundraising copywriter at a prestigious university now faces a change in her chain of command. The university’s new brooms don’t see why fundraising should have its own dedicated writer. In an org. chart maneuver that absolutely makes sense on paper, they want her to go back into the pool, to work inside the marketing communications group (a.k.a., marcomms). She asked… Read more »

A Poem for fundraisers: Don, whose self-absorbed ways found him lost at sea

A poem I dearly liked, hand-picked from a new book of memorable doggerel (that’s a good thing; every industry needs such) written by the outrageous and brilliant and classically trained Sheena Greer, Colludo. Called Cautionary Tales for Fundraisers. It’s the perfect gift for bosses, board members and fundraisers who need a laugh. And it looks pretty, so it’s disarming…. Tom Ahern

At this latest fundraising conference, I at last began to wonder . . . 
”What is abuse?”


Witness one form of abuse unique to fundraising . . . You get the training. You learn, say, how and why donor-centered communications raise lots more money. But your boss doesn’t like the way donor-centered communications sound … so your boss says no.

Why? Because your boss doesn’t know any better. Because your boss trusts her own uninformed hunches, instincts, opinions more than she or he trusts you and the training you’ve just received. 

And you need the job . . .

Donor-centricity hardball: “Show me the money.”

In Reciprocity We Trust Newbies, skeptics, the timid (and Ian) DO worry: “So, Tom, where’s the irrefutable research that switching to ‘donor-centered’ communications will raise more money for our org. than the comms crap we now send out?” Mike wrote me a couple of weeks ago…. I’m an avid follower of your newsletters and webinars, so first a little bit of flattery. Thank you… Read more »