Tom Ahern: 3 Questions Your Case for Support Must Answer

Nonprofit organizations spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to produce their Case for Support, the document that outlines the organization’s activities and explains the need for philanthropic support.

ConnectionBut, are those hours and dollars well spent? If your organization is typical, the answer is: probably not.

That’s why communications expert and author Tom Ahern, of Ahern Communications, will be sharing his wisdom at the upcoming Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference (Baltimore, March 29-31, 2015). His session, “Fabulous Case! Building One,” will reveal the secrets for creating a powerful document that can actually help you raise more money.

Ahern recently shared with me some of the tips he’ll be presenting in greater detail at the Conference.

Did you know that every Case for Support should answer three fundamental questions? Ahern identifies those questions:

1. Why us? You need to answer this question by explaining what your organization does that is so uniquely wonderful that the world should want more of it and support its new plans.

If you need help answering the question, just imagine that your organization, project, program, idea, mission or vision has gone away. What difference would that make?

2. Why now? You need to explain why your campaign needs to happen immediately, perhaps showing people what has changed or the reason for sudden urgency.

In other words, your answer to this question must demonstrate why your project(s) is relevant to the person whose support you seek.

3. Why should the prospective donor care? Donors have many options for directing their philanthropic support. Often, there are even many organizations focused on similar missions. You need to help prospective donors understand why they should care about your organization and your project(s).

The key to answering this question is thinking about the impact your organization will have once it’s project(s) is fully funded. Remember, your campaign is not just about funding your organization; it’s about what your organization will accomplish.

When working to develop a fabulous Case for Support, Ahern says we must remember:

You’re simply trying to connect with what’s already in their hearts.”

The way to connect with prospective donors and inspire them to support your organization is by touching their emotions. To emphasize this point, Ahern cites neurologist Dr. Donald B. Calne:

The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusions.”

To touch the emotions and effectively secure generous contributions, you do not need to be verbose. The Case for Support should not be a voluminous document. Less is more, if you choose your words and images carefully.

In “Fabulous Case! Building One,” Ahern will tell you how many words the ideal Case for Support should be. He’ll even breakdown the word count for each section of the document. You’ll get this helpful information, more tips, and plenty of real-world examples when you attend Ahern’s session at the AFP International Fundraising Conference.

Ahern will also be teaching “Loverizing: The Lucrative Difference a Few Well-Chosen Words Will Make in Your Donor Communications” and “Developing a Marketing and Communications Plan,” He’ll also be part of the panel for “I Wish I’d Thought of That – AFP & SOFII.”

If you’re unable to attend the Conference, an audio recording of Ahern’s sessions, as well as other sessions, will be available for purchase shortly after the Conference.

For books by Tom Ahern, visit The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon). You can also browse all the titles in the AFP/Wiley Development Series. A portion of all sales through the site are donated to charity.

By the way, I’m planning to attend the Conference. Let me know if you’ll be going. I hope to see you there.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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