hat if we disappeared tonight?” is a great question for all nonprofits to ask themselves. The answers to this question help organizations that may suffer from “non-essential-itis,” asserts author Tom Ahern. He adds this is not a make-work exercise; this is a core exercise to discover your organization’s true importance and impact.
Tom Ahern’s book, Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes, will have you answering important questions like this about your case for funding so you don’t find yourself fumbling for words with donors in the ask or when writing appeals. Ahern explains that a well-researched case that’s thoroughly embedded in an impactful story will breathe life into your donor’s sense of urgency to give. “The mere act of writing a case helps you—forces you, really—to deeply investigate your organization’s impact on the world, so you can successfully explain that impact to donors and prospects,” says Ahern.
A case for funding also consolidates your best messaging for common reference by staff and board, putting every potential voice, writer and advocate on the same page. After you’ve researched your impact and can effectively explain it in a concise manner, consider the context that would make your outcomes meaningful.
Much like Mosaic Nonprofit Development encourages you to be an artist in your approach to the ask, you must artfully tell your story to create a setting conducive for making a gift.
Ahern shares the following strategies for a great case for funding:
- Take your prospect on a verbal tour. Tell your prospects how your organization sounds, smells and feels. “Hear the sounds of rushing rubber-soled shoes? Nurses here probably jog ten miles every shift…”• Make sure you’re using a donor-centric lens. Which sounds better? “Baby Joseph, one of over 15,000 rescued babies,” or, “Baby Joseph, one of over 15,000 babies rescued by your gifts”?• Make your case bigger than you. If you can, make your project or campaign more expansive and worthy than the organization itself.
- Put the cherry on top. Ahern says our job as storytellers is to entertain first and inform second.
- Put your case for funding in a nutshell. Show the campaign’s bottom line at a glance. Consider three main points and financial goals that support the overall campaign goal and portray them with a powerful visual.
- Don’t forget the call to action! You actually need to ask your donors for support in the case. Be specific about what you need.
What do donors want to hear?
While your artfully crafted case for funding will inspire your donors, they consistently have special interests that are important to address. Here’s a short list of what they care deeply about, according to Ahern:
- Your accomplishments (What did you do with my money?)
- Your vision (If I choose to give you more money, what amazing things could you do with it?)
- Recognition (Are donors like me vital to your work?)
- Your efficiency (Can I trust you with my money?).
Of these four interests, the most important will be your accomplishments. In other words, your donors want to back a winner. Ahern has one caveat: Leave room for improvement and link the accomplishments with need.
So you’ve answered Tom Ahern’s question about what you’d do if you disappeared, packaged your response in a compelling story that leverages his strategies and fed your donor’s special interests. You’ve just been cured of “non-essential-itis.” For a more comprehensive look at creating a compelling case for funding for your ask, visit CausePlanet’s summary store and use the promotion code MOSAIC for a discount on the summary of Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes.