Don’t let your nonprofit suffer from “non-essential-itis”

“What if we disappeared tonight?” is a great question for all nonprofits to ask themselves. The answers to this question help organizations who may suffer from “non-essential-it is,” says 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 latest book, “Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes” will have you answering important questions about your case for support so you don’t find yourself fumbling for words with donors in the ask or having brain cramp when writing appeals.

“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 consolidates your messages for common reference by staff and board, putting every potential voice, writer and advocate on the same page, Ahern adds.

The best way to engage your reader in your case for support is to tell a good story. Here are a few of Ahern’s good storytelling tips:

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 writers is to entertain first and inform second.
Put your case 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.

For a more comprehensive look at creating a compelling case for your organization, subscribe to download this Page to Practice summary and others in our summary library or visit for Ahern’s essential communications advice so you can enhance your fundraising results.  You can also learn more about Ahern’s award-winning consulting services and subscribe to his newsletter at

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