Prepare to be browsed

I laughed out loud when I read this passage: “Here’s the unvarnished truth: people do not want to read your stuff. Sure, they want to understand your stuff and absorb your stuff. But spend long stretches of time reading it? Not particularly. In our bustling world, if I understand your vision in 15 rather than 30 minutes, that’s a good thing. If I understand your vision in five minutes rather than 15, that’s even better. And if you could slip me a pill and I’d understand your vision instantly, that would be the best.”

Finally, someone had the courage to say it. Tom Ahern, the author of Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes, is responsible for this passage and is currently featured at CausePlanet. This book is a must read for anyone who raises money, works with someone who raises money or manages someone who raises money. Ahern is a three-time winner of the prestigious International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Gold Quill awards, given each year to the best communications work worldwide. Beloved international trainer and highly successful consultant, his firm specializes in capital campaign statements, nonprofit communications audits, direct mail and donor newsletters.

So how do you get your direct mail, newsletters and proposals read? Having a good “browser level” delivers the pill form of your case, says Ahern. “A well-written browsing level explains your message as quickly as humanly possible with deep penetrating power,” he adds. Studies show the human eye gravitates toward graphically distinctive elements before anything else—bigger type, bolder type and pictures. In other words, focus on headlines, subheads, captions, pull quotes, bullet lists, sidebars, photos, charts and other art. Your section headlines should become your story’s structure.

If you engage in any form of fundraising for your organization, you must read this book. According to the author, if you can persuasively answer and close on this essential question, “Why should I give you my money now,” you probably don’t need this book. But if you’re like most of us and you find yourself fumbling for answers, this book will definitely help you. If you haven’t written a general case for support recently, the author argues you really don’t know why you’re raising money. Writing a case forces you to think about your organization’s promise, your organization’s proof and how the donor fits into your world.

Mark your calendar for Friday, March 16 at 10:30 a.m. CST when we’ll interview Tom Ahern about other brave and true claims about nonprofit communications. Watch for registration details in our regular Content Highlights newsletter. Not registered for our newsletter? Visit the left panel of any page on our site and click on the blue button, “Put us in your inbox.”

See also:

Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes
How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money
to visit Tom Ahern’s site to purchase the book

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