GuideStar Blog

Tom Ahern

Recent Posts by Tom Ahern:

The "Gillette Miracle"—How a Hospital Foundation Increased Giving to Its Newsletter by 1,000 Percent

Excerpted from Making Money with Donor Newsletters

I gave a workshop on newsletters.

People from Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota, attended. Their donor newsletter, mailed quarterly to 20,000 people at that point, racked up an annual net loss of $40,000. Was there a better way, they wondered?

Something amazing happened post-workshop: giving to Gillette's newsletter increased 1,000 percent (not a misprint), after a few changes.


Are You Boring Your Donors? Interview with Master Nonprofit Communicator Tom Ahern

Tom Ahern, author of Seeing Through a Donor's Eyes, How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money, and Raising More Money with Newsletters Than You Ever Thought Possible, recently spoke with his publisher about how to craft more effective donor communications. GuideStar has published several pieces by Mr. Ahern, and we're pleased to be able to share his additional thoughts with you.


The Dance of the Four Veils

Excerpt from Seeing through a Donor's Eyes: How to Make a Persuasive Case for Everything from Your Annual Drive to Your Planned Giving Program to Your Capital Campaign

For the most part, nonprofit communications are boring. Not on purpose, mind you. Still, they are almost always uninteresting, my vast exposure to them suggests. And why? Because they swaddle themselves in one or more of the following interest-draining veils.


If You Write It (with Emotion), They Will Give


Excerpt from How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money: The Art, the Science, the Secrets

Mostly, people give from the heart. The head is a bit player.

We assume just the opposite. In our post-industrial, technologically enhanced world, we worship reason. We believe that reason, our ability to work our way intellectually through problems, sets us apart as a species and yields huge benefits. And it does.

But reason has surprisingly little to do with decision making, neuroscientists now know. (Delicious irony there: science proves that emotion, not reason, controls most choices.)


Writing Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money: On the Delicate Subject of Committee and Board Approvals


Excerpt from How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money: The Art, the Science, the Secrets

Moments like this happen quite often in my workshops.

I'll mention something that industry professionals pretty much all agree on. The perfect example: Repeated tests find that four-page letters used to acquire new donors typically outpull one-page letters, all else being equal. Counter-intuitive? Absolutely. But much of direct mail practice seems at first glance contrary to common sense.

A hand goes up. It's a worried query from an attendee who smells trouble ahead. "My board chair says he throws away four-page letters whenever he gets one. So he'll only approve one-pagers. What should I do?"


These Seven Donor Newsletter Flaws Are Killing You


Excerpt from Raising More Money with Newsletters Than You Ever Thought Possible

Almost every donor newsletter I see suffers from at least one of the following fatal flaws. You would be shocked by how many donor newsletters suffer from all seven.