I’m a professional copywriter.
And a former food columnist. And a one-time PR flack. And I compiled oral histories of up-from-poverty Great Depression boxers. And I was an employee communications specialist (puke). And the author of several small books of poetry and fiction, with a BA and MA in English from Brown and a certificate in advertising art from the RI School of Design night school. I earned an international credential in business communications, too.
Whatever turned a buck and had to do with words.
I like words.
These days, I make my living by writing cases and direct mail … by doing audits, reviewing and recommending fixes for donor communications … and by teaching others what I’ve learned during decades of trial, error and the occasional spectacular success.
I didn’t start in fundraising. I built my career in sales, of everything from lotteries to roof membranes to adult education to disability insurance to a zoo. It was hardcore. Results were all that mattered. It taught me to respect research. Know what you’re doing, don’t guess. I aim to have an “opinion-free” practice. I have 500 professional how-to and reference books in my office. And hundreds of top mentors contributed to what’s rattling around in my head.
I began working with nonprofits full-time about 15 years ago. I was surprised that basic skills I took for granted as a sales copywriter — like the deft use of emotional triggers to prompt action, for instance; or reverence for the customer — were often missing in the donor communications I saw. And I saw a lot. Hundreds, probably thousands, of items meant for donors … and built to fail.
My journey began.
I’ve authored four well-received books on donor communications, with two more in the pipeline. I wrote about creating a case for support because I’d once desperately needed such a book; and it didn’t exist. I wrote a book about donor newsletters because the Domain Group had taught me a reliable way to make donor newsletters fabulously profitable, and I wanted to share the information. If you suffer from insomnia, a set of training DVDs that teach the “Tom Ahern way of writing” went on sale in 2013.
“Why should I give you my hard-earned money?” Answer this question well, and you’ll never be short of funds. Answer it poorly, and fundraising becomes an uphill battle. Most nonprofits suffer from what the best-selling business book, Made to Stick, rightly calls the “curse of knowledge.” This shortcoming – and a common lack of donor-centricity […]
Top 3 immediate benefits to be derived from attending session: 1. You’ll learn an easy way to effectively market bequests to your base 2. You’ll study successful bequest marketing communications from various sources 3. You’ll learn why bequests have the best ROI of ANY fundraising including major gifts