tom ahern

Welcome to our newest guest blogger, Tom Ahern. Tom is a leading expert on making donor communications more successful. He speaks internationally and has clients across North America.

Before you abandon your paper annual report completely, consider this true story. It’s about having the right communications item in the right place at the right time.
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Guest Blogger on March 15, 2012 in Annual Reports | 0 comments
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We’re thrilled to welcome our newest guest blogger, Kimberlee Roth, one of our valued writers for consulting projects, writer for the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among other publications, and author of Surviving a Borderline Parent. Here’s Kim…

They waste paper, money, time; they’re a project management bear; besides, no one reads them anyway. Know what I’m talking about? Yes (cue scary music): Annual Reports.

With budget woes that have touched us all in some way, it’s hard not to think about the resources and energy that go into producing an annual report. (And to wonder, as The Agitator did recently, “Are Annual Reports Dinosaurs?“)

But I assert that there is value in producing an annual report!

As a writer and storyteller specializing in nonprofit marketing and communications, I can’t help but think annual reports have gotten a bum rap. To me, and to most of my clients, they’re less drudgery than opportunity, satisfying even, to produce. Talk about a fantastic chance to convey not only the personality and zeitgeist of an organization, but its impact.

So many annual reports, though, are bo-ring. Donor lists, numbers served, satellite offices opened, equipment purchased. Me, me, me. Statistics and, often, buzzwords that lack enthusiasm, let alone context or a human face. No wonder the report is draining to produce.

Showing impact — through concise but compelling narratives, vibrant photos and interactive features — is what can excite and engage donors, volunteers, partners and clients. That doesn’t mean dozens of  glossy pages with a snazzy (read: expensive) design. What it does mean is authenticity, effective storytelling and a connection to your organizational strategies — in a welcoming tone that conveys both passion and competence.

This year, when “it’s that time again” and thoughts turn to all that goes into your annual report, don’t forget to focus on what you want out of it. Ask yourself, and your team, these questions:

  • What do we want this year’s annual report to accomplish? (Hint: Keep multiple audiences in mind, not only large donors.
  • What are some ways our annual report can advance our strategic marketing and fundraising goals?
  • How can our annual report complement, enhance and reinforce our other marketing tactics?

And, the $64,000 question:

  • How do we execute — within our budget and in ways that reflect our organization’s mission, personality and marketing and strategic plans — so that it delivers?

You already know my vote; what do you say? Drudgery or opportunity? I’d love to hear your thoughts here!

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Readers, here are a few high-impact online alternatives to the traditional printed annual report. Worth some thought!

BTW, master fundraiser Tom Ahern is 100% aligned with Kim: “Think of your annual report as a once-a-year golden opportunity to deeply connect with your customers’ (i.e., donors’) feelings, dreams, aspirations, hidden and sometimes even embarrassing needs — like the need to be liked; or the need to do something good in the world, a need as common as the air in our lungs,” he says.

P.S. Get in-depth case studies, templates and tools, and guidance for nonprofit marketing  success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Guest Blogger on March 30, 2011 in Annual Reports | 8 comments
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fundraisingThis afternoon, a client asked me about to share my top fundraising resources. Her organization is shifting gears, re-orienting its focus to
better match audience wants and interests, and eager to find funding to make it happen.

In crafting this list, I realized it may be of interest to you and that I’d like to know where you turn for fundraising guidance. Do keep in mind that my core learning strategy is to read/listen to (and talk with, when possible) the best heads on a topic. I learn most easily from case studies that give me the specifics I need to relate what I’m learning to the client project at hand.

Here are my top six fundraising guides. Please share your favorites now in the comments box below (click comments link at bottom or, if you’re looking at the permalink version of this post, just scroll down to bottom):

  • Tom Ahern–Lots of great case studies and fundraising models analyzed and annotated. Easy to learn from, and absolutely on point.
  • Tom Belford & Roger Craver:The Agitator–These guys love to present multiple points of view on a topic which makes the reader work, in a good way. Again, case studies, strategy and a wicked sense of humor.
  • Jeff Brooks: Future Fundraising Now–Formerly blogging at Donor Power, the incredible Jeff Brooks is cranking out almost-daily to-dos now, and every one is golden. Go, Jeff, go!
  • Network for Good: Fundraising 123–This online donation service goes way beyond their donate button to provide top-quality articles and webinars (all free) to strengthen fundraising and marketing skills.
  • Pamela Grow: Grantwriting Blog–Pamela brings a fresh perspective to her sage fundraising advice, as in today’s post pointing out how nonprofit fundraisers can learn (what NOT to do) from Food Network star Paula Deen. Good learning that’s fun and provocative, with lots of examples.

Click on the Comments link below to add the fundraising guides you rely on, and to read about the very important 7th guide I forgot to mention in this post.

P.S. Marketing and fundraising are two halves of a whole. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to
nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly
Getting Attention e-update.
Subscribe today .

Nancy Schwartz on March 26, 2010 in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 34 comments
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