tommyboy.jpg 2013julyv2_logo.jpg
Why get training? Just one reason: To make more money
The best part is, the recommended changes are all SO easy

"I had the pleasure of hearing you speak at the 2014 AFP International and was blown away at the level of simplicity you were able to communicate such great concepts." -- Trudy H., development officer at a Boys & Girls Club

Ahern_Bratislava_2013.jpgI hope to teach you everything I know.

In whatever format you prefer: one-on-one mentoring, staff training, through an audit, through my free how-to e-newsletter, through a conference workshop (that's Bratislava 2013 in the photo), through a book, through a DVD.

And what exactly do I know?

I know how to turn donor-centricity into more money for your nonprofit.

I can organize my career history around the lightbulbs that went off.

The early days? As ambitious, new consultants do, I read as much as I could find, inside and outside the fundraising industry. Mantra: "Don't doubt. Just learn."

Learn from the likes of David Ogilvy, who always held direct marketing in high esteem and had little good to say about the rest of advertising, which he saw as unaccountable.

Learn from Mal Warwick, world-class direct mail guru. From him you in turn learn about the readability studies of Colin Wheildon in Australia and the eye-motion studies of Prof. Siegfried Vögele in Germany.

Learn from Ken Burnett and Adrian Sargeant and Penny Trademark about the unrealized profits latent in "donor-centered" communications.

Learn from client work, through trial and error (painful).

In 1999, I encountered the Domain Group and learned a formula they'd developed in Seattle that could make donor newsletters into HUGE moneymakers. I became an evangelist.

In 2001, I presented for the first time at the Toronto AFP Congress, the best-run fundraising conference I know. I've presented 7 more times through 2012.

In 2003, the legendary Jerry Panas had me write a case.

In the mid-aughts, Marts & Lundy picked me up as a contract case writer, and I learned Ron Arena's "3 big questions every case must answer."

In 2005, I encountered Richard Radcliffe, self-named "Dr. Death"; bringing deep data and common sense to the marketing of bequests. I became an evangelist again.

Same year, I met Sean Triner, co-founder of Pareto, the biggest fundraising house in Australia. That would pay dividends later, when I went hunting glorious models to cheat from.

Same year I happened by accident onto the biggest problem in fundraising communications, in my view: corporate communications vs. true donor communications. One kind works. The other kind doesn't. And most charities (maybe 98%) don't know the difference. I'd found my focus.

In 2007, Sharp HealthCare (San Diego) entrusted their direct mail appeals to me. I'd written for them a hospice acquisition package that was successful and became a control. Sharp is best known among hospital fundraisers for its pioneering Guardian Angel offer, that asks grateful patients to honor a physician with a gift. All I could do was screw it up. Six years later I'm still writing their appeals.

In 2009, I instituted the Verbatim Rule, which I learned from Sharp. I'd noticed Sharp never changed a word I wrote. Then I realized: "Well: as it should be. I'm supposed to be the expert. And it's my neck on the line if this thing fails." Now, I only accept new direct mail clients IF they agree without reservation to the Verbatim Rule. It's for their protection as much as mine.

By 2011, I was making dozens of presentations a year, training staff at Princeton University among many other clients; speaking internationally at conferences in Australia, Belgium, Italy as well as across North America.

In 2012, I began working with Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang on experiments in donor communications.

In 2013, I met Roger Craver, Mr. Direct Mail, Mr. Agitator co-founder.

I study donor communications at least one hour a day, seven days a week. Every day starts with this question, "What if everything I think I know is wrong?"

Copyright © 2005-2015 & ∞, by Tom Ahern and Ahern Donor Communications, Ink. All rights reserved. Cool portrait photo: Jonathan Feist
10 Johnson Road, Foster, RI 02825, Phone: 401-397-8104, Email: Twitter handle: thattomahern.