The case

ZUP Capital campaign case for Anchorage Museum NPCA_case_final-1

What makes our cases uncommonly strong? See for yourself. Click any cover to download the full case .pdf.


When you need a bold case for support…

One word — DYNAMITE.” ~ Jeff M., chief development officer, re: Tom Ahern’s case for a new suburban cancer center, at a community hospital outside Boston

“The case statement looks fabulous. The board reception was a hit and the statement literally received applause. I am a happy camper.” — Lisa B., directing a $35 million capital campaign for a nationally-ranked zoo

“… wanted to say thanks for your help. Capital campaign going so well. We have upped goal 2x. We are $500,000 from new goal of $3.5 M. Your words and framing are an important element in getting us to this place and I thank you!” ~ Virginia S., ED, urban child abuse treatment center


How the case process often flows

I know a six-month process sounds like a long time. But I have found over the years that the following schedule is pretty realistic for bigger projects.

Step One — Research (1-2 months)
During this step, we review everything that currently exists in print about the organization: annual reports, newsletters, articles, press releases, the Web site, the strategic plan, etc. That’s called “secondary” research. We also conduct “primary” research: key informant interviews, focus groups, or even surveys.

Step Two — Assemble an “internal case” and develop a concept (a month)
The internal case assembles and organizes all the key messages discovered during the research. We then develop a communications concept (or strategy). This concept includes the main selling message (the so-called “tent pole,” the most powerful message we have, off which everything else hangs); the supporting messages; and a very rough draft of what the case statement will include, showing headlines. The purpose of the concept is to test the waters with the you, the client: to see what we got right and wrong, and to spot weaknesses and gaps. Many cases require more than one concept. A graphic designer, if required, will be brought in during this step.

Step Three — Final writing (a month)
Once the final concept has been approved by the client, we begin the final writing, fleshing out the details. The concept gets refined repeatedly during this stage.

Step Four — Graphic design (a month)
Once the writing is fully approved, the graphic designer can start her/his real work: making the piece entertaining, easy to read, visually gratifying, and dramatic.

Step Five — Printing (a month)
The graphic designer oversees this step of process, exercising quality control.


My case bio

Jerry Panas was the first person to hire me to prepare a case. He phoned from some airport and said, “I hear you can write. Can you fly to St. Louis this weekend?” And so my case career was born, at the Master’s behest. The incomparable Ron Arena then recruited me as a contract case writer for Marts & Lundy. Which eventually led me to write my own book on cases, Seeing through a Donor’s Eyes.seeing


A note on case budgeting

Please know that writing a case for a large campaign chews through a lot of my time. It can cost $20,000 and up, without design. On the other hand, some cases have cost less than $2,000. So it all depends on where you are and what you need.

Call me at 401-397-8104. Or email me at Tom@Aherncomm.com.


Would you like to see some more donor-centered cases and annual reports?

Very few charities yet do much in the way of donor centricity. And it costs them huge amounts of lost revenue! I hang with a small group of design and writing rebels WITH a cause (that cause being donor-centricity). Charities who want a fresh, dramatic, donor-celebrating case statement or annual report will find it here, at TheCaseWriters.com.

casewriters