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Making a Case Your Donors Will Love

Making a Case Your Donors Will Love

Jerold Panas

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Making a Case Your Donors Will Love
The Secret to Selling the Dream

by Jerold Panas, 128 pp.

You have a worthy project AND you’ve identified a prospect with means. How do you connect the two in a way that produces a sizable gift?

Jerold Panas, America’s wunderkind fundraiser, shows you the way in How to Make a Case Your Donors Will Love.

On one level, the book is a “how-to” guide. You learn to present your cause in its most irresistible light. You become confident fielding the questions your donors will ask. You discover deft ways to use stories and statistics to enliven your cause. And you come away knowing when to cast aside normal fundraising conventions.

But on another level, Making a Case Your Donors Will Love is also a roadmap to your donor’s mind. You learn what makes philanthropists tick, what motivates them to write out sizable checks, what they look for in solicitors, what turns off your potential supporters, and how to earn their loyalty for years to come.

As only a fundraising grandmaster can do, Jerold Panas combines advice you can use today with insights that will guide your fundraising for the foreseeable future.

About the Author

The late Jerold Panas was among a small handful of the grandmasters of American fundraisers. He was considered one of the top writers in the field and a number of his books have achieved classic status. Hailed by Newsweek as "the Robert Schuller of fundraising," Jerry was a favorite speaker at conferences and workshops throughout the nation. He served as executive director of one of the premier firms in America and was the co-founder of the Institute for Charitable Giving. The very term "philanthropy" would mean less without Jerry's influence. His book, Asking, is the bestselling fundraising book of all time. Others such as The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, Making a Case Your Donors Will Love, and Born to Raise are classics and standards for the profession.

Table of Contents

1.  The Magic of the Word
2.   Dance with the Bears
3.   Know Your Reader
4.   One Suit Doesn’t Fit All
5.   The Powerful Seven
6.    Hold the Light for Others to See
7.    Bigger than Your Organization
8.    Why Should I Invest?
9.    The Thread that Binds
10.   Determination, Direction, Dedication
11.   Statistics and Damn Lies
12.   Think in the Future


This article is excerpted from Jerold Panas’ book, Making a Case Your Donors Will Love, ©Emerson & Church, Publishers. To obtain reprint permission, call 508-359-0019 or email us.

The Magic of the Word

I had just finished talking with Virginia Piper about a new science building for Xavier High School in Phoenix. One of the most charming individuals I’ve ever met, Virginia had a glow and a smile that gave hope in February.

Let me take you back.

I’m in Virginia’s living room waxing eloquent about the proposed science center. Trouble is, it’s only of modest interest to her. It’s really the mission and the program of the school that fascinates Virginia. She loves the fact that it’s all girls, the emphasis on rigorous scholarship, and most of all the focus on developing leadership in young women. 

“Do you have something to leave so I can read more about the school?” she asks.

 It’s only personal style, but I don’t like trotting out printed material until I’ve made the presentation. Sometimes I don’t even do that. I prefer putting it in the mail for the probable donor to read, including a letter thanking him or her for the visit. It’s a powerful reinforcement.

I hand Virginia the case statement. I wouldn’t typically do that but she asks a second time.

The case is called The 7th Hour, a title with special significance to the school.

“May I take a moment to read it now?” Virginia asks.

I consider this an excellent augury. If she were tepid about the project, she could simply have asked me to leave it behind. And usher me out the door.

Something extraordinary starts to happen as she reads. The case gets a headlock on her. She loves it. She reads some passages out loud to me.

Virginia excuses herself and goes into her study off the living room. When she returns a few minutes later, she hands me a check.

I peek at it, trying not to be too obvious. Good grief! It’s a check for $50,000. 

 “I’m so impressed with the story of Xavier I want to be a part of the program.”

I hand the check back (we’re actually hoping to ask for a much larger gift on the next visit).

Virginia insists I take it, but we schedule a second visit, this time with Sister Joan, Head of the School.

You can guess the rest, I’m sure. Visit Xavier today and you’ll see the Virginia Piper Science Center prominently centered on campus.

My point is - and the reason I wrote this book - is that no matter how dazzling the oral presentation – and, forgive me, but mine was stellar that day - you still need to describe the need in writing and substantiate and why your institution is uniquely positioned to fulfill it. You can see the power it had over Virginia that day.

Chances are you have within you what Tennessee Williams called “A great dammed-up emotional ebullience.” My hope is that these pages will unleash those feelings and help you produce a case you’ll take surging pride in.

Your charge is to sell your dream with all the conviction and ardor within you.

When the reader says, “I believe”— you’ve know you’ve done the job.