Telling Your Story from A to B
by Tom Ahern
“Every communication has as its goal to take the audience from where they are at the start of your presentation, which is Point A, and move them to your objective, which is Point B,” Jerry Weissman says in his sumptuously useful book Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story.
The dynamic shift is PERSUASION.
“At the beginning of a presentation, the typical audience is uninformed, dubious, and resistant. By the end of a great presentation, they understand the idea, believe in the idea, and are ready to act in support of the idea.”
Weissman is talking about convincing wary investors to buy stock in a new public company. But he might as well be talking about fundraising. Virtually every prospective donor will be, to some degree, uninformed, dubious, and resistant. Your case seeks to change all that.
Treating donors as investors is not a metaphorical gesture.
Your donors are your investors: they put money into your mission and vision so that you can make something good happen in the world.
From A to B: An example
We’re writing a case for a U.S. research institute with a promising new initiative in the works: a possible cure for Alzheimer’s.
Today’s goal is to write a 100-word executive summary. It’s not a lot of words. But there is a huge amount at stake. After all, the executive summary is the first real text the reader encounters in the document. And it distills and sets up the rest of the case. The summary needs to be rational, emotional, determined, and compelling: all within 100 words.
We grab a pen. Take a deep breath. Within easy reach, for moral support, rests Weissman’s book.
First we write our A.
Point A explains where we are now on this grave issue. It spotlights two colliding facts, about life spans and disease:
People live longer in America all the time. And for 3 out of 5, it’s a very bitter ending … for themselves and their families.
Because today 3 out of 5 Americans over the age of 85 get Alzheimer’s. That’s a fact.
Not too shabby. We’ve summed up a national health crisis in a mere 43 words.
Now let’s write our B.
Point B is where we want to go, where this project will take us. It’s our objective, to use Weissman’s term.
We start by making a promise:
Our unique research could help shrink the number afflicted with Alzheimer’s significantly, maybe down to 1 in 5 — within a decade.
We’re ready. Our research to date has been called the most promising approach ever found. But we need your help. The crucial next stage depends almost entirely on donor support.
Grand total: 103 words that together frame the rest of the document.
Cover to cover, the entire case might stretch to 3,000 words of supporting evidence and plans. But in the first hundred or so, the reader has discovered exactly what the project intends to accomplish and what a philanthropic investment could achieve.
Tom Ahern is one of America’s busiest case writers. His book about cases, Seeing Through a Donor’s Eyes, is available on Amazon.