The shocking power of a fundraising brand proposition

I admit it: “value proposition” is a jargon term.

But it’s a useful one for fundraisers, so I’m using it here.

Because, as this excellent post at NextAfter says, Nonprofits Have a Value Proposition Problem.

The post defines a nonprofit value proposition as a the answer to a four-part question every potential donor has:

  • “If I am your ideal donor…”
  • “…why should I give to you…”
  • “…rather than some other organization…”
  • “…or at all?”

If you don’t have a satisfactory answer to this, you are unlikely to get a donation. And you don’t have to have the answers for all donors — just a sufficient number of them. In fact, it’s literally impossible to be just right for everyone.

The post then demonstrates this idea with a value proposition test that you really need to see.

It’s a fundraising campaign as it appears on a webpage.

Treatment A: Features a large photo of a smiling child holding a goat. The text says “This Christmas Change a Life” (the latter three words styled in a large and attractive script). A button below says SHOP NOW.

Treatment B: Same photo. Headline says “You Can Change a Life with a Gift.” Below that is a paragraph describing how the donor can do good things by giving. A button below says CHANGE A LIFE BY GIVING A GIFT.

Treatment A would look good in a designer’s portfolio. I bet everyone at the org really loved it. Treatment B probably made the designer want to cry, and I bet people at the org all said “Ugh!” in unison when they saw it. (I have no inside knowledge about this project; I’m just guessing, based on many years of seeing things like this.)

But here’s the important thing. It was a head-to-head test, and Treatment B got a 34.7% increase in donations.

It always goes this way in fundraising.

When you make it clear the specific way the donor can make the world a better place, you do well. Your message zeroes in on those who want to do what your organization does and show them it’s real.

When you focus on making it all stylish and nice, the only donations you get are from people who write a value proposition for you.

It comes down to the universal reality of fundraising (and all marketing): people buy what you’re selling when they see that its something that fits in their life.

That’s what a value proposition is.


Comments

2 responses to “The shocking power of a fundraising brand proposition”

  1. Andrea Hopkins Avatar
    Andrea Hopkins

    This is a great post that has had me thinking for several days. The examples on NextAfter’s site are great. But I think it’s important to clarify that the key difference between the successful page and the less successful page is the stronger copy on the second example. It really has nothing to do with how pretty or not pretty either example is. What you’re comparing here is text not design. You are so right, design can’t do much to improve ineffective text.

  2. Andrea Hopkins Avatar
    Andrea Hopkins

    This is a great post that has had me thinking for several days. The examples on NextAfter’s site are great. But I think it’s important to clarify that the key difference between the successful page and the less successful page is the stronger copy on the second example. It really has nothing to do with how pretty or not pretty either example is. What you’re comparing here is text not design. You are so right, design can’t do much to improve ineffective text.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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