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How to Write Your Nonprofit Value Proposition to Increase Donations

Published by Nathan Hill

Every fundraiser trying to raise more money for their nonprofit needs to know how to write your nonprofit value proposition. Whether you’re having a face-to-face conversation, sending an email, mailing out an appeal, or talking on the phone – your value proposition is the most critical tool you have to help your donors say “yes” to giving.

You’ve certainly heard all sorts of “best practices” around how to write your nonprofit value proposition, and I’m not here to repeat any of those.

In fact, if you take one thing away from this post, I hope it’s this: No one knows how to write your nonprofit value proposition better than your donors.

Below, you’re going to find a series of steps to start developing your nonprofit’s value proposition. But the goal is not to unlock the magical words that will raise more money for you forever. The goal is to generate new ideas that you can test to see what actually works to increase giving.

6 Steps to Write Your Nonprofit Value Proposition

6 Steps to Write Your Nonprofit Value Proposition

  1. Define the problem your nonprofit exists to solve.

    If there is no problem to solve, there is no reason to give. Spend some time with leaders at your nonprofit to clarify exactly what problem your organization is trying to solve in the world.

  2. List out your value claims (i.e. how you solve the problem).

    Your value claims answer the question of “How do we solve the problem?” List as many value claims as you can – involving people from around all parts of your organization.

  3. Score your claims (1 to 5) based on appeal and exclusivity.

    Trim your list of value claims down to your top 10 by giving them a score. A strong “appeal” means your ideal donor really wants to make this kind of impact. A strong “exclusivity” score means your ideal donor can only make this impact through your organization.

  4. Get your donor’s feedback using a survey.

    Your best ideas are not always the same as your donors. Create a survey to see how donor resonate with your top value claims. Give them a chance to share why they give in their own words.

  5. Run an a/b test validate your top value claims.

    Survey results don’t actually tell you what works. Use your survey results to generate hypotheses about what could work to increase giving. Run an a/b test to see what your donors actually give to more.

  6. Contextualize your value proposition for different audiences.

    There is no single value proposition statement that will magically increase your results across every channel. Tweak your value proposition copy for different types of donors, different channels, and in different contexts.

Define the problem your nonprofit exists to solve.

Every effective fundraising appeal must create a problem in the potential donor’s mind. If there is no problem to solve, then there is no reason to give.

But before you can help your donor understand the problem their gift will help solve, you need to have a clear understanding of the problem that your organization exists to solve.

While your value proposition is not just a copy and paste of your mission statement, the problem you exist to solve might be outlined in your mission statement. Take a look at your mission and vision, chat with leaders at your organization, and get a clear picture of what problem you’re trying to solve.

For example, our friends at Save the Children outline clear needs on their main donation page. They discuss the impact of a global pandemic, hunger, conflict, and natural disasters on children.

a Save the Children donation page example

There are a wide variety of problems mentioned in the copy that different donors might want to give to:

  • solving world hunger
  • improving global healthcare access
  • mitigating international conflict
  • curbing climate change to avoid worsening natural disasters

But Save the Children has a clear problem they exist to solve: they exist to champion the rights of the world’s 2.3 billion children. While donations can help provide food, blankets, and masks to children in need, their value proposition centers around making change for vulnerable children.

To write your nonprofit value proposition, start by getting a clear understanding of the core problem you exist to solve.

List out your value claims.

After you’ve defined your problem, you need to list your value claims. Your value claims answer the question: “What do we do to solve the problem?”

Set a timer for 10 minutes and list out as many value claims as you can think of. Often you will find value claim ideas on your about page or in a donor impact report. Value claims can be programs your offer, services you provide, how quickly or efficiently you can make an impact, and your unique approach to solving an issue.

The goal of this step is to get as many ideas out on the table as possible. In the next step, you’ll add a score to your value claims and see which ones have the highest potential of resonating with donors and leading to greater giving.

Here’s an example of the worksheet we use to brainstorm value claims:

a worksheet to help write your nonprofit value proposition claims

Here are some example value claims pulled directly from Save the Children’s website:

  • We are global leaders in child health, education, and protection.
  • We have a proven track record of using donations efficiently and effectively to change children’s lives.
  • We’re transforming the way emergency care is delivered, putting world-class health professionals to work for children in crisis anywhere in the world within 72 hours. 
  • We champion gender equality, recently earning the first nonprofit Gender Fair certification. 

Get every idea out on the table that you can. You can even involve others from around your organization to see what they think will resonate most with your donors.

Once you have your value claim ideas listed, move on to the next step.

Score your claims based on appeal and exclusivity.

Now that you have your problem defined and your value claims listed, it’s time to see which ones have the highest potential to resonate with donors.

There are 4 key elements that make for an effective value proposition, but I want you to only consider 2 of them at the moment.

Read through your value claims and score them on a scale of 1 to 5 for their Appeal and Exclusivity.

Appeal answers the question: “How badly do I (your ideal donor) want to make this impact?” A score of 1 would mean that your ideal donor doesn’t care about this. But a 5 means it’s incredibly important to them.

Exclusivity answers the question: “Can I make this impact anywhere else?” A score of 1 means that your donor can make this impact any other organization. But a 5 means that they can only make this impact through your nonprofit.

Here’s how I scored some of the example value claims listed above:

an example of scoring your nonprofit value proposition claims

After you’ve scored all your claims for appeal and exclusivity, add them up and see which claims have the highest combined score. These are the value claims that you’ll want to get donor feedback on and put to the test.

Get your donor’s feedback using a survey.

You can’t start to write your nonprofit value proposition without your donors’ input. So once you have your top value claims, you need to send them out to donors to get their feedback.

The simplest way to get their feedback is through a survey.

Your value proposition survey should have a 3 main goals:

  • See which claims resonate with donors the most.
  • Gather your donors’ own words to describe why the give.
  • Discover new reasons why donors give that you haven’t thought of on your own.

Keep in mind that your value proposition survey is not going to tell you exactly what works to increase giving. Instead, it will help you generate hypotheses about what might work to get more donors to give. As with any hypothesis, you’ll need to run an a/b test to see how your donors actually respond.

When sending out your survey, make sure that you:

  • Email it to your existing donors.
  • Email it your non-donor subscribers (and track their replies separately).
  • Use your social media channels to share it with followers.
  • Use an instant donation page to acquire new donations right after the survey.

Here’s what the campaign should look like:

an illustration of how to send your value proposition survey

Run an experiment to test your top value claims.

Survey results are often different than how donors behave and respond. A donor may tell you they care a lot about Value Claim #1, but they end up giving more when presented with Value Claim #2.

To write your nonprofit value proposition in the most effective way, you need to put your best ideas (and your donors’ feedback) to the test using a/b testing and optimization.

If you conduct your value proposition survey and find 2 unique themes emerging for you nonprofit value proposition, you’ll want to put these to the test and see which one resonates with the majority of your donors.

Here’s an outline of the a/b test you should run:

  1. Write an email appeal focused on Value Proposition Theme #1.
  2. Craft a donation page with copy focused on Value Proposition Theme #1.
  3. Write an email appeal focused on Value Proposition Theme #2.
  4. Craft a donation page with copy focused on Value Proposition Theme #2.
  5. Create an a/b test in your email marketing tool (we prefer Hubspot or Mailchimp) that splits your email file in half – sending 50% of donors email appeal #1, and 50% of donors email appeal #2.
  6. Analyze your results for donations. Keep in mind that more clicks does not always mean more donations.

For an illustration, you’re value proposition a/b test should look like this.

an example of how to setup your value proposition a/b test

If you need some help with this, you can check out the nonprofit a/b testing guide here.

Contextualize your value proposition for different audiences.

 At this point, you have the essential elements in place to start writing your nonprofit value proposition. But your value proposition is not just a single sentence or statement that you can copy and paste across all your fundraising channels.

You need to contextualize your value proposition for different audiences at different times. But that’s a lot easier said than done.

Which is why we’ve created an in-depth course for you on how to write your nonprofit value proposition, contextualize it for the right audience at the right time, and test your best hypotheses to increase donations and results.

And because you’ve made it all the way to the end of the post (which is no small feat), I want you to have access to the Why Should I Give to You? course for free for 30 days.

Learn more and activate the Why Should I Give to You course here »

Published by Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill is Vice President of Marketing at NextAfter.

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