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NextAfter’s Definitive Guide to Nonprofit Value Propositions

Published by Riley Young
What to expect:

"Tangible ideas, tested tactics, and a full suite of tools to help you write value propositions that compel more people to take action."

Table of Contents

Whether you’re trying to raise more money online, communicate with donors face-to-face, or increase revenue from a direct mail appeal…

 Your nonprofit value proposition is the most valuable tool to influence someone to give.

But too often, nonprofits fall short when it comes to articulating their value proposition, which can lead donors to tune them out and instead give to someone else.

When given a score based on proven strategies, most nonprofit value propositions score a 2.3 out of 5.

The good news is that improving your value proposition represents a huge opportunity. 

And our research and experimentation have uncovered some key elements you can use to improve your value proposition and increase giving.

But first …

What is a nonprofit value proposition?

Put simply, a nonprofit value proposition is how you communicate the unique way that your organization solves a problem that your donors care about. And it should be at the center of all of your marketing and development communications.

A value proposition is not your mission statement. And it’s not an incentive to give. 

A unique nonprofit value proposition answers the one fundamental question that every donor asks (consciously or subconsciously) when considering giving to your organization: 

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

Every part of this question is important as you consider your messaging.

Dig deeper into the importance of a clear value proposition with this case study.

Breaking down the value proposition question

“If I am your ideal donor…”

The first part of this question sets the tone for all your messaging.

You – an executive, leader, or fundraiser at your organization – know a lot about the cause you serve. You understand the problems, the programs you offer, the impact of a donor’s gift, and the areas of greatest need.

But the average donor does not have the same insider info that you do.

So to communicate effectively, you need to frame your value proposition from the perspective of your ideal donor and prevent making assumptions about what they already know.

“…why should I give to you…”

Donors need a compelling reason to give. If there is no problem that needs to be solved, there’s no reason to give. So you need to make sure your value proposition gives donors clear, compelling, and tangible reasons to get involved.

“…rather than some other organization…”

Like it or not, donors are going to compare you to other organizations.

There are other nonprofits that serve your same cause, and your value proposition needs to show donors why their investment is best made with you. 

What is unique about your approach? What do you do best? What sets you apart from similar nonprofits?

“…or at all?”

The end of this question addresses a critical reality: no one is obligated to give to you. A donor can always choose to say, “No, thanks.”

As a result, your value proposition must be strong enough to inspire a donor to pause whatever they were doing, read your email / direct-mail letter / advertisement / donation page, pull out their credit card, and complete a donation, instead of…

  • Answering an email
  • Checking the score
  • Continuing the project
  • Cooking dinner
  • Watching TV
  • Etc.

There are 4 key elements to answering these questions and crafting an effective value proposition. Keep reading to learn more…

4 key elements to crafting a unique value proposition for your nonprofit

6,500+ online fundraising experiments have taught us a lot about what increases giving and grows generosity. 

And we’ve found that one factor has an outsized impact on your ability to influence generosity. That factor is … You guessed it: your value proposition.

And to craft a unique value proposition for your nonprofit, there are 4 key elements to keep in mind: Appeal, Clarity, Exclusivity, and Credibility.

We’ll break each element down in more detail below!

1. Appeal

How badly does your ideal donor want to give to the cause or need?

You as the fundraiser obviously care a lot about your cause — you’re giving your career to support it. But your donors may have a variety of different motivations for considering giving to you. Which means you need to find which motivation influences the broadest population of donors to give. 

And the only way to know which messaging angle is going to resonate and appeal the most to your donors is to (1) do “voice of donor” research to determine which messaging angles you should pursue (in the form of surveys, interviews, and discussions with support staff), and (2) put them to the test.

2. Clarity

How quickly do donors understand what you’re asking?

The reasons to give might be abundantly clear to you — the fundraiser — but your donor likely needs more explanation of why the should give.

And this explanation should be presented in the clearest, simplest terms possible, using the same language you uncovered in your “voice of donor” research.

Avoid jargon and be sure not to use terms that may be clear to people inside your organization but are unknown to the general population. 

Clarity is often overlooked but we have found that your ability to clearly articulate why a donor should give to you can be one of the most important parts of crafting an effective value proposition for your nonprofit. 

3. Exclusivity

Can your donor make this impact with another organization?

When someone considers giving to you, they’re not reading your donation page in isolation. In the back of their mind, donors know that there are other nonprofits that do similar work to you. 

So, to earn their donation, you must be able to explain your unique approach to impacting your cause and providing solutions to the problems your donors care most about.

Have you received recognition for your work? Is there something truly unique about how you go about solving the issue at hand? Can you share tangible evidence of the impact you’ve been able to have?

All of these are effective ways to set your organization apart!

4. Credibility

Can your donors trust the claims you’re making?

You can have a value proposition with strong appeal, clear messaging, and reasons to give that are exclusive to your organization. But if your potential donors don’t trust you or believe your claims, then they won’t (and shouldn’t) give.

There are lots of ways to build trust and credibility in your value proposition:

  • Testimonials from beneficiaries
  • Reviews from donors
  • Data to illustrate impact and reach
  • Trust marks from GuideStar, Charity Navigator, etc.

Saying it isn’t enough. And “social proof” is one of the most powerful persuasion levers you can employ by saying, “Hey, don’t take our word for it … look at the results.” 

Get experiments related to each of the 4 elements of the value proposition to see how they can be applied in your fundraising.

A 6-step process for crafting a unique value proposition for your nonprofit

There are 6 simple steps you can take to write your value proposition. Let’s take a look at each and then take a deeper dive into three of the steps below…

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, “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. Survey your donors to find out what most appeals to them

Surveys (and interviews) are a great way to get into the minds of your donors. It can be easy to assume what matters to other people, but by surveying your current donors you can get a much clearer picture about why they gave and what might motivate future donors to follow their lead.

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.

 When constructing your nonprofit value proposition, use this template to help you get started:

[Organization name] solves [problem] by [unique claims], which means [outcome].

The formula for writing a unique nonprofit value proposition statement.

You may have to adjust this a bit to fit your needs but it’s a great starting point. Don’t forget outcome — this is the future state you are promising to your donors as a result of their support.  

Now, this doesn’t mean you should copy and paste your value proposition into your appeals. Instead, use it as the basis of your communications to your donors.

1. 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.

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.

2. 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:

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.

3. 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:

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.

Dig deeper into the last 3 steps of crafting an effective value proposition.

Optimize your value proposition by conducting A/B tests

You may only get one chance to convince someone to click an ad or make a donation. How do you make these moments count? Through your value proposition!

The following are case studies that your organization can easily mimic to optimize your value proposition. 

Both A/B tests highlight one of the four key elements you can use to improve your value proposition and increase giving.

A/B Test #1: Adding Value Proposition Copy to a Page

The experiment you see below tested a donation ask without value proposition copy against a donation ask with value proposition copy. Each page is identical aside from this primary difference. As you can see, simply adding value proposition copy to the donation page resulted in a 150% increase in donor conversion.

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential donor as they visit this page…

Remember, your potential donors are thinking, “How badly do I want it?” Or, in this case, “How badly do I want to give?” 

I think you’d agree that reading multiple paragraphs of value proposition copy makes donating more appealing compared to reading just a headline. 

The value that you express to your audience will pay off. Your audience wants to understand the value your organization can bring to their lives. That’s why they are engaging with your content in the first place.

Without value proposition copy, your pages will often fall short of convincing someone to do what you want them to do. Imagine a realtor trying to sell a house without describing any of the house’s features. Or a politician trying to get elected without explaining their standpoints. 

Your potential donors want to learn the value your organization can offer them, and you have the power to provide them exactly that – through value proposition copy. That’s why writing effective value proposition is so essential to building your following and gaining donors.

A/B Test #2: Communicate Your Value Proposition Using Text, Not a Video

Our second A/B test shows a donation page led by a video vs. one that leads with text. The text version resulted in a 527% increase in donations!

The added value proposition through text resonated far better with potential donors. 

The popularity of YouTube and TikTok has inspired many nonprofits to favor video over text. But there is a time and place to leverage video, and this donation page was not the right time or place. 

Countless studies deem reading the superior transmitter of information to watching or listening. Reading sparks more clarity, plus a reader can read at their own pace rather than watch at the video’s pace.

Another thing to consider, especially with donation pages, is where visitors are coming from. If they’ve come from a text-heavy ad to get to your donation page, they probably prefer a seamless transition to more text instead of getting disrupted by a video. 

If they’ve come to your page from a video ad, they probably prefer not to watch another video. These are configurations that you can test!

Get more examples of how to improve your value proposition.


To measure the impact of a revised value proposition, nonprofits should track specific metrics like donor engagement levels, donation frequency, and average donation amounts before and after implementing changes. This requires a systematic approach to data collection and analysis.

For industry-specific examples, looking at case studies from successful campaigns within the nonprofit sector can provide valuable insights. These are often shared at sector conferences or in nonprofit-focused publications.

Avoid common pitfalls such as using jargon, making vague claims, or failing to differentiate from similar organizations by focusing on clear, compelling, and donor-centric messaging. Continuous testing and feedback are crucial for refining the value proposition.


A nonprofit value proposition is how you communicate the unique way that your organization solves a problem that your donors care about. It should be at the center of all of your marketing and development communications.

Your value proposition should answer this question in the minds of your donors: “If I am your ideal donor, why should I give to you instead of another organization, or at all?”

To effectively communicate your nonprofit’s value and drive more donations, focus on articulating a compelling value proposition and use it as the basis for you appeals, cultivation, and other donor communications. 

An effective value proposition breaks down the unique problem your organization solves, clearly lists your value claims, and ensure these claims are appealing and exclusive to your cause. 

To craft a concise value proposition, you can roughly follow the following formula: [Organization name] solves [problem] by [unique claims], which means [outcome].

You should regularly  test and refine your message to align with what resonates most with your donors. 

 And remember, a strong value proposition not only states why donors should choose you but also demonstrates the unique impact their contributions will have!

Want to learn more? Join 4,400 other fundraisers by checking out our course on building strong value propositions by clicking below!

Published by Riley Young

Riley Landenberger is Audience Engagement Manager at NextAfter.