Published on August 19, 2013 by

Donors need simple asks – Part 1

I’m now working on a fundraising letter for a client that has a complicated offer. I’ve spent considerable time trying to whittle down the offer into something easy enough for donors to grasp when they scan the headline.

This problem often arises when your offer has multiple strong benefits. Note I say strong benefits that each could stand on their own as an offer.

For example, say your charity provides clean water wells to villages in developing countries. So the offer is something like:

Just $37 will help build a well for an entire village.

OR

Give clean water to a village of 1000 people for $37.

That’s nice and clear. The donor gets that.

But just because the village has water doesn’t mean the people understand basic hygiene practices. That means the local health department gets in on the act. Now every time your charity installs a new well, they will run a health promotion campaign in the village to teach people how and why they should regularly wash their hands and brush their teeth.

Well that’s great! Effectively your organisation now provides clean water and a valuable health service! The CEO is really excited. He wants to let all the donors know about this and ask them to support it.

But now the fundraiser’s job is trickier when it comes to framing the offer. Because what is the offer now? The first rule of thumb is to be specific and benefit-oriented so try this:

Save lives and prevent disease when you give $50 to provide clean water for a village and teach the people how to wash their hands, bathe regularly and brush their teeth to reduce life-threatening diseases .

Wow, that’s a mouthful to swallow (even without toothpaste). A donor would have to read that several times – even if you broke it up into smaller sentences like this.

Save lives and prevent disease. Just $50 will provide clean water for a whole village! And the people will learn how to wash their hands, bathe regularly and brush their teeth. So fewer people will die from diseases caused by lack of hygiene.

So we try to condense a bit:

Your gift of $50 will build a well for a village and provide a health promotion campaign.

Ugh. Awful. The phrase “health promotion campaign” smacks of government bureaucracy. Avoid at all costs.

See the problem? Because you now have two strong benefits to promote in the offer, they are competing with each other.

Benefit 1 – Providing clean water that will help save lives and prevent disease.

Benefit 2 – Conducting health education that will help save lives and prevent disease.

Both benefits are strong enough to stand on their own as a compelling offer.

In Part 2, I will suggest ways you can deal with this problem. Donors aren’t stupid but don’t make them work too hard.

Leave a Comment