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couple holding shoes


If your appeal results aren’t so hot, one of the first things to look at is your offer.

Charity J, one of my clients, had the best Christmas appeal for over 5 years – up on the previous year by 25%.

And I put it down to one thing (and the client agrees).

A simple offer.

What was most surprising about it was that I didn’t have to suggest it. I didn’t have to get the fundraising staff to wrangle with programs and field staff over whether the offer was “representative” of their work.

And what was this offer?


Special protective shoes for people with certain disabilities.

I know what shoes are.

You know what shoes are.

Donors understand what shoes are.

They can picture a beneficiary wearing shoes with razor sharp clarity.

A copywriter like me doesn’t have to explain what shoes are – or do verbal gymnastics to make them sound more donor-friendly.

For this type of overseas development charity, usually I’m informed that the offer has to be some kind of “group”.

A self-help group. A community empowerment group. A women’s cooperative. A community-based rehabilitation program.

A group that conjures up vague images in the donor’s mind – what does this MEAN?

So I sigh.

I try to convince the high-ups that a “group” is a bad offer. If I succeed, great.

If not, I go through the process of interviewing field staff and asking for reports. So I can figure out exactly what it means when we ask donors to support a “community empowerment group”.

“Exactly what is meant by a community empowerment group? Who is it made up of? What activities do they do? How does it make a difference in people’s lives? What sort of results is the group achieving? What does it mean for individuals when they are part of the group?”

(I’m not saying these groups are not effective or important. Just that they are hard to explain to donors and subsequently harder to raise funds for.)

It’s gold when a non-profit like this tells me the offer is shoes.

I don’t have to interview field staff to ask, “Exactly what is meant by protective shoes? Who gets the shoes? How does it make a difference in people’s lives to get these shoes?”

The answers to those questions are almost self-explanatory to me and you.

And therefore pretty much self-explanatory to donors.

Donors know what shoes look like. They know exactly how their money will be spent. They know a pair of protective shoes means someone can walk around without causing further injury to themselves in a country where medical help is hard to get.

The results are a shoe-in (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). And for Charity J, it meant lots of extra dollars at Christmas. And extra dollars means more people helped. Thank you donors!

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