A donor offer is a fundraising industry term for telling a story about what will happen when a donor gives a gift. It should be a very short story about why the donor's gift is needed right now, and what the gift will accomplish.
A donor offer isn't about marketing. It's not a perk like a membership premium. It's also not about what the donor will do for our organization. Rather it points to the psychological benefit of giving. To create a strong offer, there are only two stories that matter:
1.) The donor's story. Tap into the donor's motivation for why they give and what they support. Talk to the donor about what they care about. Your goal is to offer the donor the opportunity to complete their story (your organization is not the hero of this story!)
"Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's needs." -Frederick Buechner
2.) The story about the need. You're not trying to tell the donor how great your reporting is, or how wonderful your organization is. You must illustrate the need and the problem that the donor can connect with.
Many public media stations tell an overarching membership-drive story that sounds like this: "Things are going well here. We have a lot of people giving to us. We hope you'll choose to give today, but most people won't."
This doesn't offer a compelling opportunity for a donor to complete their giving story.
Instead, connect the donor to a real situation that illustrates the need:
"Kids in our town are not in school for the summer. Many of them watch educational programming on PBS. Without that educational programming, those kids may fall behind." (This story works even better if it's a story about one kid.)
It's essential that you stay connected to your programming people so you can regularly gather these stories to share with donors.
Your objective is to take the donor right into the need. Engage the donor's heart. Prepare the donor to help. Then ask the donor to play a powerful role today.
How a Donor Offers Works
1.) Show a compelling need. Identify and define what the problem is. Find a compelling story that illustrates the problem. Make sure you're focusing on the problem, not the process.
Talk about the problem in human and emotional terms. Allow yourself to tell the story from a position of vulnerability (the key to lasting human relationships). Yes, you the fundraiser have to actually allow yourself to feel the emotion created by this problem. Keep your heart warm and remember that people give as a result of their emotions.
2.) Point to the consequences of the problem not being solved. What's going to happen if the need isn't met? (Hint: the answer is not that there are others who will step in an solve it. You are bringing unique value to the problem). When you sit with your donors, ask them to imagine what would happen if no one supported this work. Let them sit with the feelings that come up. When you illustrate the problem with strong storytelling, you are stirring the emotions of your donor (and yourself).
3.) Deliver a believable solution. Tell the donor how their gift will solve the problem and avoid the consequences you've discussed. Make sure the solution is believable. Also, remember, your organization is not the hero of this story. Don't dwell on policies, protocol, and process. A successful offer reminds a donor why they are here and what's truly important.
Don't forget to include facts and figures! After you've walked through the emotional "door," you need to make a business case. Remember: Information tells and emotion sells. Donors want to hear the facts and statistics about the problem. They want to understand the budget and the financial impact of the project. But, it's their emotions that allow them to give.
How to Know the Offer Is Strong
Is it forceful? Make a strong case for action.
Does it demand attention? The offer should draw you in and attract your interest.
Is it convincing? Don't claim you'll solve a problem that you can't solve. Your offer should make a donor want to do something about the problem.
Is it irresistible? Make it hard to avoid taking action.