Half As Important

Good Lord. Why in the world have we written nine blog posts on fundraising offers?

Here’s why:

  • Donor-centric writing is half as important as your fundraising offer
  • Organizational-centricity is half as important as your fundraising offer
  • Your organization’s or ED’s “voice” is half as important as your fundraising offer
  • How effective your organization is – that’s half as important as your fundraising offer
  • Your visual brand is half as important as your fundraising offer
  • How well-written (or not) the piece is – that’s half as important as your fundraising offer

In other words, in your mass donor fundraising, how you deliver your fundraising offer is half as important as what your fundraising offer is.

(Offers are also important for your major donor fundraising, which we’ll talk about in the next post.)

How do we know that those things are about half as important? Here’s how…

The 40 / 40 / 20 Rule

I learned this rule in 1993, and I find it just as true today:

  • 40% of the success of any fundraising is who you are talking to.
    • For instance, if you’re talking to major donors, you can expect to raise more money than if you’re talking to non-donors.
  • 40% of the success of any fundraising is the Offer.
    • As this blog series has shown, the “offer” of any fundraising piece (letter, email, newsletter, etc.) is what you promise will happen when a donor gives a gift. The better your offer, the more money you’ll raise.
  • 20% of the success of any fundraising is the “creative” – how you deliver your offer.
    • This is the writing style, whether you’re donor-centric or not, the typeface you use, the header on your email, etc.

Note that in the list I started off with, all of those things are in the 20%.

All of those things at the top are half as important as whatever offer you’re using.

Here’s What You Should Do

Any time you’re creating a fundraising piece that’s going to all your donors, be more concerned with what your offer is than with how the piece delivers the offer.

In other words, spend more time thinking about how you’re going to describe what will happen when a donor gives a gift. Spend less time trying to sound like your Executive Director, or with getting your grammar just right.

Because most organizations spend most of their time on how they write. On “getting their voice right.” Or on using brand colors. And those things matter half as much as what you promise will happen when your donor gives a gift.

Spend more time on the portion of your communications that makes the most difference. Spend less time on the portion of your communications that makes the least difference.

Read the entire series:

  1. How to Create a Great Fundraising Offer: What’s an Offer?
  2. Why a Good Fundraising Offer Works So Well
  3. The Ingredients in Successful Offers
  4. How to Describe the “Solution” Your Organization Provides
  5. How to Raise More Money by Asking for the Right Amount
  6. How and Why to Give Your Donors a Reason to Give Today
  7. What About Internal Experts Who Don’t Like Fundraising Offers?
  8. How to Make Sure a Low-Priced Offer Does NOT Produce Small Gifts
  9. Half As Important
  10. Offers for Major Donors
  11. Summarizing and Closing This Chapter on Fundraising Offers

3 comments on “Half As Important

  1. I loved this premise, but do you have more to back it up then “I heard it in 1993 and still find it true”? How did the people who told you the rule test it, and how have you further measured it? Is it true for ALL creative (even, say a letter in 8 pt Papyrus with dense, technical language) or is that that marginal returns on improving creative have little impact once you’re above a certain minimum standard (which is different)? I want to love this but need more

    1. This is a great, reasonable question. I don’t have direct data/testing results to share with you — the 40/40/20 rule is more like ‘wisdom passed down among fundraisers who deal with donors in large quantities. And I’d say I’ve found the wisdom to be true. For instance, when we work with clients we will absolutely see measurable increases when we shift away from organization-centric creative to donor-centric-creative. But we see significantly larger gains when we create a great offer.

      Good point re: using ‘8 pt Papyrus with dense, technical language.’ Unreadable type will kill response. But the 40/40/20 rule is more about ‘creating success’ than ‘avoiding failure.’ (This is another way of saying what you said well above: the marginal returns on improving creative have little impact once you get to a certain threshold.) ‘Readable type’ will help you ’not lose’ but it won’t help you really win. I hope that makes sense.

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