How to Describe the “Solution” Your Organization Provides

Puzzle piece.

Fourth in a Series on Offers

I’m “going deeper” than I ever have to help you understand how to create powerful fundraising offers.

Why? Because creating a great offer is the easiest way to start raising more money immediately. You don’t have to try a new media channel. You don’t have to segment your donors differently. You don’t have to acquire a bunch of new donors.

You just have to think a little differently about what you say to your donors.

This is the fourth in a series of posts; here’s the first if you’d like to start from the top.

And for a refresher, here’s my definition of an offer: the offer of a fundraising piece is the main thing that you say will happen when the person gives a gift.

The Four Elements of Successful Offers

Here are the four “elements” or “ingredients” that I always include when I create fundraising. And these are what I’m looking for when I review fundraising…

  1. A solvable problem that’s easy to understand
  2. A solution to that problem that’s easy to understand
  3. The cost of the solution seems like a good deal
  4. There’s urgency to solve the problem NOW

Today, we’re going to break down what’s in #2, “A solution to that problem that’s easy to understand.”

A solution to that problem that’s easy to understand

There are three main ideas here…

A Solution

The first element in an effective offer is a “problem.” We talked about that in the previous post.

The second element is a “solution.” And this is pretty simple:

Whatever problem you present,
you’ll raise more money if the solution you present
solves that problem.

If the problem you’ve presented is that a person is hungry, the solution needs to be food.

If the problem is that a future season of the opera is at-risk, the solution needs to be to save the season (and not something like, “support the arts”).

Are you with me?

To That Problem

There’s a little phrase here that’s really important. It’s “to that problem.”

This is trickier than you think it is. A lot of nonprofits unknowingly get this wrong.

Let me share with you what happens, then give you an example.

What happens is that a nonprofit will talk about someone or something in need, but the offer – what you promise to a donor will happen when they make a gift – doesn’t solve the main problem that’s presented.

For example, earlier today I reviewed a video for a client. Here’s a super-simple summary of the video:

  1. It talked about a refugee family from Syria
  2. It shared about how the family was living in a refugee camp
  3. It talked about how they were cold, wet, and hungry
  4. It asked the donor to “send hope”

This video will absolutely raise some money. But not nearly as much as it could.

Why? Because the main problem it sets up is not solved by the offer. The solution the donor is asked to provide – “send hope” – does not solve that problem.

If the offer were to “send warm coats, tarps to keep the rain off, and emergency food,” then the organization would raise a lot more money. Because then the solution they offer the donor would solve the problem!

Should the idea that the donor’s gift will provide hope be in the video somewhere? Yes. But it should not be the main thing that the video promises will happen if the donor gives a gift.

So when you’re creating offers, be sure the solution you present solves the problem you’ve presented! (And when you notice there’s a mismatch, you either need a different problem or a different solution!)

Easy to Understand

Finally, the solution needs to be easy for the donor to understand.

Just as the problem needs to be easy to understand, so does the solution.

This has nothing to do with the intelligence of your donors. It has everything to do with how much time they’re willing to pay attention to your fundraising. They usually give you just a few seconds.

So you don’t have time for complex, five-step holistic solutions. This is why offers that focus on things at the lower end of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – food, shelter, water – always tend to do well.

And what if you’re an Arts organization that doesn’t have those? You still need to apply the principle and make your solutions (and your problems) as easy to understand as possible.

In the “opera” example above, we simplified the problem to “future seasons are at risk.” And we simplified the solution to, “because of matching funds, your gift will help secure every note of the future season.”

The problem is easy to understand (and still meaningful). The solution is easy to understand. I predict they are going to raise a lot of money.

The Consequences of this Approach

Let’s talk about how this approach makes people (maybe even you?) uncomfortable.

You and experts like you know that the problem you’re working on is not simple. And the solution that your organization provides is not simple.

And the approach above oversimplifies what you do in a way that makes you / your board / your program people / stakeholders uncomfortable.

Here’s the problem: in your mass donor fundraising, you aren’t talking to people like you! You’re talking to non-experts. You’re talking to people who don’t understand nearly as deeply as you. And you’re talking to them using a method (the mail, email, social) where they’re only giving you a few seconds of time.

Given those conditions, you need to oversimplify. Even if it makes you uncomfortable.

The simplicity made people at the Opera company uncomfortable. It didn’t share the whole picture. If you really dug into the situation, there were all sorts of complexities.

But we know that you don’t have time in a letter for all sorts of complexities. So we showed them how that simplicity was true – even though it didn’t show the whole picture. And if any donor asked about it, we showed them how to say, “What you read in the letter is true, AND there are some additional complexities, and I’m thrilled to have a donor like you who pays attention to things like this.”

Next Up…

The next post will show you how to use the third element in successful fundraising offers: “The cost of the solution seems like a good deal.”

And as I’ve mentioned before, all of this probably seem like a lot of work.

If it were easy, you and everybody else would be raising piles of money.

This stuff takes real thought and real work.

But the payoff is huge – for your organization, for your beneficiaries, and for you!

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

Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

2 comments on “How to Describe the “Solution” Your Organization Provides

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *