How to Create a Great Fundraising Offer: What’s an Offer?

Serve Up.

I’m starting a series on Fundraising Offers – the least understood, most powerful way nonprofits (especially smaller nonprofits) can start raising more money immediately.

A strong offer helps your organization:

Raise more money with each piece of fundraising
Be more memorable to your donors
Build stronger relationships with your donors

This post will lay out some foundational ideas, then later posts will show you how to do it.

So first, let’s define what an offer is.

What’s an “Offer?”

A fundraising offer is the main thing a fundraising piece says will happen when the person gives a gift.

Here are some examples of offers taken from my files. Some are good, some are poor – later we’ll talk about what makes an offer effective or not. For now, we’re just working on identifying offers and understanding what they are.

I’ve underlined the “main thing that will happen” that each letter / email / newsletter emphasized:

  • “Will you join us as we fight poverty”
  • “Will you help these overcoming women in their journey”
  • $1.92 will provide a Thanksgiving meal
  • “Please partner with us as we end generational homelessness”
  • “For every $250 you donate, one child will attend camp this summer
  • “Your gifts support the Harmony Experience for all”
  • “Your gift supports the arts in our community”

Every piece of fundraising communication has an offer.

Some offers are more powerful than others.

Some offers work for almost all organizations (e.g., year-end). Some offers only work for some organizations at very specific times of the year (e.g., opening night at the opera). Some offers are so powerful they can create billion-dollar organizations (e.g., “child sponsorship”).

Your job as a fundraiser is to find the most effective offers for your organization.

Can Changing Your Offer – Changing the Focus of an Organization’s Communications – Make that Big a Difference?

A good offer immediately improves an organization’s fundraising.

Just in the last couple months I helped:
  • An organization raise over $75,000 with an appeal letter when they’d never raised more than $3,000 with an appeal.
  • An organization raise $49,000 with an appeal when they’d never raised over $1,500.
  • An organization raise $5,500 with an email when they’d never raised more than $700.

The massive increases were created by changing their offers, by changing “the main thing the fundraising pieces said would happen when the person gives a gift.”

The organizations that went from $3,000 to $75,000 made a simple change. They changed their offer from:

“Together, we can change a young woman’s life”


“You can help one local woman go to college”

Doesn’t seem like such a small change could have such a big difference, does it? But by having a strong offer, and making it the main focus of a piece of donor communication, you can absolutely see remarkable increases.

Think of it this way: focusing your donor communications on the right thing immediately improves your organization’s fundraising.

What’s Next?

My next post will focus on why a good offer is so effective. I want organizations to understand why it works so well before I explain how to do it well.

Why? Because developing a strong offer is much more a “way of thinking” than it is a series of steps to follow, or a list of ingredients.

When I’ve given nonprofits or audiences the list of ingredients, they haven’t reliably been able to create strong offers.

To use a cooking analogy, I suspect I’ve been giving people a list of ingredients without providing the cooking instructions.

My fault. So with this series I’m going to “start at the start.” I’m defining what an offer is. Then I’ll describe why offers work so well. Then I’ll give you the ingredients. Then I’ll show you how to use them.

And then you’ll be on your way to creating stronger offers for your organization – and will start to raise more money immediately!

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.

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