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Nonprofits and Value Propositions

corporate giving May 18, 2021

A value proposition is a promise of substance to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged through purchase of a product. From the customer’s point to view, a value proposition is a belief about how worth will be delivered, experienced, and acquired through purchase of the product. Good value propositions are concise, easy to understand, define what the product or organization does, and explain how to resolve a customer’s problem or pain point. Usually, they are accompanied by some sort of proof of their claims. By concise, I mean two to three short sentences at the most. That’s asking a lot of very few words.

So, what does all this mean for your nonprofit? How does all this market-speak apply to your agency? What advantage will formulating value propositions do for your organization? Why should you bother?

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Articulating your value proposition is just one step in getting ready to approach funders. The term ‘value proposition’ resonates keenly with business professionals. For additional training on preparing to talk with business executives about making donations, take my free 20-minute training The Top Three Answers to Know Before Approaching Your Business Community at

Benefits to a Nonprofit

One of the biggest benefits of creating value propositions is that they will help increase donations to your agency. A value proposition is an essential part of a case for support. A case for support outlines why donors should give to your agency and how they can be involved in doing so. It is written from the donor’s perspective. A good value proposition can be derived from a good case for support. For donors, that is. For best results, you want to reach all the groups that you need for your nonprofit to succeed.

For example, your agency needs clients to fulfill your mission and grant and contract obligations. You need staff to carry out your organization’s operations. You need volunteers to augment operations and add value to your agency’s services. You need good board members. And you need community support. An organizational value proposition, like one used on a website, will help you reach all these constituencies. Specific value propositions will help you recruit members of each group.

Formulating a Value Proposition

To create a value proposition you need to:

  1. Identify all the benefits your organization offers for each group.
  2. Identify the specific constituencies’ main problem, or pain point, that investing in your nonprofit will solve.
  3. Connect the value to the constituent problem.

The value proposition should answer the questions:

  •  What are you offering?
  • Who are you offering it to?
  • How will taking advantage of it improve the person’s life?
  • Why your nonprofit and not another agency?
  • When will the value be delivered?

 The focus of the proposition is not on what is being delivered but on the journey of going from having the problem to having it solved. In other words, how your agency resolves the constituent’s pain point. 

For example, a donor may be troubled that people go hungry. And it is troubling to go hungry because that means people are more likely to suffer malnutrition, get sick, and be a burden on the health care system. Which means more costs to the healthcare system. Which means healthcare costs and taxes go up. Adults going hungry also means they are more likely to be distracted at work, or not go to work at all in pursuit of food. Employers are left in a bind. Companies see reduced workforce productivity. Children who go hungry are more likely to do poorly in school, which leads to low educational attainment, which leads to high unemployment and an uneducated workforce, which leads to a poorer economy. See how may pain points our donor may have? The donor feels uncomfortable, pays more for healthcare, pays higher taxes, has a higher burden at work, sees unemployment go up in his community, and may have to grapple with a poor economy. The benefits of resolving these pain points are enormous.

But remember, value propositions are very clear, brief, and concise. Every word counts. And that takes time and thought. Somehow, you need collapse the precious paragraph into two short sentences.  And write them using the same words that your donor uses. You want to be as clear and relatable as possible. Which means you need to do some market research and find out what words and phrases best resonate with your donors. A value proposition is not something easily done. Even marketers have difficulty formulating good ones.

Using Value Propositions in a Nonprofit Setting

Once you have a value proposition for your organization to reach the community and one for each constituency group you want to reach – donors, client, employees, volunteers, and board members - you can use them for fundraising, outreach, staff recruitment and retention, volunteer recruitment and retention, board member recruitment and retention, and garnering community support. All the value propositions will be related yet different. You will want to use the language from each constituency group for best results.

An organizational value proposition can be placed on your website and used for press releases, social media posts, and other general communications. Specific value propositions aimed at getting more clients, employees, volunteers, and board members can be used on your individual web pages and in your outreach, recruitment, and retention materials. Value propositions aimed at donors can be included in your case for support and the materials you create from it. For example, brochures, donation pages, annual appeals, corporate giving campaigns, grant narratives and other fundraising materials. 

Wrapping It Up

Creating written value propositions have many benefits. They help generate community support, increase donations to your nonprofit, outreach to potential clients, and recruit talented and qualified staff, volunteers, and board members. They tell people exactly what to expect in return of their investment of time, talent, or treasure. They help a nonprofit unify their messages so that the community knows exactly who your nonprofit is and exactly what your agency stands for. Although they are difficult and time-consuming to create, the many benefits are worth the price.

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