Why a cup of tea means better fundraising

More than you probably realize, your fundraising has a lot to do with Japanese green tea. As they say in direct mail letters, let me explain.

See, I’m a big fan of Japanese green tea. I drink it all the time, and I’m very particular about the varieties of tea I like, how it’s brewed, how it’s enjoyed, where I get it from, and on and on. It’s a whole thing.

My trusted source is a distributor on the West Coast that works with certain tea cultivars in Japan.

Over the holidays, I got an email from this provider offering a free tea canister plus a special discount with an order of $50 or more. My first thought as soon as I saw that email was “I should order some tea.” Never mind that I already had plenty on hand (I rarely let my supply dwindle), and probably wouldn’t be ordering again for several weeks. And never mind that I don’t really want or use a tea canister (the foil package the tea comes in keeps it as fresh or fresher than a canister). And yet, despite those two reasons NOT to order, my immediate reaction was to tell myself that I should place an order and do it now.

Right there, in that one simple example, is the amazing power of the offer and why it’s crucial for fundraising. The offer is the quid pro quo. It’s the “you give me this and I’ll give you that.” It’s the deal between buyer and seller. Now, this may seem purely transactional, and in one sense, it is, but it’s also so much more than that.

The offer is inherently motivating. It’s one of the surest ways to get a prospect’s interest and show that prospect what’s in it for them. The offer is the single most effective thing that has ever been devised to move someone from inertia to action (except maybe a gun to the head, which when you think about it is an offer too).

The offer is essential to all marketing, really, but it’s critical to direct response marketing.  It’s equally critical to fundraising – except that many nonprofits don’t seem to realize it.

Most fundraising appeals don’t present the donor with a specific, compelling offer. Instead, what most donors see is a general, nonspecific, mushy sort of offer that basically consists of “donate some money to ABC charity.”

Now suppose my tea vendor had sent me an email saying, in essence, “buy some tea.” My reaction would have been “uh, okay, maybe later.” But no, they didn’t do that. Instead, they made me a specific and compelling offer, and that offer is what turned a “maybe” into an “I should do this now.”

It’s the same for a nonprofit. If your offer to donors is “give to fund our mission,” your likely generating a lot of “maybes.” Many, many nonprofits do exactly this, and it’s one of the reasons that cause a lot of donor appeals to underperform, failing to raise as much money as they could do.

This is why it’s vital to think what the offer to your donors should be and how to present it in your fundraising appeals – online or offline. That’s what will motivate more donors to give and often to give more than they did before. In your fundraising appeals, the offer carries more weight than your logo, the size of the envelope, the font for the appeal letter, whether the email is long or short – any of those things. The offer is what engages your donors and motivates them to take action now. Yes, it’s that important.

And yes, I did order more tea.

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