Even Great Creative Can’t Save a Bad Offer

If you’ve ever sat through a direct marketing seminar, you’ve probably heard experts expound on the old “40-40-20 Rule,” which states that “the success of your marketing effort depends 40% on the list, 40% on the offer and 20% on creative.”

Over the past 25 years, I’ve heard a lot of these experts and nearly every one gives a different set of numbers.  While their formulas may be different, everyone agrees that offers are important.

Ironically, the same people who will spend hours agonizing over fundraising copy will spend almost no time at all thinking about their offer.

Before I ever sit down to write copy or design a fundraising appeal, I want to make sure the offer is as good as it can be, and that I’ve answered the basic questions donors have about it.

7 Questions Donors Want to Know About Your Offer

1. Why are you writing me today?

You want the donor to take your offer seriously.  You need to tell her about a problem to solve or an opportunity to take advantage of.  A child is starving.  A nation has been devastated by an earthquake.  A man needs to know freedom from addiction. These are all problems.   We have a boatload of food and medicine for a disaster zone and all we need is the money to ship it. This is an opportunity.  The fact that the food will spoil unless we act now makes it both an opportunity and a problem.

2. What do you want me to do?

You need to invite the donor to be a part of the solution.  Donors like to solve problems.

3. Is it a good deal?

Donors want to know their money is being used efficiently and wisely.  If you have a sensible cost, all the better.  A Thanksgiving meal for $1.47.  The joy of Christmas and the love of God to a child for $11.44.  A Survival Kit for $35.  Each of these can be an excellent way for the donor to practice good stewardship.  If their gift is leveraged by a matching grant or a multiplier, even better!

4. Why should I do it NOW?

Are there immediate, negative consequences of not acting?  If not, the donor will often choose to give to another organization whose offer has more urgency.

5. Does this all make sense?

Your offer needs to fit into the donor’s experiential background and be consistent with what she already knows about your organization.  If all the donor knows is that you feed hungry people in Africa, it will likely confuse her if you ask her to give to a legal fund to help victims of persecution.  Does the offer fit your brand?

6. What do I get out of it?

Donor benefits are much more than a mere back-end premium.  A donor can give to fulfill a sense of duty, or to achieve consistency with their own self-concept, or simply to get that warm feeling of doing something good.

7. Why should I care?

Finally, nothing else matters unless you touch the heart of the donor.   If you have a real urgent problem to solve, you should have no difficulty telling a story that will move the donor.   Donors respond when you engage their emotions.  Their heads validate the decision already made in their hearts.