It’s a horrible dream that wakes nonprofit marketers up at night.  It goes something like this:

Someone visits your website, reads through the stories of each kid you’ve helped, then heads to your donation page.  They read the page title and the sentence at the top of the page, and they scroll up and down to see your entire donation form.  Then, even though they’ve spent forty minutes on your site, they’re gone with one mouse click.  No donation, no contact information, no beginning to a long-lasting relationship.

What I’m talking about here is called “abandonment,” and nonprofit marketers should do everything they can to minimize the number of people that abandon their websites prior to taking action.  What I want to touch on today is how we can use a clear value proposition to minimize abandonment and increase your conversions (the number of people that take action on your website).

Don’t know what a value proposition is?  No problem.

Defining a Value Proposition

The value proposition refers to the benefits a visitor receives for taking action on your website.  It answers the question “what’s in it for me?” for each of your visitors.

For example, someone selling running shoes might write on their website, “Run 5,000 miles with no pain.”  That’s a clear benefit to buying those shoes.  When discussing nonprofit value propositions, we usually mean the benefits to a visitor when they sign up for a newsletter, make a donation or register for an event.

Examples of Nonprofit Value Propositions

The value propositions on your nonprofit’s website can have a huge impact in whether visitors take action.  Often what I’ve found is that because nonprofits aren’t selling goods like running shoes or computers, they either don’t spend much time developing value propositions for their conversions or choose to leave them out entirely.  Let’s take a look at a few examples in more depth.

The Email Newsletter Signup Form

Almost every nonprofit who sends email newsletters has a form on their website to sign up.  Often, the form looks something like this:

Weak Nonprofit Value Proposition Email Signup

The text “Sign Up For Our E-Newsletter” doesn’t provide an effective value proposition.  Instead, all I know is that I’m giving up my email address in exchange for an “E-newsletter.”  I have no idea what content is going to be delivered or how often.  There may be valuable content, but it takes me a lot of mental effort to figure out what that might be.

Instead, what if the text read:

“Sign up for monthly news, volunteer opps and stories of our kids”

True, it’s a little longer, but the value is clear.  If I’m interested in organizational news, volunteer opportunities or stories of the kids the organization helped, I’m much more likely to sign up.  Plus, I also know that emails will only be sent once a month, so I’m not concerned about daily emails hitting my inbox.

If you want to offer very targeted value for your newsletter allow visitors to sign up for a specific segment, such as your “volunteer opportunities” segment.  That way they’re only getting the information that provides them the most value.

The Donation Form

A donation form is another place on nonprofit websites where there is a ton of opportunity to offer value.  It might not be value in the form of goods, but emotional value is a powerful currency.  Let’s take a look at the top of a donation form I saw recently:

Nonprofit Value Proposition Donate Online

When I see a donation form like this, the value proposition isn’t clear to me.  I have no idea how my donation is going to be used.  Will it be used for a specific program?  Will it go to helping mow the lawn outside the office?  I have no way to know.

More than anything, I don’t get immediate emotional value from my contribution.  Now take a look at this donate page from Invisible Children:

Invisible Children Nonprofit Value Proposition Donation

Part of the 2nd paragraph reads:

“By choosing to donate to Invisible Children today, you are taking an active role in efforts to stop Joseph Kony, protect vulnerable communities, bring abducted soldiers home…”

The value proposition is clear.  If I donate today, I’m helping bring abducted soldiers home, as well as protect and recover communities.

The best part is all it took was one sentence for a clear, emotional value proposition.

What Makes Strong Nonprofit Value Propositions

So what makes a good value proposition for each action on your nonprofit’s website?

  • It’s clear and easy to understand (avoid jargon)
  • It’s concrete and describes clear benefits to taking action
  • It helps to calm fears and minimize risks (e.g. mentioning that all donations are processed securely)
  • It demonstrates why taking this action with your organization is better than taking it with a different nonprofit
  • It’s short (a headline, couple of sentences and bullet points if possible)

Obviously, the tips above vary depending on the action you want taken.  If you’re trying to write text for an email signup form in your sidebar, a couple of sentences is going to be too much.  Think contextually about the cost for the visitor to take action (both in time and money), and adjust the length of your value proposition to match what they have to give up.

Now go optimize your nonprofit’s value propositions and stop waking up in the middle of the night wondering how many donations you’ve lost.  And if you have any examples of great nonprofit value propositions or need help with your own, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments.

Image courtesy of Gerry Dincher, Flickr


  1. This is the best piece I have read so far on Non-profits’ Value Proposition. You also applied your lesson to the piece- clear and concise. Thank you so much, Jonathan.