How to Craft a Unique Value Proposition for your Non-profit Organization

June 23, 2014

Few donors are willing to invest time, energy, or money in any cause unless they have a clear understanding of how far their efforts will go.  Developing a strong, convincing Unique Value Proposition (UVP) for your organization or cause is the first step to mapping out a successful development campaign.

What is a Unique Value Proposition?

A UVP does exactly what its name suggests: it describes the exclusive, continuous value your donors will gain by supporting your cause. More specifically, it answers two questions:

  • What makes your cause unique and worthy of support?
  • How is aligning with your non-profit beneficial for both your prospective donors (either individuals or businesses) and for the community?

A compelling UVP sets your organization apart in a competitive market. It should not only persuade prospective donors to invest in your worthy cause, but also explain how their sponsorship will make a difference, bring a benefit, or create an opportunity that they won’t find elsewhere.

With that in mind, what goes into an effective UVP?

First, establish goals. These can be either long- or short-term (or both), but they must include clearly-defined objectives, direction, and (if possible) a way to measure the end results. When outlining your goals, consider a few basic questions:

  • How do you want supporters and/or the community to perceive your organization? It’s helpful to craft a brief positioning statement (or summary) that identifies the way you want your audience to see your cause: who you are, whom you serve, how you serve them, and what you offer.
  • What does your organization want to accomplish? Do you want to gain recognition for your cause, your work, or your members? Do you hope to create a significant change in community behavior (such as increased recycling efforts or cancer screening)? Or, do you need to boost your brand awareness in order to draw funding or volunteer support?
  • What is the best result you can expect to deliver? It’s important to be pragmatic here to avoid creating unrealistic expectations from your prospective sponsors.

Next, know your target audience. Before you can craft a message demonstrating what is unique, important, or beneficial about your organization, it’s essential to understand who will be receiving the message. Identify all possible sources of support, including key decision-makers. For the greatest impact, perform careful research to create a detailed persona of your ideal supporters. Use interviews and surveys to identify your prospects’ demographics, motivations, and attitudes.  Then, use that information to highlight the aspects of your organization that will most resonate with them.

Last, analyze your current situation. Take a hard look at your organization as it stands, and build a clear, objective picture of how well positioned you are to achieve your goals.

  • Clearly define your organization’s values, mission, structure, and systems.  Are they cohesive in their purpose and function? Do they send a message that’s consistent with your cause?
  • Pinpoint your organization’s strengths (what you do well) and weaknesses (what needs work or reevaluation).
  • Identify any social, economic, or political factors that can affect your organization, such as community demographics, legal guidelines, or controversial viewpoints.
  • Compare and understand your organization’s position relative to competing non-profits:
    •  What sets your cause apart from that of other similarly-minded organizations?
    •  How does their work affect their communities?
    •  What do their supporters like most about their work?
    •  How well do they communicate the benefits of their work to their supporters?

An important note:  This position analysis sums up your organization as it actually is, not as you want your audience to see it.  Remember to be objective and factual when gathering your information. An accurate analysis – even if it’s not a favorable one – will help you better focus on your distinctive value qualities.

Craft your Unique Value Proposition

Once you’ve determined where you want to go and how well-prepared you are to get there, you can shape a powerful message to attract the right supporters.  Your UVP should paint a clear, compelling picture of who you are, what significant work you do, and why prospective donors should support your cause. Remember the following:

  • Speak to your target audience. Tailor your UVP to resonate with the needs, perceptions, and attitudes of your potential donors. What changes result from your organization’s work – and why should supporters care? How does your approach solve challenges or make a difference to them in a way that others don’t?
  • Focus on a return for investment. Develop a detailed cost analysis to show financial supporters exactly where their money goes, or to illustrate a significant social profit where the overall benefits outweigh the initial cost.
  • Emphasize sustainable, continued value. Show donors that the benefits or rewards of supporting your cause go beyond their initial contribution. How do their contributions enhance their businesses or make a lasting difference in the community?

A unique value proposition does more than argue for the worthiness of your cause; it highlights the ways in which your organization is best equipped to champion that cause.  More importantly, your UVP is a road map for your donors: it shows exactly how you’ll empower them to create change through their support of your organization.

We’ve been lucky to work with local non-profit organizations that make a huge impact in our community. If you’re a non-profit organization looking for ways to increase your development reach, give us a call. Your first consultation is free of charge!

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