You can’t have a successful retail store without a product to sell.

You could have the world’s greatest logo, tagline, and storefront. All the window dressing to entice the customer to come in and buy your product.

But that is not enough. You must have the goods inside if you are going to be successful. It’s one thing to get the customer to come in the store. It’s totally another thing to persuade them to buy something.

It’s the same way in a non-profit. You must have a “product” to present to donors so that they will “buy” them. We call that product: donor offers.

But here’s the problem. Too many non-profits do not do the work they need to do to provide their front-line fundraisers with offers that they can present to their donors. Instead, some authority figure tosses out the list of major program categories and tells the fundraiser to “get out there and raise the money.”

I know. Jeff and I talk about this a lot. And you might be saying: “I get it.” But if we were to look at how things are going in your organization, we might find the “empty store” we see in so many other places.

In the last four weeks, someone on our team has brought to our attention this very problem.  And these organizations, large and small, sophisticated and beginners, are all approaching this topic of donor offers in an alarmingly laid-back way – almost as if it didn’t matter. The result is that while the window dressing of the non-profit – its cause and the presentation of its cause – is attractive and compelling, there is very little to present to donors.

This is why, if you are going to start a major gift program, or improve the one you have, you must figure this one area out – you must “package your program” into donor offers.  And this packaging is a process of identifying all the categories and sub-categories of program and then taking the entire budget of your organization and distributing every penny of that budget, including overhead, to those categories.

The result of this process is that you will have the “product” (i.e. donor offers) to put in your “store,” so that the frontline fundraisers have a portfolio of offers to present to their donors.

Here is the beauty of all of this. When you do this right, it immediately impacts the level of giving from your donors. Giving goes up. Why? Because the donors have something that appeals to them – something that matches their passions and interests – and they invest in it to make it happen.

When you are setting goals for each of your donors, or for your caseload, or for the entire mid, major, or planned gift area in your organization – be sure you are taking care of this very strategic and necessary element of your success. You must “stock the store with product.” If you do, you will have very satisfied donors, you will be more successful in your efforts, and your caseload and your mid, major, and planned gift efforts will see an increase in giving.

If you don’t take care of this, then expect to have mediocre results. Your store will be empty or partially stocked, and the donors will not find their experience with you to be very satisfying.

Here is the reality of this situation. While an older generation of donors were happy to just give to your organization because you are “doing great things,” this is not true of the upcoming generation of donors. They have specific drivers – specific donor offers they are interested in – and they want to know a lot about what you are doing in their area of interest and what you WILL DO if they give you a gift. It is a whole different scene than we all are used to.

And the problem is that many non-profits are filled with authority figures in management, program, and finance who do not understand or embrace this reality. Believe me, Jeff and I know this and we experience it every day. That is why we are passionate about doing something about it – writing blogs like this – educating, etc.

So, do your part in your organization to change this around. Stock the store. It will be the best thing you have done for your donors, yourself, and the organization you serve.