Nonprofits can learn from The Godfather.

Even if you don't know the film, you probably know its most famous line. Marlon Brando, as Don Corleone, uttering "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

Take away the sinister tone, and you have a brilliant piece of fundraising advice.

Your "offer" is a key part of any successful fundraising appeal.

The purpose of the offer is to make it easy for your donor to say, "Yes! I'll give today!"

Yet far too many nonprofits fail to make any sort of offer at all.


At its core, an offer is a call to action.

For your nonprofit, an offer is a reason for your donor to do something. It's a reason to give, and it's a reason to give today.


Strong offers have four key elements: a problem, a solution, a cost, and urgency.

Let's look at each of them in the context of this back-to-school fundraising appeal:

urgent need adopt a classroom

Here's what makes an offer a compelling one:

  • The problem needs to be human-sized. In the example above, the fundraising organization presents problems facing two local elementary schools.

    Problem #1: Teachers are using their own money to buy classroom supplies.

    Problem #2: Many children rely on the food that's provided at school, during the school day.

  • The solution needs to be believable. In the e-appeal above, it's called "Adopt-A-Classroom."

    Donations can help in two ways. Teachers can purchase the classroom supplies they need, and kids can have healthy food and snacks to take home on weekends.

  • The cost needs to be something the donor can afford and a good "value" for the money. In the offer above, the organization is asking donors for $200.

    The e-appeal says $100 will be used for classroom supplies. Another $100 will be used to buy backpack snacks for kids to take home on weekends.

  • There needs to be an urgent reason to give now. Every appeal needs a deadline. The organization above sent this as a back-to-school appeal, asking for gifts by August 31 before school starts.


This is a good e-appeal. There are a couple of things that could make it better, but overall, it's really good.

One reason it works is because it makes a strong offer. It presents a specific problem and a solution, along with a cost to "fix" the problem, and a deadline.

Here's another thing that makes this e-appeal stand out. This organization sent it in the summer - instead of in December, when many (many!) nonprofits send their fundraising appeals.

(If you'd like, I can review your last appeal, tell you what works, and what could make your next one perform even better.)


Some nonprofits include one, two, or three parts of an offer. The e-appeal above is a good example of an "offer" that includes all four parts.

You want your appeals - and your offers - to include

  • a problem,
  • a solution,
  • a cost that the donor can afford and seems like a "good deal," and
  • urgency, or a reason for the donor to give today.

This organization in the example above makes a strong offer. They also do a great job of sending out multiple asks (and offers) throughout the year.

That said, a lot of nonprofits make these three common mistakes:

  1. failing to make a compelling offer when they "ask,"
  2. only sending one appeal letter (or e-appeal) a year, and
  3. sending that one appeal in December

For now, focus on #1. Start thinking about the "offer" you might make to donors in your next appeal.

Think about the problem you address, the solution you have, how a donor could help, and why they should give now.

Then, when you do send your next appeal, make them an offer they can't refuse!

To learn more about offers, read this great series of posts from Steven Screen and the Better Fundraising Company.

Photo credit(s): Pixabay

Need help creating a compelling offer? Or writing a fundraising appeal that will raise more money? Laura Rhodes can help.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.

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