3 Key Factors Your Value Proposition Needs
I heard a client struggle today in trying to figure out her organization’s value proposition. “What is it that we do that makes interacting with us worthwhile, something people can’t do without?”
Being something that people feel they can’t do without is a high bar, but attainable. But then I thought, if I were selling high-end sneakers, would my athlete buyer respond to the same value proposition as my fashion buyer? Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. Do I need to acknowledge both audiences in my value proposition? Is the bar the same in each audience?
Would my peer-to-peer fundraiser respond to the same value proposition as my donor? Probably, but not necessarily.
To answer this question, Otis Fulton, Turnkey’s expert on the psychology of motivation, referred me to the work of economist Daniel Pink. In his book, "Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," Pink identifies three factors that lead to people being satisfied both at work and at home. The three factors that are almost universally important are:
- Autonomy, or the desire to be self-directed.
- Mastery, or the itch to keep improving at something that’s important to us.
- Purpose, the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful beyond ourselves.
When we at Turnkey design and plan interactions between our nonprofit clients and our volunteer fundraisers, we try and deliver these things in the form of that experience. And it is stunningly effective. The masters of this technique are the folks at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. Their volunteer leadership infrastructure delivers these three necessary elements of satisfaction hand over fist.
But, this delivery of satisfaction is not part of their value proposition. Here’s the American Cancer Society value proposition:
Together with our millions of supporters, the American Cancer Society saves lives by:
• Helping you stay well: We help you take steps to prevent cancer or detect it early.
• Helping you get well: We’re in your corner to guide you through every step of a cancer experience.
• Finding cures: We fund groundbreaking research into cancer's causes and cures.
• Fighting back: We work with lawmakers to pass laws that defeat cancer and rally communities to join the fight.
This value proposition is working great at large for donors, survivors and caregivers. But another category of relayer is experiencing a different set of benefits.
Relay for Life has created an unarticulated value proposition that includes giving leadership volunteers these opportunities:
- Autonomy, which conveys its trust in the volunteer.
- Competence, the chance to develop the volunteer's skill set to accomplish important work.
- A connection to something greater than themselves, which can become one of the most rewarding aspects of the volunteers’ lives.
Sound familiar? Yep—it’s Daniel Pink’s three factors. The delivery of these elements is the largest part of what is driving the success of Relay For Life, but the trifecta of satisfaction is undefined as having a place in the value proposition.
Question: What would happen if we paid attention—in a measurable way—to the things volunteers find satisfying in their relationships with our organizations?
Answer: We’d see more Relay-esque fundraising.
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising,” and the 2023 book, "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape," and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” She and Otis are also co-authors of the books, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising" and "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape." When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.