Throughout the year, you’re making offers to your donor. “Give today and you will accomplish XYZ.” Some offers work, others fizzle. While sometimes it’s easy to see (after the fact) why an offer didn’t resonate with your donors, at other times there is a clear indicator. After all, we’re raising funds from people – and people are unpredictable.

But the best fundraising offers generally share some common characteristics:

They are tangible. “Help the world” is a bit more than most people can take on. You want your donors to feel good about giving, and that means that they can imagine the good thing they are going to do by writing a check or going online and giving. Yes, we often must avoid being too narrow in our offers so we don’t generate restricted gifts. So while you may not be able to say, “Give a child lunch every day,” what about, “Show a hungry child you care by giving today”? If you’re told “no” on a specific offer, don’t take the safe path and instead go with the most generic offer you can come up with. Find out what the boundaries are and then be creative about staying within them while making your offer tangible.

They are believable. Perfectly true fundraising offers have been known to fail, likely because they seemed “too good to be true.” For example, a 4 to 1 match worked great, but a 12 to 1 match bombed. The same can be true if you promise to do more than seems believable to your reader. Ask yourself, “If I didn’t have all the inside information I have, would this seem plausible to me?” If not, rephrase the offer so it is challenging but credible.

They communicate to – not at – the donor. In their best-selling book Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath write, “To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from ‘What information do I need to convey?’ to ‘What questions do I want my audience to ask?’” Great offers don’t worry about educating; they worry about motivating. You want your readers to act – make a gift – not go online to do more research.

They are crystal clear. Good offers stand alone. They are not part of a string of offers we make, hoping one of them resonates and leads to action. “Consider making a gift” is a very different offer than “send a gift today to help a needy family.” “Check out our website” is fine in a newsletter but that’s not the action you want a potential donor to take after reading your online or print appeal.

They are lasting. As fundraisers, it’s tempting to abandon an offer that has been working because we get bored. If results have dipped in recent attempts, that temptation grows even stronger. But the problem may not be the offer; it may be that we’ve grown complacent talking about that offer. Are you constantly seeking out the best stories and the best photos to make that offer come to life? Are you engaging your readers’ hearts and well as their heads? Infographics are fine but they seldom take the place of a photo that captures the heart.

What’s the best offer? It’s giving something to our donors that they won’t want to refuse.