A value proposition is an internal management statement that succinctly frames your worth in your market – to your audiences. That may sound simple but it can be difficult to synthesize. Non-profits especially feel the pull from many audiences, and so many ways to provide support to members.

Necessary? Absolutely.

Difficult? Yes.

Impossible? No.

As with many things, there is a process for creating a good value proposition, and it’s kind of boring. In my experience strong value propositions require discipline, clear-eyed analysis, honest assessments, and the ability to actively listen to your audiences. Ho hum. There is no “blue sky” or “re-invention” or “big idea” in the steps.

But do not be deceived: a good value proposition process will open for you more future-forward thinking, but it will do so with confidence and without guessing, and it will objectively put the voice of your members at the centre of your decisions.

Let the process be boring, and the innovation and bright future will follow.

Pro tips: Construction of a value proposition statement 

A value proposition statement – colloquially known as an elevator pitch – should clearly and specifically answer four questions.

1.   Who is it for? Pro tip: describe the customer with at least two adjectives.

2.   What do they want or need? Pro tip: include at least a word or two about both.

3.   Who are you? Pro tip: challenge yourself not to use the word “association/society/organization.”

4.   What do you do uniquely, better or best to fulfill the wants and needs of your audience? Pro tip: focus on just the one thing that is your secret sauce.

The secret to a strong value proposition

Of those four questions, the one that many non-profits take for granted is the second: the audience’s wants and needs. Too many boards, volunteer committees and membership teams assume they have the answer.

The perspective of many non-profits is often too collapsed and close to provide objectivity on this pivotal question. After all, for many of you, your members are your customers, and they are also your owners. Non-profits have to work harder at getting perspective and objectivity when answering, “What do they want and need?” This often isn’t as problematic in the for-profit world, where separation and distance are more generally baked into a business.

Actions to capture the voice of your members

There is a pathway to doing this for organizations of every size and budget. It includes

·     Better, more insightful annual surveys,

·     Using available digital analytics to inform you of what your audiences are passively telling you, and

·     Diving into your membership and revenue data.

All of these methods – in small and large measure – can bring you to this perspective, and to what all of your audiences are telling you, in a condensed and actionable manner. The trick is to make it a regular process – this is never “one and done.”

A member-centric value proposition: Takeaways

If you invest in only one area of your value proposition, it must be this: the voice of the member. The other questions in a value proposition revolve around that. Focusing on the voice of the member is, after all, what it means to be truly member-centric.

So, don’t assume you know the voice of the member and do not rely only on your intuition – although it is valuable. Create a process to regularly and objectively analyze your organization through the eyes of your customers.

Want to learn more? Check out our do’s and don’ts for the value proposition process.

About Christine Saunders

Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.


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