‘4 Steps: what a Fundraising Product is, and isn’t’

Charities are fast cottoning on to the value of applying Product Analysis discipline to their fundraising operation. I’m speaking about it at the IFC this year, with Catherine Cottrell. At the start of every fundraising Product Portfolio Analysis project comes the big question, ‘What is a Product’? Answering this question is one of the most useful outcomes of following through a project this. But for those reading this blog looking for a clever, concise definition, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. It’s just not that simple.

The definition varies from charity to charity, and from person to person within organisations. Nonetheless, I’d suggest that if you’re not clear what your products are you’ll be missing big strategic opportunities. Clarity here helps you understand what to develop, where to invest and innovate, and crucially where to disinvest.  If you’re a fundraiser struggling with this question, I recommend starting by taking the following four steps, steps that include my simple product considerations checklist:

  1. Shift your perception to a consumer viewpoint. Think about what you do from your audience’s point of view. Your product list needs to make sense to them, these should be ‘offers’ you could explain to them if they asked how they can support you.
  2. Write up a list of what you now think your products are, department by department.
  3. Review your list against my checklist (which you can see at the bottom of this post) and make changes to your list.
  4. For each product write a short punchy definition and objective, and list the key activities that fall under each product.

This process will cause lots of healthy debate and your final list may have to break a couple of my checklist considerations. But that’s fine, as you’ll now have a better grip on what you’re selling to your audiences and be ready to start your evaluation. I aim to post some thoughts on next steps so stay tuned, or just give me a shout here.

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