One aspect that is altogether too forgotten in the non-profit world is how to stand out in the crowd. However, as more and more organizations vie for the same donor dollars, this will become a trait of the utmost importance in order to get and retain donations.

We read last week that there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S. What this says to me is that there are a lot of people doing good, and now each organization must find their unique place within this community.

So what is it that makes your organization unique?

If you don’t already have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or a UVP (Unique Value Proposition) I would suggest starting there. This is a practice that many businesses’ use, but I can see non-profit organizations benefiting from it.

Here are my own steps for finding and creating the USP:

  1. Host meeting #1 – gather the key principles of the organization for a USP specific meeting.
  2. Start the meeting by explaining the concept behind a USP/UVP and show examples. Have everyone review and discuss the following lists to get them in the mindset of what it is that a great USP does. Here’s a few lists:
  3. Have everyone list the top five traits of the organization that they believe is unique. Give them this scenario: “Imagine you are in an elevator and you only have five floors to tell someone what it is that your organization does. What is the main message that you want to leave them with?”  Give them two minutes to do this and then bring up a flipchart for everyone’s responses to go on after. Narrow this down to a top five unique selling points list.
  4. End the meeting. It’s amazing what our brains can do after having a short break. We don’t want to rush into this so usually having a week or so in between this meeting and the next will help everyone to sink into the idea of USP/UVP and will definitely allow for more creativity and research to bubble up before the next meeting.
  5. Meeting #2 – Gather key principles again
  6. Start with the top five unique selling points of your organization. Listen to any new feedback that may have risen up for people during the week away. If necessary, incorporate a few more ideas into the top five.
  7. Hone this list into five unique selling points. Rank them from 1 to 5.
  8. The key message that gets ranked as the number one unique selling point will be your USP. It’s likely that you have a few secondary points to include in your message. Try to narrow this all down to one sentence so that everyone is clear on why your organization is unique and how you stand out from the crowd.

This is a really simple version of finding your USP and will likely work well with small non-profits. For larger non-profits, it’s important to allow more time and space for this type of activity. There may be more discussion around various elements of what makes your organization unique. Step #3 can be as long or as short as you’d like. Here are some other questions to perhaps include here:

  • How is your organization different from competition in your area? Are you global or local
  • What does your organization excel at?
  • Is your work on the ground done directly with benefactors? How strong are those relationships? How were they formed?
  • What physical, emotional and spiritual needs do your nonprofit meet?
  • What type of donation plans does your organization offer?
  • What type of events does your organization host?
  • What is your perfect donor audience – who finds the most appeal in what you do? (This can help you understand WHY you are unique in helping that group)
  • In what ways does your organization interact with donors?
  • How are your staff or volunteer group uniquely trained to enhance experiences for your organization?
  • What is the outcome of donating to your organization?
  • What do clients and donors say about your organization?

Ultimately, your organization has to sell itself to donors. Becoming clear and concise on your unique points will assist you in doing so. This will differ from your competition and allow everyone in the industry to do more effective work. This will not only help attract new donors to your cause as it fits perfectly for them, but it will help to keep donors around longer because you are so defined on what you do and how you are unique.

*Source: Some ideas were generated with help from this checklist at