It’s a phrase you hear beginning in Marketing 101: readers respond to benefit-oriented copy. Yet, many nonprofit marketers don’t seem to know what the term means. Skim through the brochure, website or Facebook page of any nonprofit organization and you’ll see example after example of features.

• We do X
• This event will include Y
• This product contains Z

There’s nothing inherently wrong with listing the features of your product (or event, or organization), but in order to inspire action in a reader, you must turn those features into benefits.

The simplest way to explain it is the following equation: A benefit = a feature + the reader.

“The Amazing Cooking Machine bakes a potato in 10 seconds!” Great. That’s a feature. Add the reader into to the mix (usually with a “you” statement) to get: “You’ll have dinner on the table for your entire family in less than 15 minutes.”

Confused about whether your copy is selling features or benefits? Practice reading it aloud and asking, “So what?” If your sentence passes the “So what?” test, you’ve succeeded. If it doesn’t, go back to the drawing board and find a way to make your copy more compelling to the reader.

It can be tricky to bring this technique to nonprofit marketing, but it’s worth the effort.

“Loved for centuries, The Nutcracker is the quintessential holiday story,” becomes, “Rediscover all the things you love about the holidays in The Nutcracker.”

“We’ve helped thousands of families stay warm this winter through our winter coat donation program,” becomes “You can feel the joy of the season by keeping a neighbor warm, and get a head start on your spring cleaning!”