As a nonprofit fundraiser, you know that successful fundraising requires strategic planning and effort. But what if you could increase your chances of success by using a data-driven approach? In this blog post, we’ll outline four steps to fundraising testing that can help you do just that. So read on to learn more!

Too often, we do great testing and then let our opinion get in the way. If a test tells you something, learn from it. If you’re not sure, test again.

But above all else, don’t test and then ignore the results because you don’t like the outcome.

You aren’t your donor. You aren’t the target audience. It’s a mantra I repeat to myself often: you are not the donor. I’ll admit it: I’m guilty of letting my opinion hold too much value. Recently, I was testing an ad on Facebook and I really liked one photo over another. I tested both. The other photo won. My first instinct was to go with the photo I thought was better, but the audience was telling me they preferred the photo I didn’t particularly like. So, I went with the second photo and enjoyed 20% more lead conversions.

But how do you develop a good test for your fundraising? Follow these four steps:

1. Know Your Audience

First, know who the audience is for your test. Identify the segments you’ll be sending your fundraising appeal to and the channel you’ll be fundraising in. Once you’ve identified your segments, review the personas for that donor segment. (Don’t have a donor persona? Use this resource to create them.)

For example, you might identify these segments for your fundraising campaign:

  1. Active/lapsed donors who have given to an education fundraising campaign in the past 24 months
  2. Active donors who have given $50+ in the past 18 months
  3. Single gift donors from the previous 120 days
  4. Lapsed donors, 13-24 months, $250 largest single gift

For each of these segments, identify the appropriate personas. The persona is the demographic and psychographic profile of an individual that “looks like” your typical donor for that segment. You’ve likely created multiple personas for your non-profit.

2. Set Your Goals

Define the goals for the fundraising campaign. If you don’t know what to expect when you start a campaign, how will you know which levers to pull in order for it to be a success? For a direct mail campaign, you’ll have basic metrics to know whether or not it’s a profitable campaign (many nonprofits are happy at a 3:1 to 4:1 return on investment in direct mail). For other channels, such as email or search ads, your expected goals may vary based on past experience. Set a goal such as:

  1. Acquire 200 new donors.
  2. $45,000 in revenue.
  3. Acquire 125 new email leads.

Setting measurable goals will help you determine the viability of the changes you’re testing.

3. Develop Your Test

There are a number of different things you can test in your fundraising campaign, such as:

  1. Email subject line – Try new subject lines, add personalization, or try long vs short subject lines
  2. Sender name – we’ve found tremendous difference in the open rates of different senders. Try your organization’s President or just your organization’s name.
  3. Graphic design vs plain text – Often, a plain text email will outperform an email with a lot of design. Why? It comes down to deliverability – text emails get delivered.
  4. Long vs short content – You can test this in the email and on the landing page
  5. Buttons vs text links
  6. Use of photos; type of photos
  7. Videos
  8. Outer envelope – There are many tests you can run for direct mail envelopes
  9. Double sided vs single sided letters
  10. Font size

Once you’ve run your tests, take a look at the results and analyze what worked and what didn’t. Adjust your future fundraising campaigns accordingly. Be sure to document your tests so you can replicate successful campaigns and avoid repeating unsuccessful ones.

Decide what you want to evaluate based on your target audience and the objectives you wish to achieve.

4. Understand Your Metrics

You’ve defined your audience, goals, what you’re going to test, now you need to understand how you will measure the test and what metrics are important. For example, you may decide to test a graphical email vs an all-text email. The important metrics in this test will likely be:

  1. Click thru rate
  2. Conversion rate
  3. Total revenue
  4. Average revenue per donation
  5. Number of donations

One or more of these metrics may be the decision factor for the test, so you need to identify which metric(s) will determine the winner in the test. For example, total revenue may be the deciding metric in this test.

If the all-text email generates $2,000 in revenue and the graphical email generates $1,900 in revenue, the all-text email would be the winner. However, if you’re testing for acquisition of new donors, the conversion rate may be more important than total revenue.

You also need to establish a baseline for these metrics prior to running the test so that you can measure the impact of the change. For example, if your current click thru rate is 3% and your test increases that to 4%, that’s a 33% improvement which is significant. However, if your current click thru rate is 30% and your test only increases it to 31%, that’s only a 3.3% improvement

If you’re like most nonprofit professionals, you’re always looking for new and innovative ways to fundraise. But how do you know which fundraising strategies are going to be the most effective? One way to find out is through fundraising testing. In this blog post, you learned four steps that will help you create a successful fundraising test.