Best Practices Never Go Out of Style
Someone asked me last week for a list of best practices for direct-response fundraising. Oh, if it were that easy!
After all, I love checklists. Being able to look at a list of best practices and check them off one by one, knowing that when I had them all checked off, my copy would be successful — well, that's as close to heaven as I can imagine.
But the ambiguity is no excuse to flounder along, never paying attention to what works best in your direct-response efforts. So, instead of a "Top 10 List of Best Practices," here are four steps to help you establish your own best practices.
STEP 1: Accept the truth: There is no one formula that works for everyone
It's good to study what other people are doing in direct response. Reading articles, attending seminars or webinars — all good. But these aren't magic bullets. Donor files are built from different sources; alumni respond differently than event-acquired donors or direct-mail-acquired donors. Political donors may respond very differently than donors giving for religious motivations. You can apply everything you learn and still fail. Instead …
STEP 2: Test. That's how you find best practices for your donor file
While some things are best practices just because they are intuitive (for example, "Use a font size that is big enough for people to read"), many others are unique to your nonprofit. You have to test your way into knowing what is a best practice.
But remember a critical rule of testing — test only one variable at a time. If you change the font, color, photo, offer and size, all you know is that one combination of font/color/photo/offer/size did better than the other combination of font/color/photo/offer/size. That's not too helpful if you hope to use your learnings on future mailings. Instead, test one thing at a time. Learn, and then move on to the next test.