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.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.