Best Practices Never Go Out of Style
STEP 3: Keep testing. Successful fundraising is a marathon, not a sprint
After you figure out one thing that appears to be a best practice, retest it or test a variation of it. Do your donors respond better to "X" instead of "Y"? Great! But how to they respond to "Z"? This isn't an eye exam where you check minuscule changes that half of us can't even decipher. Test things that are meaningful, retest them and test new options.
STEP 4: Never underestimate the power of common sense (which is far too uncommon)
Let's be honest — testing costs money and requires a fairly large mailing list. If you have 500 donors, you aren't going to have meaningful test results if you split your list in half and mail each one a letter with a different color envelope. But don't give up on finding best practices.
Testing in fundraising is a science, but when you can't afford "science," keep in mind that fundraising is also an art. So, put yourself in the shoes of your donor. How old is she? How did she first become a donor to your organization? Does she live in a metropolitan area or a rural area? (I've used "she" because direct-response donors are typically female. But don't take my word for it. Your file composition may be different.) In other words, look at your data and draw some general observations about your donor file as a whole.
With this information, make smart decisions. Most of your donors are older than 55? Trust me — small fonts don't get read. We baby boomers are a vain lot, and putting on reading glasses to read a direct-mail appeal isn't happening. Did you attract donors through a family bike-a-thon? If so, a photo of a child may speak to them more than one of a middle-aged man. Are your donors heavily concentrated in rural areas? An offer to help farmers grow drought-resistant crops may resonate with them.
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 email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.