What Should You Test?
Our firm also has tested gift levels in special appeals and renewals. Since the purpose of these mailings is to generate net income, increasing response rate can make a big difference in income.
The great advantage here — besides an increased number of new members or higher net income — is that testing gift amounts is one of the least expensive tests you can perform. It doesn’t involve expensive variations in copy or package design.
2. Postage is an other crucial element to test. In acquisition efforts, we test to learn whether we get more members by using BREs or, instead, reply envelopes where the new member places a stamp on the envelope. BRE postage is expensive and, in some cases, we’ve found through testing that results actually are higher when BRE envelopes aren’t used.
For special appeals and renewal mailings sent to those who already are donors, we like to find out for which groups or segments of donors a “live stamp” reply envelope makes a difference. Adding a postage stamp to each return envelope does dramatically increase costs, but in many cases it can double the response rate.
For some acquisition programs, it also might be worth testing whether sending your mail via First Class rather than bulk (the new “standard mail”) can significantly boost returns. If you struggle to acquire new members, investing in First Class postage just might be worth it.
3. Involvement techniques — surveys, petitions, post cards to elected officials, etc. — often can boost response rates. You also might try a test that involves asking prospective or current members to sign a “Statement of Principle” or a “commitment to act.”
When you test these involvement devices in acquisition, be prepared to receive more responses without any contribution enclosed — or with low-dollar contributions. You could end up acquiring no more renewable members (typically, those whose initial gift is at least $15 or $20), but you’ll have some additional income to offset the investment cost of your acquisition mailings.