A/B Test Your Way to Better Fundraising Results
Your organization’s current fundraising programs may be getting results. They’re working—or so it seems. But what if your results could be getting better… and better and better? The highest performing nonprofits continually test their appeals programs to optimize programs.
A/B testing, which allows you to compare two things that are alike except for one different element, is one of the most effective ways to see continuous improvement.
A/B Testing as a Value-Add Learning Opportunity
With A/B testing, every appeal has the potential to deliver not only donation dollars, but also a wealth of useful information to allow for sequential improvement.
You might be getting the same donors giving the same amounts every year. However, what about all the potential donors who are ignoring your current appeals? If you test, track and measure, you can leverage your findings to produce increasingly better response rates.
One of the best-known success stories involving A/B testing is former President Barack Obama’s successful election campaign. The Obama campaign conducted hundreds of A/B tests that ultimately produced a 49 percent increase in donations and 161 percent increase in sign-ups, according to Kyle Rush, the campaign’s digital team leader.
Now many nonprofits don’t have an entire digital team at their disposal to engineer tests and gather and analyze data. Be aware that cost-effective solutions that help facilitate efficient testing, data collection and analysis are available. And if performing a traditional 50/50 split test seems like too much of a gamble, test a smaller group—15 percent or 20 percent is enough to provide valid data.
Top 10 A/B Testing Tactics for Nonprofits
A/B testing can help you uncover increasingly effective ways to communicate with your constituents. What resonates? What triggers higher response?
You can test any variable you think may influence the behavior of your targets. Just make sure you’re testing something that will allow you to make a significant improvement in future efforts.
• Providing postage-paid return envelopes. This requires an up-front investment for a postal permit. Many organizations have found significant ROI to justify this tactic.
• Format of envelope, mailer and donation form
• Email subject line and from line
• CTA buttons (text, design and placement)
• Donation page format, copy and visuals
• Landing page format, copy and visuals
• Donation incentives (e.g. inclusion of a free gift in mailing)
• Suggested donation amounts
• Sign-up incentives
• Appeal messaging: Does devoting more space to success stories work best? Or do more people respond to messages that focus more heavily on the need for support?
Tips for Implementing Your A/B Test
Make the most of A/B testing with these guidelines:
• Ensure the test is truly randomized. You don’t want any factors to influence results aside from the variable you’re testing, so don’t choose a certain region or demographic as your test group. (An exception would be if your goal is to gather data on whether a particular format appeals to, for example, a younger age group or other demographic.)
• Don’t test more than one variable at a time—you want to determine exactly which element your targets are responding to. (Testing more than one element at a time is known as multivariate testing, which is a more complex undertaking.)
• An A/B test is only as good as the accuracy of its tracking. Be sure to track and measure results, so you’re left with good, actionable information.
• Be careful not to stray from your organization’s brand when testing design or message variations. This can confuse donors.
It isn’t always palatable to depart from the easy and familiar. But remember, there could be a sea of untapped donor potential out there. You’ll never know until you test the waters.
Mark believes in the often-untapped power of data and testing for more effective fundraising. For over 15 years, Frisina has been at the forefront of delivering highly targeted, data-driven direct response programs for a wide array of organizations. As VP of Strata Company, his efforts have helped numerous clients reach more of the right people the right way, generating higher response rates and a greater return on investment. Mark received an MBA in marketing from Villanova University and when he’s not in the office, you can find him out on the golf course or cheering on his favorite sports teams.