If You Aren't Testing, You Aren't Really Fundraising
On the first day of October, I traveled down to National Harbor, Md., for the final day of Blackbaud's annual conference, bbcon, and the first session I took in, "60 Tests in 60 Minutes," provided a great reminder for direct-response fundraisers of all missions, locations and sizes — if you aren't testing, you aren't really fundraising.
Most of the 60 tests DiJulio and Lauf shared weren't earth-shattering — adding the donor's name to landing page, copy such as "deadline" vs. "urgent," included last year's gift in the ask, etc. — but more times than not, those tests affected response, average gift size and income generated one way or the other. It may not seem like a big deal to have some highlighted phrases or not, but it turns out it very well could be. That little tweak could be the difference between raising $50,000 and $60,000 — or the difference between a successful campaign and one that didn't meet expectations.
The only way to find out is to test … and testing is exactly what Planned Parenthood, M+R Strategic Services and all the nonprofits mentioned in the presentation do constantly.
"It's really difficult to predict what will work and what won't," DiJulio said. "Our best guesses are often wrong — that's why testing is so important."
While oftentimes it may seem trivial, testing is really the only way direct-response fundraisers can continue to get the most out of their solicitations and communications with donors and prospects. You should be testing everything you conceivably and cost-effectively can, always trying to beat that control.
As Future Fundraising Now blogger and Easier Said Than Done columnist Jeff Brooks reminds fundraisers so often, you are not your donor. What you think will pull in the most dollars and/or what you think will perform better really doesn't matter. All that matters is what donors respond to, and you only find out if you can get even more response through testing.
So while it is a common, accepted and routinely preached best practice, it's something no fundraiser should ever forget — if you aren't testing, you aren't really fundraising.