4 Things I Know About Fundraising
2. Testing matters but may not be possible—or sensible. First, for those of you with small budgets and smaller mailing lists, I know stretching to do testing may not be financially feasible or valid in the case of a small donor base. Stop beating yourself up. Instead make decisions based on what you read and see in the mail or online. Who's Mailing What! includes "grand controls"—these are mailings (electronic and paper-based) that have performed well enough to be mailed over and over. Its free newsletter often dissects one of these mailings so we can all learn from them. Your own mailbox or inbox can inform you, as well. If you see something in there often, you can draw one of two assumptions: It works, or someone is into career suicide. I prefer the former assumption.
Secondly, for those of you who aren't sure what to test, ask yourself if it could possibly make a significant difference. Avoid testing things that are so minor that your donors probably don't even pay attention to them or consider them when making a giving decision. Focus on what matters. Increasing the font by 1 point or using blue ink instead of black may fall into the "insignificant" category. A lead image may not. Focus on what you think is probably impacting results—like the outer envelope, the offer, the subject line in an e-appeal or the ease of using your donation page. Testing needs to have an impact, not just exist so you can say you tried.
3. A large percentage of your donors probably aren't loyal to your organization. Donors tend to be fickle and can get hooked by a great offer, freemium, envelope design, e-appeal copy or any number of other things that your "competition" puts in front of them. If you're feeling safe because, after all, your donors are different, ask yourself why you think that. What's your attrition rate? How many first-time donors never give again? How many donors give for two or three years, then stop giving?
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.