Are you testing enough? Neckties and Tactics

wrong ties

In the past, we preached, based on testing, that one longer donation page resulted in more completed gifts than several pages that each asked for pieces of the donation. No longer, it seems.

Test results release at last week’s New York Nonprofit Conference, sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Federation, indicated that users have changed, and multi-page donation processes are worth testing again.

More testing ideas:

Test the color of the “Donate Now” button. Yes, the marketing/communications people want it to blend in with your home page header. YOU want it to stand out. While red may stand out, a member of the audience pointed out that 10% of men, and 3% of women, are red-blue colorblind.

How much are you cultivating your new email subscribers before determining if they are returning enough in gifts to cover their cost of acquisition? Maybe not long enough. Most of us apply a direct mail thought process to this equation, which is based on the typical single-use permission of a rented name. When you get an email subscriber, you have permission to contact them until they decide otherwise.  Going slow — as many as eight or ten emails before a blatant fundraising appeal — might yield better results.

Are you testing gift arrays, on both your mail reply forms and web forms? (Warning: the best array may be different for each). The National Park Foundation found they were getting many $25 gifts, even though their gift array started at $35 and went up from there. So they tested a $25 amount, and found a 17% lift in response rate, with only a 4% drop in average gift.

Are you talking to event participants about the event when you contact them for further follow-up, or are they getting the same email everyone else is?

Are you testing re-marketing? There are ad networks that can show your ads on other websites that are visited by people who’ve come to your site but not made a gift. Google runs one of them. One nonprofit found that 18% of the 1,500 site visitors they re-marketed ultimately made a gift. (Yes, many of them would have someday made a gift anyway.)

Personalized copy on the outer envelope seems to get it opened more. “Donor Since 20xx” is one line (printed right under the donor’s name) that seems to work.

Warning: I suspect much of testing results include a certain “Hawthorne Effect” – the new test works because it’s new, not because it’s universally better.  Results increase at first, then decline. Remember the Eagles’ hit There’s a New Kid in Town” or those too-wide and too-skinny neckties in your closet, waiting for the fashion pendulum to swing back the other way.

What tests have you run lately? How have they worked?



Give your donors what they need – where they need it

Do your donors (or potential donors) have the information they need so they can move to the next step of the donation process? A recent exchange with a colleague made me want to revisit this concept.

I invited our Creative Director to submit some recent brilliance to a competition hosted by the Integrated Marketing Advisory Board on whose board I sit. My email to her was as follows:

Subject: Free Industry awards competition, and I’m on the board

I’d be pleased if we can submit some recent award nominations into the IMAB competition. Deadline is Feb 7. [I included a link to the submissions page.]


She wrote back and said, “I don’t see anything about entry costs.”

Now mind you, this Creative Director is (a) brilliant and (b) writes and edits email copy for a living! But she missed the word “free” in my email subject line. “Free” was not mentioned in either my email copy or, embarrassingly, on the entry page (we’ve since fixed it).

The moral? Using “Free” in the subject line may have helped her decide to open the email, but it needed to be mentioned again within the email body, and/or on the landing page, to convince her that entering this competition wouldn’t bust her budget.

A long time ago, another brilliant copywriter explained to me that each piece of a direct mail package had to stand on its own. The letter and reply device, and all other inserts, had to have the organization’s name and address visible, in case they became separated from the reply envelope. This kind of redundancy is low-cost and increases response incrementally.

Ditto for an online encounter. Tease them in the subject line to get them to open it, but don’t expect them to read the subject line once they get inside the email. The email body should incite them to click the link, whereupon they will forget what was in the email. Give them all the information they need on the page where they are now.

Right now the biggest online fundraising gap is between the top of your donation page and the bottom. That is, 20% or so of people who click to the page finish it. Why do 80% bail out? Maybe you’re giving them too many options elsewhere, or too little information (or emotional reinforcement) on the page itself.

Would you like me to look at your online donation process? Contact me for an audit.

Rewarding your donors

Rewarding the behavior we desire helps to ensure that it continues.IgaveBlood

I  try to walk three miles several times each week. I have an app on my phone that records my walks and publishes them to my Facebook page when I’m finished. Yesterday, half way through my walk, my phone battery died, and I honestly thought about stopping my walk then and heading home.  After all, without the walk recorded, and published, why bother?

I quickly realized, of course, that there were other reasons why I walk, reasons that existed long before I downloaded the app. But they are longer term rewards (better health) and less visible (who’ll know?).

Is this how we treat our donors? We make our case for support, then invite them to give privately? The reasons for them to give are long-term (better healthcare, more research) and less visible (known only to your database and their accountant).


Why not offer more rewards to them for doing the right thing? We recently tested a link on a “thank you” page that lets donors post to Facebook that they just donated to our client. The post on Facebook had a unique link to a donation form, and the post-campaign report showed that four percent of all gifts to the campaign came through that link! (Most of those gifts were from new donors!) And, since this was the first time we tried it, the donors had no idea they’d be “rewarded” with a chance to post on Facebook until after they gave.

All to many “thank you” pages are dead ends. “Thank you for your gift. Now, go somewhere else on the web.” They’re great opportunities to show video of what you’re doing, but also to encourage the donor to brag about their new (or expanded) relationship with you. Give them a chance (and a reason) to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter. Better yet, give them a message to post or a tweet to send. Beyond the immediate

In your thank-you letter, don’t spend so much time on the tax receipt. Spend time thanking them and telling them what you’re doing with their gift. Invite them to follow along. Give them something to share with their friends.

To-do list:

  1. Add more content to your web donation “thank-you” pages that will involve the donor further.
  2. Add content for them to post to their social media
  3. Add content to your thank-you letter that invites your donors to “brag” to their friends
  4. Count the number of new donors from referrals, and the increase in renewal giving, that results!

Online Donations: make it easy

A review of several children’s hospital websites shows some clever ideas – and also shows that many have a long way to go to fully embrace digital fundraising.

Below are eight important elements of an online donation process. How well does your children’s hospital measure up to these best practices?

  1. Make your donation page easy to find. Web visitors who come to your site to make a gift need to find the “Donate” button quickly. Readability studies continue to show that site visitors scan a web page, across the top, then down the left side. So, your donation button should be in one (or, better yet, both) of those places.CHFR_home
  2.  One click to the Online Form. When people click “Donate Now” they want to donate now. Not in three or four more clicks. Don’t link a “Donate Now” to a page about the development department, or one that lists various ways people can give via gifts of stock, etc. Bring them to the form. 
  3. Make the form easy to fill out. First, determine how much they want to give, and give them options (but not too many) about monthly giving, tribute giving, or gifts to a particular fund. Then ask who they are, and finally, get the payment information. Ask as few questions as you can get away with. Make the form easy to fill out.
  4. Make it idiot-proof.  • Don’t make donors type in their email address twice, to verify it. • Don’t make donors choose a particular fund to direct their giving. Most tribute donors, and many grateful family members, have no idea what all your funds are for. • Don’t use shopping cart technology. It’s clumsy. It frustrates donors. By now, they’re used to real online donation processing
  5. Give them a choice to make their gift a monthly one. An amazingly large number of donors (in our experience, up to 20% for some charities) chose to start a monthly commitment with their first online gift. Yet, 60% of the children’s hospitals we surveyed do not offer this option.
  6. Accept PayPal. There are 132 million PayPal accounts, and they all exist for only one reason: so people can spend money online. I don’t always have my credit card information handy, but I can always give by PayPal.
  7. Send a good “thank-you” email right away… then another one after that. ACHF-TKUBy the way my definition of a “thank-you” email includes the words “Thank you” in the subject line, and in the opening line of the message. “Gift Acknowledgement” or “Your gift has been processed” is NOT the same.
  8. Make the “thank-you” page and email a continuation of the conversation, not the end. Most “thank-you” pages and emails offer no further opportunity for engagement. It’s the best place on the internet to get someone who’s just done exactly what you want, to share the news, or learn more about your research, or your caregivers. Offer links to your latest video. Invite them to share with their Facebook friends that they just made a gift.

For a full copy of the report, email me. If you’d like your children’s hospital to be a part of our study moving forward, just ask. There’s no fee. In fact, you actually will receive at least one gift!