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3 Lessons from Analyzing the Key Metrics of 155 Nonprofits

Published by Nathan Hill

Online Fundraising Benchmark image

I recently wrapped up a brand-new research study analyzing the 3 essential online fundraising metrics of 155 organizations (web traffic, monthly donations, and average gift). 

And while dissecting all the data, I found myself asking some critical questions. There were a few data issues that we had to think through in order to give an accurate look at how these organizations are performing.

So I thought I’d take a moment to share with you 3 challenges I faced that led to some important insights that can equip you for online fundraising growth.

Ready? Here goes…

1. Your Context Is More Important Than the Average

The first step in creating this study of key online fundraising metrics  was to find the average monthly web traffic, donations, and average gift size. This is a little bit easier said than done.

But after cleaning the data, scrubbing organizations whose data was verifiably inaccurate, and crunching the numbers – here’s what we found:

  • The average (median) nonprofit had 12,708 website sessions per month.
  • The average (median) nonprofit saw .61% of those website sessions convert into donations.
  • The average (median) nonprofit had a $106.71 average gift size.

3 essential online fundraising metrics

What bearing does the average have on your organization’s performance?

That’s the question I asked right away. With so many different shapes and sizes of nonprofit organizations, how does the average performance of 155 organizations really help?

If you have a lot of web traffic (say in the millions per month), you might think these online fundraising metrics aren’t even relevant. Same goes if you have really low traffic.

You may walk away thinking “This benchmark is for someone else.”

But that’s why you need to dig a little deeper and view these metrics in a context relevant to your own. And when we drilled in, we saw a fuller picture that’s a lot more helpful…

The more traffic an organization has, the lower their conversion rate and average gift sizes tend to be. 

Online Fundraising metrics by Traffic Volume

In order to get an accurate picture of what conversion rates and average gift sizes are possible for your organization, you have to compare yourself to organizations with similar traffic volume.

2. Just Because You Have Data Doesn’t Mean It’s Reliable

In another area of the report, we dove into specific web traffic channels to see which ones are most effective for driving revenue. But the initial result didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Online Fundraising Metrics Revenue Per Channel

The number one channel for driving online revenue appeared to be direct traffic.

When we start working with a new nonprofit partner, one of the first recommendations we make is almost always some form of improving Google Analytics tracking. It’s shocking how many nonprofits (and for-profits) aren’t accurately tracking their marketing and fundraising efforts properly.

And when we look at organizations in the benchmark report that we can verify are tracking revenue and web traffic properly, the picture changes.

Email is the Most Effective Revenue Generator

In almost every scenario where we can verify that revenue and campaigns are being tracked properly, email is actually the biggest driver of online revenue and donations. Here’s a quick look at 3 organizations that are tracking their revenue properly.

A Health Organization

This health related organization brings in 199% more revenue through email than they do from direct traffic.

Online Email Revenue for a Health Organization

A Public Policy Organization

This public policy organization brings in 421% more revenue through email than they do from direct traffic.

Online Email Revenue for a Public Policy Organization

A Higher Education Organization

This higher education organization brings in 739% more revenue through email than they do from direct traffic.

Online Email Revenue for a Higher Education Organization

At the end of the day, email is the most effective channel you have at your disposal to drive online fundraising revenue. If you’re not actively growing your email file, you might want to re-think where you’re focusing your online fundraising efforts.

3. Not All Fundraising Channels Have the Same Potential

If we were to simply look at channels that drive revenue directly and stop there, we’d likely do ourselves more harm than good. Because, as you know, there’s a whole lot more to fundraising than simply asking for a donation.

That being said, based on what we’ve seen in other research studies (like this on one mid-level donors), it seems that many online fundraising programs place a major emphasis on the role of cultivation in online channels.

I would guess that we often forget or ignore online cultivation strategies because there isn’t a lot of data out there on what really works.

To help see what channels may be most effective for cultivation, we scored the engagement value of each primary web traffic channel. And we found that Referral Traffic and Social Media Traffic have the highest engagement.

Online Fundraising Metrics Engagement Scores

Using High Engagement Channels as a Donation Primer

First off, let’s define what a donation primer is.

A donation primer is a piece of content that gets a prospective donor ready for a fundraising appeal.

A donation primer doesn’t make a direct donation ask in and of itself. It simply helps someone gain a deeper understanding of why a donation is valuable.

Here’s a quick experiment to show you how it works…

Version A – Visitors did not see donation priming articles

In version A of this experiment, the traffic segment being analyzed saw the normal news articles and blog content on this organization’s website.

Version B – Visitors did see donation priming articles

In version B of this experiment, the traffic segment being analyzed saw the normal news articles and blog content, but they also looked at an article that was designed to help them understand the value of donating to this organization.

Donation Primer Experiment Example

The Results

This experiment was conducted around year-end season. After the season was over, they analyzed the behaviors of these 2 traffic segments. The traffic segment that saw the donation priming articles was 196% more likely to donate.

Although blogs and articles (that might get shared on social media, linked to from referral sites, and rank in organic search results) aren’t good drivers of direct revenue, they can certainly make a major impact on the likelihood that someone gives later on.

Turning your high engagement channels into a donation primer is one strategy you can use to start seeing direct revenue impact from your “non-revenue-driving” channels.

If you want to dig deeper, you can check out this webinar on growing revenue without sending more donation appeals.

3 Essential Online Fundraising Metrics


3 Essential Metrics for Online Fundraising Success - Book ImageThere’s a whole lot more data, insights, metrics, and quick tips in the full report on 3 Essential Metrics for Online Fundraising Success. And the whole report is designed specifically to help you figure out where to start testing and optimizing.

You can get a free copy of the report to see how your organization stacks up against others, and learn how you can grow your online fundraising revenue.

Get a free copy of 3 Essential Metrics for Online Fundraising Success »

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

3 Online Fundraising Metrics that Every Nonprofit Needs to Track

Published by Nathan Hill

3 Online Fundraising Metrics for Nonprofits to Track - blog image

After a workshop, conference, webinar, or other online fundraising training event, the most common question that people ask is, “Where do I start growing my online fundraising?” But the answer is rarely as simple as “Start with your donation page” or “Start with your email copy.” The answer always comes back to 3 key online fundraising metrics.

There are 3 online fundraising metrics that are essential to helping nonprofits grow their online revenue. And knowing where you stand with each of these 3 metrics is how you answer the question of “Where do I start growing my online fundraising?”

Over the course of this post, we’re going to look at each of the 3 online fundraising metrics and look at a few key strategies to growing each one.

But first, it’s important to understand why these 3 metrics are so important.

3 Online Fundraising Metrics that Directly Impact Revenue

If we’re being honest, the only online fundraising metric that really matters is revenue.

3 Online Fundraising MetricsBut just saying “I want to improve my revenue” doesn’t really give you a starting place for how to improve your revenue.

So we have to dig a little deeper.

The natural next question is “What metrics influence revenue?” And when it comes to online fundraising, there are 3 metrics that have a direct impact on your bottom line:

  • Website Traffic
  • Donation Conversion Rate
  • Average Gift Size

Let’s think on it for a moment…

Increasing Revenue Directly

If you get more people to show up to your website, and the same percentage donate to you and they’re giving the same amount – your revenue goes up!

How web traffic affects revenue - example image

In the same way, if you don’t change the amount of people coming to your website, but you get a higher percentage of people to donate at the same average amount – your revenue goes up!

And if you all you do is get the same donors to give a little bit moreyour revenue goes up!

Increasing Revenue Exponentially

Now imagine you got more people to show up to your website, and a higher percentage of them started giving. Your revenue is going to grow like crazy.

And if you were able to get more people, to donate more often, and donate in larger amounts…you won’t even know what to do with all the new revenue you have. Imagine the impact it could have for your cause.

How multiple metrics affect revenue - example image

These 3 online fundraising metrics – web traffic, conversion rate, and average gift – should be the driving force behind all of your online fundraising decisions. If your new campaign idea isn’t going to affect one of these fundraising metrics in the long run, is it really worth it?

Online Fundraising Metric #1 – Website Traffic

3 Online Fundraising Metrics - Website TrafficLet’s take a closer look at website traffic. This is one of the hardest online fundraising metrics for a nonprofit to improve – especially if your traffic is really low to begin with.

Why is it so hard? Because it often takes money and a healthy budget to boost traffic.

But I’m going to share a couple options that don’t require you to enter a credit card in order to boost your traffic. If you want to spend money, there’s a million ad platforms willing to help you out – although I’d recommend that you start with Facebook if you’re looking to acquire donors.

Grow your Website Traffic Using the Google Ad Grant

The first free way to boost your website traffic is through the Google Ad Grant. In short, Google gives nonprofits $10k worth of free search advertising to spend per month. The problem is that most nonprofits either:

  1. Don’t know about it
  2. Don’t know what to do with it

While I certainly don’t have time to break down exactly how to spend your Google Ad Grant, we have a webinar that can give you all the details and a little bit of coaching on the best way to put the Google Ad Grant to work for your organization.

Here’s a little video from Google about how it works:

Grow your Website Traffic by Creating Good Content

You’re probably familiar with the term SEO (search engine optimization). Essentially, this is the practice of improving the content on your website so that it shows up when people search for related topics.

For instance, if you search for Nonprofit Fundraising Optimization, we should be right there at the top. Want to know the secret formula we’ve used to rank at the top for that keyword?

We create good content related to nonprofit fundraising optimization. Plain and simple.

Now, there are a lot of other factors that come into play when Google decides what websites show up in their search results:

  • Are you targeting a specific keyword?
  • Does that keyword show up in your headline?
  • Are people who visit your page spending time there?

But at the core, if you create good content that’s relevant to your cause, you’re going to show up when people search for topics related to your cause.

Looking for some specific strategies to boost your SEO? Check it these ideas from Andy Crestodina on how to improve your search rank and get more traffic.

Other Ideas to Grow Web Traffic

There are a seemingly endless number of ways you can allocate your time, budget, and resources to grow your web traffic. Here are a few more to get the wheels turning:

  • Direct donors (and potential donors) to your website at events they attend
  • Send a postcard to your donors inviting them to watch a video online
  • Use Facebook ads reach potential donors with relevant content
  • Use tools like AdRoll to launch re-marketing campaigns
  • Email your donors with your latest blog posts, articles, podcasts, etc.

Online Fundraising Metric #2 – Conversion Rate

3 Online Fundraising Metrics - Donation Conversion RateOnce you’ve got the web traffic rolling in, you want to make sure those website visitors are converting into donors.

There are a number of areas you can look at optimizing to improve how many visitors are converting into donors, but we’re just going to cover a couple key areas.

Make Sure Your Visitors Know Where to Donate

One of the most common mistakes is to bury your “Donate” button in a place where no one can find it. And sometimes, these “Donate” buttons can be hiding in plain sight.

For example, we conducted an experiment with an organization whose “Donate” button sat in the top right corner of their website navigation. That’s a pretty normal spot to find it.

The problem was that it was the same color, size, font, and style as everything else in their website navigation.

So we wondered… “Can we call the donate button out in a contrasting color and get more people to the donation page?” 

Here’s how the experiment worked:

Sure enough, making the “Donate” button stand out led to a boost in traffic to the donation page. But more importantly, it led to more donations.

By making it easier for someone to find the donation page, we saw a 189% increase in donations.

Make Sure Your Donation Page Aligns with Your Donor’s Motivation

This strategy is a bit trickier. It’s easy to change the color of a button. But understanding your donor’s motivation is a bit more nuanced.

But there are a few tested and proven ways you can start creating pages that align with your donor’s motivation right away. It all starts by understanding this key idea…

Not all donation pages are the same.

Here’s what I mean…

One major lesson we’ve learned through 1,734 experiments is that there are (at least) 3 core types of donation pages. Each one aligns with a different donor motivation.

The 3 types of donation pages are:

  • The General Donation Page
  • The Campaign Donation Page
  • The Instant Donation Page

3 Types of Donation Pages - template image

We have a whole online course that gets into all the details of these pages. You can check out the course here if you’d like.

But let me give you a quick little summary.

General donation pages have a wide variety of traffic and motivations.

The messaging that you use on these pages needs to relate to your organizations broader goals and vision. It shouldn’t focus on a specific aspect of your cause or a specific campaign. If it’s too specific, you risk alienating a lot of your potential donors. Get a general donation page template »

Campaign donation pages have a more specific motivation.

The people visiting these pages have been driven either by an advertisement or an email with a specific prompt. The messaging on your campaign donation page needs to align with the call-to-action that your potential donor just clicked on. Get a campaign donation page template »

Instant donation pages are a replacement for your normal confirmation pages.

A visitor to this page has just submitted a form – they’ve signed up for your newsletter, requested an eBook, registered for a course, etc. Your instant donation page needs to thank them, and then pivot into a donation ask related to the offer they just received. Get an instant donation page template »

Online Fundraising Metric #3 – Average Gift Size

3 Online Fundraising Metrics - Average Gift SizeThe last key online fundraising metric that’s essential for nonprofits to track and optimize is average gift size.

If you don’t fully know what this is, let’s define it quickly…

Average gift size (for online fundraising) is your total online revenue divided by your total number of donations.

For instance, if you received $10,000 in donations this month, and you had 100 total donations, your average gift size would be $100.

This key online fundraising metrics is arguably the hardest of the 3 to control. You can’t just spend more money on ads like you can with web traffic. And swapping the color of a donate button doesn’t necessarily make people more generous.

The common factor in increasing average gift size is your value proposition.

Now, you could make a solid argument that more complex online fundraising metrics like donor retention play a big factor in average gift size. And they likely do. But the way shape and craft your value proposition is the easiest factor to control.

How to Increase Average Gift Size by Crafting a Better Value Proposition

Your value proposition is, essentially, the way you answer this question: “Why should I give to you, rather than some other organization, or not at all?”

And the way you answer this question in your emails, in your advertising, and on your donation page directly affects the likelihood that someone will donate. But your value proposition also can affect how much they donate.

One organization we work with has a very unique service they offer…they provide websites for people going through health crises so that their loved ones can keep up with them on their health journey.

This unique service makes it hard to ask for donations in a traditional sense. They don’t raise money to cover medical costs – they raise money to provide their service to more people for free.

Here’s what one of their on-site donation ads looked like:

Value Proposition Example - Control

It says, “Honor Kade and Kallan with a donation to [Organization]. You make Kade and Kallan’s website possible.”

We created a treatment to try and help potential donors better understand the impact of a donation. The treatment version looked like this:

Value Proposition Example - Treatment

It says, “Show your love and support for Kade. Make a donation to [Organization] to keep Kade’s site up and running.”

The treatment version increased donations by 44%. But it also increased average gift size by 16.2%.

Not only did improving the value proposition lead to more donations, it led to larger donations.

Determining Which Metric to Optimize First

Online Fundraising Benchmark Study

Now that you’ve seen the power of all 3 of these online fundraising metrics to increase revenue, you need to figure out where you stand.

Is your web traffic low? Or are you just not converting enough of your website visitors into donors? Or…maybe you have a lot of people donating, but they’re giving very little.

In order to know where to optimize first, you need to compare your 3 online fundraising metrics to other similar nonprofits to see how you measure up. You can compare your 3 key metrics to other organizations with the online fundraising benchmark report here »

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

Average Gift Size Optimization: Three Strategies

Published by Nathan Hill

Each variable in our Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization (FCORM) has equal impact on revenue: Traffic, Conversion, and Average Gift. Improving performance across all three variables can dramatically increase your revenue. In this post, we will explore ways to optimize your average gift to improve your overall online fundraising revenue.

FCORM - Average Gift Optimization

Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization – Average Gift

Optimizing Average Gift – From ‘Yes’ to ‘Heck Yes’

Average Gift is one of the most widely tracked nonprofit fundraising metrics even by organizations who are not actively working to optimize their online fundraising. Just because it is widely tracked does not mean that organizations are optimizing it effectively.

In the donation process, most optimization efforts are focused around getting more people to say “yes.” This is one very important aspect of online fundraising optimization, and it has a drastic effect of overall revenue. But getting people to go from saying “yes” to saying “heck yes” can have just as drastic of an impact. That’s what average gift optimization is all about – communicating the value of donating to your organization in a way that inspires your donors to give at a higher level.

1. Offering a premium of incentive for higher giving levels.

The first strategy is offering a premium or incentive for high-end giving levels. This is a pretty standard technique that’s used a lot in many different kinds of direct response initiatives. “If you want to get the goody that’s being offered, you’ve got to give at a higher level.” You can test different ways of using premiums or incentives to get people to give at higher levels.

Here’s one example with the incentive offer listed directly on the form:

Incentive - Example 1


2. Preselecting and highlighting recommended giving levels in a gift array.

The second strategy is altering the presentation of the donation form. We did some testing around preselecting and highlighting recommended giving levels in a giving array. Let me give you an example:


Preselecting Gift Amount - Example 1


This is a two-part test we ran on a donation page for The Heritage Foundation. In the control, the initial $25 gift level is preselected. We wondered if pre-selecting the $50 level could increase the average gift size. So, that’s what we did in treatment 1. This was the only difference on the page.

What we found is that by preselecting that $50 level instead of $25, it produced a 44% increase in the number of people giving at the $50 level. That’s a pretty big change, and it wasn’t very hard to do.

Then we said, “What if we didn’t just preselect it? What if we highlighted something?” For treatment 2, we put a box around the $50 giving level and set up an A/B split test. Compared to the control, the box produced a 64% increase in $50 gifts. Not only did it increase the number of people giving $50, but we also saw more people giving even higher levels as well.

Preselecting Gift Amount - Results


By highlighting the higher giving level, it created a migration effect where people are going to a new giving ceiling. These simple changes on your giving form can have a drastic impact on your average gift size and overall revenue.

3. Increase the force with which you communicate your value proposition.

Through hundreds and hundreds of tests, we’ve discovered that value proposition has a multiplying effect—not only can it affect conversion, but it also affects average gift.

Value Proposition - Example 1

In the test above, we created a long-form donation page and tested it against the control on the left. This treatment saw a 74% increase in donor conversion. We also experienced a 189% increase in average gift. These two things, combined in our Flux Capacitor, produced a 274% increase in revenue.

Why did this long-form page outperform this much more beautiful design on the left? There are a few reasons:

To become a member, they have to give a financial gift. So on the long-form page, we used the geography of the page to map to the chronology of the mind. Each portion of the copy walked the reader through a series of “micro-yeses” that led up to the eventual donation ask.

We started with very compelling argument: You should join because of this, because of this, because of this. We then inserted a 3rd part endorsement saying, “But don’t take our word for it; here is what the experts have to say…” We laced in different testimonials and endorsements from people we knew our core audience admires and trusts.

After the endorsements, we brought in additional appeal saying, “When you become a member, here is what you can expect: you’ll get this and this and this.” Finally, we made the ask and introduced the donation form at the end of the experience. By conveying an appealing, clear, and credible value proposition, we got more people to say “yes.”.

Not only did we get more people to say “yes,” we also got more people to say “heck yes” and give a larger gift. But why did our average gift go up by so much? When we communicated our value proposition with tremendous force, it helped people have a clearer understanding and stronger passion for the cause they were donating to. This increased motivation leads to a larger donation.

That’s one advantage we have of being a nonprofit: Our price is determined by our customer. Since the donation amount is determined in the mind of the donor, we have the opportunity to generate more revenue when we effectively communicate the value of making a donation.

When we communicate our value proposition with tremendous force, we build up velocity in the mind of the donor: “Not only are we going to give, but we’re going to give more because we really believe in what you’re doing. We want to be a part of it, and we want to be a part of it in a bigger way.”


Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization

NextAfter - FCORM ReportLooking for other ways to help grow your online revenue? Our Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization (FCORM) makes it easy to identify your key areas of growth.

We will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in the 3 key metrics of online revenue optimization: traffic, conversion, and average gift. Start optimizing your online fundraising by getting your free FCORM report today.


About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

A Quick Review: Here’s the FCORM formula for revenue

This one simple formula containing just 3 variables dictates the revenue of every campaign:

Traffic x Conversion Rate x Average Gift = Revenue

We call it the Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization (FCORM).

This post, let’s focus on revenue.

Finally, right?

Here’s the TL:DR version (which we will unpack in the rest of the post):

“If I improve even one of the three FCORM variables, I’ll increase my revenue.”

“Yes, obviously,” you say. Stand by … because here’s where it gets interesting.

“When I systematically test, I can boost two or all three variables. That’s how I can dramatically increase revenue because lifts in multiple variables compound results.”

The process is simple: Measure what you do, interpret the results, and form a hypothesis to do better next time. Repeat.

Why repeat? Check out the change in revenue: it’s more than the sum of the increases…

Screenshot 2015-12-29 10.52.41


It can’t be that simple, can it? What’s really going on here?

Because testing and optimization validate your hypotheses, you get insights. Insights are learnings that can be repeated from one experiment to another.

In other words, your lift from the last experiment becomes your baseline in the next.

So, when you apply the optimization process to two (or all three) FCORM variables, you don’t just increase revenue. You dramatically increase revenue.

We affectionately call this win-stacking. Think of it like compound interest—you get paid on principal and the “interest” of all your previous tests.

This is how you stop running campaigns as isolated events (like a series of coin tosses) and start building a systematic program that delivers predictable revenue.

How to get more YESes (and revenue): the conversion heuristic

So, you’ve done the FCORM self-analysis by now (right?), and you know which variable, once optimized, will yield the biggest impact.

How do you influence that variable?

Here’s the tool we use to engineer a test designed to lift that variable. We can use it both to evaluate the status quo and form specific hypotheses.

Screenshot 2015-12-29 11.06.06


If the FCORM is GDP, the conversion heuristic helps you fix the sector that’s dragging down gross productivity.

Or here’s a sports analogy: If FCORM is the scoreboard, the conversion heuristic is the playbook to optimize your offense (or defense, if the scoreboard indicates that’s the problem).

We run our baseline through this formula to form a hypothesis for how to boost the FCORM variable we’re targeting. We also use it as a sort of checklist to craft the creative elements within the campaign. In other words, it helps us choose which levers to pull first.

Here’s an example: Let’s suppose the FCORM analysis says you should focus on Conversion Rate first. You run a few tests and validate a treatment that increases conversion.

Now, focus on another variable, say Traffic, but still apply your Conversion Rate learning (which is now part of the baseline/control). Now you’re sending more traffic to a page that converts at a higher rate than before.

More people arriving and a higher percentage of those people converting means the net impact is more than the sum of the two lifts.

Stacking incremental targeted wins like that is how you grow reliably and predictably.

Plus, there’s no reason to stop after one lift, either. Continue testing your Conversion Rate, for instance, even if you’ve made progress already.

Stack ’em up: More traffic … More gifts … Higher average gift … equals transformation.

You know which variables to target first because you’ve used the FCORM formula to identify what’s holding back revenue.

You use the conversion heuristic to form a specific hypothesis about what changes to which element(s) will yield the lift you’re looking for.

Warning: Think of optimization in two directions

I’m not going to get into every tactic you could test to influence each variable (you can find plenty of inspiration in the experiment library). But I do need to drop down one level to deliver this important warning.

Remember the inverted funnel? Prospects aren’t falling in, they’re falling out. To get to “yes” they must climb the sides of the inverted funnel–a series of “micro-yeses.”

Screenshot 2015-12-29 11.05.46 


If there are multiple micro-yeses feeding one FCORM variable (and there usually are), make sure you apply the conversion heuristic to all of them. Neglecting just one can scuttle results for an entire campaign. Of course, expected lifts that don’t materialize are also useful as a signal that some micro-yes

Of course, expected lifts that don’t materialize are also useful as a signal that some micro-yes is not optimized. But they’re costly.

Here’s a simple example. Suppose you’re targeting Traffic in a broadcast email campaign to a donation page. Traffic isn’t optimized once email open is lifted. You also need the click-through to landing page. Make sure you’re identifying and measuring each micro-yes and running tests to optimize each one.

When you celebrate wins that don’t impact FCORM, you’re falling prey to vanity metrics. Don’t do that.

This happens a lot with page views, for example. A big increase in page views looks great in your Analytics dashboard. It doesn’t mean anything (except that you wasted a bunch of money and effort) if all that traffic abandons your funnel at the first micro-yes.

The FCORM keeps you focused on the variables that matter. If you neglect a micro-yes in the conversion pathway of each variable, you won’t see the FCORM lift you expect. Find the bottleneck. Then test into a complete process that lifts the FCORM variable before you move on to the next one.

3 steps to starting your own optimization program 

By now you should have a pretty good idea why optimization is transformational. Here’s a quick review of how to do it:

  1. Use the FCORM audit to see where you should focus first. The FCORM is the simple formula that determines your revenue (and identifies what’s holding you back). It is the top measure for online fundraising success and the program-level metrics you should constantly track. It’s your online fundraising dashboard.
  2. Next, use the MECLABS conversion heuristic to devise a test to influence whichever FCORM variable you are targeting first.
  3. Apply this learning through the entire conversion pathway for each FCORM variable. Identify each micro-yes related to that variable throughout the entire conversion process—and optimize it.

Finally, don’t stop at a win—keep testing. Re-run the FCORM audit and repeat the process for the next variable.

Remember, the real power of optimization is compounding wins through the FCORM formula.

What’s better than optimizing your funnel?

What could be better than systematically boosting revenue by optimizing your entire funnel?

Here’s a bold claim: The non-revenue benefits of optimization are both larger and more impactful than the revenue benefits.

That’s a crazy thing to say for a man whose livelihood is based on optimizing online fundraising revenue. But it’s true. I’ve seen it time and again.

Optimization creates an uncommon culture that sets certain organizations apart as true leaders.

In my next post I’ll tell you more about that.

In the meantime, understand that what you’re optimizing is revenue. But what you’re building is your impact.


  1. Here’s the link to the free FCORM self-analysis. Run it yourself in a few minutes and get strategic clarity once and for all.
  2. Visit the experiment library to see how we use the conversion formula to target FCORM variables in our own experiments. Then get started optimizing yours!
  3. Sign up to receive our monthly Optimization Edge email, packed with curated experiments, tools, and articles to keep you focused on making real progress.

About the author:


Tim Kachuriak

Tim won "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

How The Heritage Foundation increased revenue per visitor by 31%

Published by Jeff Giddens

The Heritage Foundation is a public policy think tank headquartered in Washington, DC. Founded in 1973, their mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. (more…)

About the author:


Jeff Giddens

Jeff was the 1994 Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

We recently hosted an online optimization session that broke down the three key metrics to online fundraising and presented examples of how to optimize each of them to increase online revenue. In this video, you will see how simple growing your online fundraising can be when you look at the right data. (more…)

About the author:


Jeff Giddens

Jeff was the 1994 Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

We recently hosted an online education session on a proven formula that Fortune 100 companies use to optimize their email campaigns. In this video, we unpack this formula and walk through case studies of how nonprofits have successfully adopted these email optimization principles to acquire more names, convert more donors, and increase average gift size.


About the author:


Tim Kachuriak

Tim won "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

One of the things I love about optimization is that the work is never done! There is always some aspect of our fundraising that can be improved to increase fundraising revenue — and even if we achieved the mythical goal of 100% conversion rate, we could still invade other channels or find new audiences to approach. As intricate as optimization can get, it’s important not to forget the big picture — the three key metrics that affect online revenue.

1. Traffic: how many visitors come to your site or landing page?

2. Conversion Rate: how many of those visitors do you turn into donors?

3. Average Gift: how much does each visitor give?

You’ve seen the Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization, or FCORM all over this site. In the video below, I unpack the FCORM and how it can dramatically increase your fundraising results. After watching, if you would like us to generate a free FCORM report for you, fill out this form here. We’ll get back to you in 24 hours. Enjoy!



About the author:


Tim Kachuriak

Tim won "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.

Use the code "learnfromhometry" to take any online fundraising certification course, for free.Access Your Free Course »

Usability, or lack thereof, is one of my pet peeves.

You might be more familiar with the term user experience, UX, UI– but whatever term you use to describe it, your organization might not be doing much to optimize it. Many sites claim to have robust sites with optimized this, and high level that, but when it comes down to it, the user experience was designed more for the web site owner than the intended target user.

You’ve experienced this. How often have you gone to a website retailer and found it impossible to locate what you came for in the first place? Within the nonprofit world it’s even worse…

The other day I was looking through other nonprofit websites to glean and share best practices with some of my clients. It didn’t take long to discover that most nonprofits do everything they can to discourage would-be donors from making a donation. One major worldwide nonprofit in particular took me through 11 screens before I was even given a chance to increase their impact with my financial contribution. I guess they really, really, wanted to make sure I wanted to donate…

Here are some helpful ways you can be maximizing online donations and increasing online fundraising revenue by optimizing your website:

  • It’s all about the experience. Making a donation has a completely different feel than ordering tchotchkes from Amazon. Do away with the online store feel and try to create a one-to-one relationship between each project and the associated donation response form.
  • Less clicks, more dollars. There is a direct correlation between the number of clicks that you put between a user and your goal that negatively impacts conversion rate. The technical term for this is called “funnel abandonment”. Try to limit the number of screens that the user must click through in order to complete the donation. If at all possible, enable the user to complete the donation on the same page that prompted it.
  • Um, can I have a little help here? If you do have a multi-step check out process, clearly communicate that to the user. Provide some frame of reference as to where they are in the check out process and when the torturous form-filling will end. Give them clear directions as to what information is required and optional, and for the sake of everything holy, provide the user with coherent and easily identifiable error messages.
  • You have not, because you ask not. We recently launched a microsite for a client that included a free resource offer for users that filled out a registration form. The goal was purely name acquisition. About a month into the campaign we added an option for users to also make a donation through the form. That simple little change translated into thousands of “extra” dollars and did not affect the conversion rate for the form whatsoever. Whenever appropriate, add a donation option to registration or name acquisition forms.
  • No, I don’t remember my password! Putting a login screen between a user and a donation form is like putting an obstacle course between a grocery shopper and the check out lane. It seems like a good idea—after all, once the donor sets up their account all of their information will be saved, right? Wrong! I learned this lesson the hard way. Trust me, don’t do it.

Can you imagine what you would do with a 50% increase in online donation conversion? What kind of impact could you have if it grew to 75% or even doubled?

Or maybe, if you’re like me, would rather ask, “How could my community, state, nation, or world be different if our organization had more resources to invest in the work that we do?”  This is the great thing about online donation optimization– the more money we can raise with greater efficiency, the more good we can do. And that, should be all the motivation that we need.

How many online donations is my site losing?

One of the biggest problems with online donation abandonment is that we don’t ever truly know just how many online donations we may have lost due to a poor online donor experience.  That’s why we have developed a tool to give you an idea how your web site is doing compared to nonprofit industry benchmarks.  We call it the Flux Capacitor of Revenue Maximization (silly name, I know– but very powerful tool).  The Flux Capacitor of Revenue Maximization (FCORM) Report will help you assess the three key areas that drive online revenue: Traffic, Donation Conversion Rate, and Average Gift and provide you with insights into where your web site may be leaking revenue.  After reviewing your FCORM you will be better equipped to put together a strategy that helps you plug the leaks, and capture more revenue.

Get your free FCORM report today (by answering three simple questions) and start maximizing online donations.

About the author:


Tim Kachuriak

Tim won "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.