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Donor Cultivation: 5 Data-Driven Strategies to Boost Your Retention Rate

Published by Nathan Hill

Donor Cultivation - Five Data-Driven Strategies - blog image

Donor cultivation is an area that every fundraiser wants to get better at. But the truth is, few people are actually trying to discover what works to improve cultivation efforts.

  • Should you send handwritten thank you notes?
    Sure, but you can’t scale that.
  • Should you call all your new donors?
    Maybe, but again, it’s hard to make that truly personal at scale.
  • Should you invite them to special events?
    Yes, but only a small portion of donors could actually travel to your event – let alone the difficulty of hosting an event for your whole donor file.

There are hundreds of ideas out there on how to cultivate donors. And they all sound fine. But what ideas exist that are A) feasible, and B) proven to work?

The Latest Online Donor Cultivation Research

We partnered with Kindful in 2019 to conduct a study on the current state of donor cultivation – largely focused around how organizations are cultivating donors via email.

And in this study (The State of Nonprofit Email Cultivation), we found tons of data-driven ideas that can improve your donor cultivation efforts – and lead to more online fundraising revenue.

Below, you’ll find 5 specific donor cultivation ideas that I’ve pulled out of this study that are highly relevant and highly feasible for a nonprofit to implement. Many of them have already been field tested and proven to improve revenue.

Ready to get started? Here are 5 donor cultivation strategies you can use to boost your retention rates and revenue.

Send More Cultivation Emails

This idea is easy enough. Most organizations simply aren’t sending enough emails.

And I don’t mean that you should send more donation appeals. I mean you should send more emails that don’t have a donation ask in them at all.

A cultivation email has no donation ask. Its exclusive purpose is to give your donor something of value that will cause them to engage with your organization on a deeper level.

Here’s a quick case study where sending one cultivation email per week led to a 21% increase in revenue.

How Increasing the Number of Cultivation Emails Impacts Revenue

In this experiment, the organization realized they had been asking for donations almost twice as often as they were sending donor cultivation emails. So they thought “What would happen if we added a cultivation email each week?”

And that’s exactly what they did.

This organization split their file in half and ran an A/B test. The control group received the normal email cadence. The treatment group received an additional email per week that was purely cultivation.

Adding an additional donor cultivation email - experiment image

After running this experiment for 3 full months, the result was clear. Increasing the frequency of donor cultivation emails increased revenue among existing donors by 21%.

It even increased lapsed donor revenue by 14%.

Case and point? Send more cultivation emails.

Don’t Ask Donors to Do Too Much at Once

One fatal mistake that we as marketers and fundraisers are always tempted to make is to ask people to do too much all at once.

Speaking personally, I want our own email subscribers to watch a new video, listen to our latest podcast, read a new blog, download an eBook, and sign-up for a course. But asking people to do all those things at once is overwhelming.

Asking people to do too much can create decision friction (more on the different types of friction here).

The same concept applies in a cultivation email.

In the following case study, we see that asking our donors to just do one thing at a time can make a significant impact on donations.

Yes, I said donations – not clicks.

How the Focus of a Cultivation Email Affects Donations

In this experiment, this organization was already sending a weekly cultivation email every Saturday. Their typical donor cultivation email was written in a relatively personal nature and included links to multiple pieces of content to engage with.

Sometimes they sent articles. Sometimes they sent podcasts. But there were always multiple links.

They split their file in two and ran an A/B test. The control group received the normal donor cultivation email with multiple links. And the treatment group received emails with just one link.

Sending an email with multiple links VS sending an email with just one link - experiment image

Asking donors to engage with just one article at a time led to a 27% increase in donations over the span of three months.

Test sending just one thing at a time. It may make a significant impact on revenue.

Send Donor Cultivation Emails When Others Aren’t

Let me start this section with a confession…

Just a few years ago while working at a nonprofit, my common approach to deciding when to send an email was this:

  • Search Google for “Best time to send an email”
  • Find the latest benchmark data from a random email marketing platform
  • Scroll to the nonprofit section (if there was one)
  • Find the time that most other organizations were emailing

I was making an assumption that the “best practice” send time was in fact the “best performing” send time. But this honestly flies in the face of common logic.

If you send when the inbox is most crowded, wouldn’t you have the lowest likelihood of getting someone to open and engage with your email?

As part of The State of Nonprofit Email Cultivation study I mentioned above,we tracked the send times of cultivation emails and solicitations sent by 199 organizations.

Here is the breakdown of send times for donor cultivation emails:

Heatmap of donor cultivation email send times
  • 49% of donor cultivation emails were sent from 6am to 1pm
  • 17% of donor cultivation emails were sent between 4-6am and 1-3pm
  • 16% of donor cultivation emails were sent on the weekend

Based on the heatmap, the most open windows of time for sending emails are in the early morning or afternoon to evening – especially on a weekend.

Test sending your cultivation emails in these off-peak times. You might be able to increase your donor’s engagement with your emails by simply catching them when their inbox isn’t super crowded.

Welcome, Thank, and Confirm New Subscribers Within the First 2 Days

We all know that the first impression you make in any type of relationship can set the foundation for things going forward. If you blow it or make a fool of yourself, it can be hard to recover.

On the other hand, making a great first impression on someone can win you over to be instant friends.

I believe that the essence of email marketing is all about personal communication and building real relationships – even at scale. That’s why if I you ever reply to a “marketing” email that I send, I’m going to see it and send you a personal reply back.

So if you want to start off your relationship with a new donor or subscriber on the right foot, you need to communicate with them as soon as they come on your file. Or at least in the first couple days.

These first emails that you send are going to be your most consistently high performing emails. Here’s a quick screen grab of the top metrics from our current welcome series.

Welcome series performance metrics

These 4 emails average a 49.8% open rate and an 11.3% click rate. (Don’t worry about the clicks in email 1. All we’re hoping for is a reply.)

For comparisons sake, a recent digest email of ours had a 40% open rate and a 6% click rate. I’d consider these really good rates, but they’re still not as good as the emails we send in the first few days of someone subscribing.

What does nonprofit communication look like in the first 2 days?


Not great news here overall. Out of 199 organizations, 48% of nonprofits sent nothing in the first two days after we signed up for their email list. Not even a confirmation email.

You can see the breakdown of the different types of communication we received in the first 45 days in the chart below.

Timeline of various types of email communication from 199 nonprofits during a subscriber's first 45 days

The pro-tip here is really simple. Make sure you communicate with new donors and subscribers when they first come on your file. If you don’t, you’re missing out on a huge engagement opportunity.

Use Brand Advertising to Bolster Your Other Messaging

Here’s my last donor cultivation idea for today. And it’s a bit different.

I’ve rarely been a huge fan of “brand marketing.” Mainly because most brand marketing discussions are just about logo treatments and what words you’re not supposed to say.

But this cultivation tip is all about how to use brand marketing (or advertising) to help make your emails more effective.

Here’s a quick case study that shows how brand advertising can make your emails 760% better.

In this experiment, the organization had a 5 email welcome series. When a new email came on the file, they would send a welcome email within 2 days. The rest of the 5 emails were sent over the course of about 2 and a half weeks.

The cadence looked like this:

Welcome series cadence - experiment control

For the A/B test, this organization split their file and ran paid brand advertising on Facebook to 50% of the new subscribers going through the welcome series. These brand ads reinforced key messaging about the organization, their cause, and what they stand for.

Welcome series cadence with brand advertising - experiment treatment

The result? Running brand ads at the same time as the welcome series impacted 2 important metrics:

  • Brand ads increased donations by a whopping 760%
  • They shortened the average length of time from subscription to donation by 41%

It used to take 29 days for the average donor to make their first gift. This experiment shortened that time to 17 days.

There are lots of other ways you can increase your revenue without sending more appeals, but this is one super easy way to see a boost in your donor cultivation efforts.

Looking for more insights on donor cultivation?

The State of Nonprofit Email Cultivation - book image

You can get a free copy of the full study on The State of Nonprofit Email Cultivation at You’ll find even more quick tips, insights, and case studies to help improve your donor cultivation efforts, and hopefully boost your donor retention.

Have you tested any donor cultivation strategies that have improved your revenue or retention rate? Share your ideas in the comments below.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

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.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

At the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization (NIO) Summit, we have the pleasure of hosting a variety of speakers from across the board of expertise. One of those speakers is Amy Harrison. Amy is a copywriter, content trainer and owner of Write With Influence: an online resource that helps business owners write better marketing content faster and easier. She is also the host (and many of the characters) of AmyTV: an online comedy sketch shows all about writing compelling business copy.

Amy is always a smash hit with our audiences and us, so it’s no secret we love having her at NIO. In this short clip from last year, she talks about how “people aren’t good at listening to good reason.” View the sneak peek below or you can view all last year’s sessions here.

About the author:

Allan Torres

Allan Torres

Allan is the Associate Marketing Specialist for NextAfter. He assists with marketing content creation and distribution. He is also a passionate Madridista (Real Madrid fan.) #HALAMADRID

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We’re celebrating a huge milestone this week…we’ve officially logged 1000 experiments in our online fundraising research library. But the number itself is not what we’re most excited about.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredible to be able to say to someone that we’ve documented 1000 experiments that are decoding what works to inspire more donations and increase generosity.

Ultimately though, it’s the learnings those 1000 experiments represent that get us jumping up and down.

Before I go any further, let’s just all take a moment to celebrate, because you’re an essential part of this too (more on that in a minute).

1000 Experiments Confetti

All right. Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, let’s look at the experiment that put us over the edge.

The 1000th Experiment

The 1000th online fundraising experiment was conducted with Boys Town – an organization working to change how the world cares for children, families, and communities by helping those suffering from abuse, addiction, abandonment and violence to reach their potential.

In this experiment, Boys Town was running a Facebook advertising campaign to try and acquire new email addresses and grow their file. They were offering a free 5-week email series to help parents learn how to handle toddler tantrums.

The original ad used copy that we would consider organizational-centric. By that, I mean that the copy was focused around organizational goals, rather than the goals of the end user.

Here’s the ad:

Boys Town Control Ad

We created a new Facebook ad to test. This time, the copy was more donor-centric. Rather than say things like “We’ve pulled together…”, the copy used words like “you” and “your.” The value presented was focused on what the recipient would get out of it – not the organization.

Here’s the treatment:

Boys Town Treatment Ad

The goal of this experiment was to drive more traffic to the landing page where someone could sign up for the email series. To validate this experiment, we looked at clicks.

After running the experiment for 2 weeks, we compared the difference. The treatment ad (the one with donor-centric copy) saw a 27.7% increase in clicks to the landing page. The treatment was a clear winner, but what did we learn?

Empathy, Marketing, and Online Fundraising Go Hand-in-Hand

Whenever we run an experiment like this, we’re always looking for the larger principle. Every single experiment that we add to our library helps define and refine a bigger picture of what makes donors give.

This experiment points towards the idea of empathetic marketing. Let’s define empathy really quick:

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. –

When we try to understand and share the feelings of our donors and potential donors, we start to see our copy, our messaging, our advertising, and every other marketing and fundraising channel differently.

In this case, by putting ourselves in the shoes of the people seeing the ad for the free email series, we realized that there wasn’t much value being communicated about why this offer was important and relevant to the end user.

By tweaking our messaging to be more empathetic, we saw a significant improvement in our results.

Empathetic Marketing - Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll of Markempa was the first person to introduce me to the term empathetic marketing, and he gave a talk on it at the 2017 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit.

If you want to dig deeper, you can watch his whole talk for free.

This idea of empathetic marketing applies well beyond advertising. Over the course of 1000 experiments, we’ve seen this concept play out on donation pages, email fundraising, and more.

Lessons We’ve Learned from 1000 Experiments

Empathy is at the heart of nearly every major learning and breakthrough that we’ve found throughout 1000 online fundraising experiments.

Everything from crafting a more effective value proposition, to designing a higher converting donation page, to lifting revenue from your email appeals all points back to this central idea of having empathy for your donors.

I think you’ll see this trend if we look at some of the most significant learnings from these 1000 experiments:

Never Assume that Someone Understands Why They Should Give to You

The most significant factor in influencing some to click, sign-up, register, or donate is always the value proposition. If your donor doesn’t know why their gift matters, they’re not going to donate.

We’ve seen this play out in countless experiments, but let’s look at one that illustrates this very clearly…

In experiment #6623 with Illinois Policy Institute, their original donation page had virtually no copy on it. There was nothing to answer the donor’s fundamental question: Why should I give to you, rather than some other organization, or maybe not at all?

When our donation pages have no copy, we’re essentially assuming that the potential donor is already fully convinced that they should donate. But if your donation page conversion rate is anything less than 100%, this assumption can’t be true.

We tested this original donation page against a new one that clearly explained why a donor should give. The new page saw a 150% increase in donations.

Here’s a quick video breaking down the experiment:

Do you see how empathy comes into play on a donation page? We have to craft our page keeping in mind how the donor is perceiving it.

People Give to People, Not Email Machines

This is the golden rule we live by when it comes to email fundraising.

Just think about your own email habits. When you wake up in the morning and check your email on your phone, which emails do you actually want to open? The vast majority of the time, you’re going to open emails from real human beings that you know and trust.

Now, you might be saying, “Nathan, I live a healthy lifestyle and don’t immediately stare at my phone when I wake up.”

For that, I applaud you.

But the same concept applies when you get to work. Are you more inclined to open the email from your colleague, or the email that looks like it’s from a salesperson wanting you to buy a new tool or service?

People Give to PeopleThere are a ton of factors that go into the psychology of deciding which emails to open and which ones to delete. While we don’t have the time or space in this post to go into detail, Jeff Giddens held a webinar on humanizing your email appeals that’s really helpful in understanding how to break-through in the inbox, get your emails opened and read by motivated donors, and grow your revenue.

You can watch the whole webinar here.

If you don’t have time to watch the webinar, here are some tips to keep in mind next time you write a fundraising email. I’ve linked a blog post about each tip if you want to read more.

  • Build trust with your donors by using a personal sender name. Read more
  • Use personalization to help build a real relationship. Read more
  • Write enough copy to thoroughly explain your value proposition. Read more
  • Only use images if they’re going to strengthen the value of your appeal. Read more
  • Delete all of your fancy email templates. You wouldn’t send it to your friend, so don’t send it to your donor. Read more
  • Talk like a real human being, not a marketing robot. Read more

Are you seeing the trend? Email fundraising is about relationships. And healthy relationships require empathy.

No One Goes Online to Give. They Go Online to Get.

Some people really don’t like hearing this claim. Here’s what a fundraiser had to say when I made this claim in a Facebook ad:

Facebook comment

Obviously, people donate online. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job. So please hear me out before you rake me over the coals like this fundraiser….

The general reason people go online, particularly on Facebook, is to get something for themselves. This includes updates on family and friends, articles, blogs, news (fake and real), games, tools, resources, etc.

People don’t get on Facebook with the purpose of giving away their money.

As a result, using a channel like Facebook to try and convince someone to donate to your organization directly is most often going to be fruitless.

We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the user; we have to have empathy. Since a Facebook user is looking to get something, we can offer them something of value for free in exchange for an email address.

By doing so, we can get the user out of the Facebook timeline and create an opportunity to make a donation ask that won’t fall on deaf ears.

We’ve spent $3 million on Facebook advertising over the past 4 years, and conducted 300+ Facebook fundraising experiments to craft this donor acquisition strategy. And every single step is outlined in a free 11-session course called Turning Facebook Likes Into Donors.

This course so far has helped over 1800 fundraisers learn how to effectively acquire new revenue using Facebook and other similar channels. And none of this would be possible without the power of optimization, testing, and experimentation.

1000 Experiments is Great. But It’s Only a Starting Place.

NIO Summit Shirt“Adequacy is the enemy of excellence.” – Peter Drucker

We live by this quote at NextAfter. So much so that we put it on a t-shirt we gave away at the 2017 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit (You should come to this, by the way).

1000 experiments is a great number, but we can’t stop here. There’s so much more to be learned. And in order to keep pressing forward and discovering what makes donors give, we need other fundraisers to embrace optimization.

The real power of 1000 experiments is not in the number itself. And it’s not just in the learnings. The power is in the people that it represents, day in and day out, who are testing and optimizing to discover what works.

And when nonprofits work hard to discover what works, the revenue growth that follows has the power to provide food to children around the world who are starving. It has the power to provide training and support to families that are trapped in a cycle of poverty. It has the power to provide health services and medication to people in desperate health crises.

Optimization has the power to change the world. And 1000 experiments is only the very beginning.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

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.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

5 Times that Exit-Intent Offers Dramatically Increased Email Acquisition

Published by Nathan Hill

Lots of marketers and fundraisers are deathly afraid of pop-ups like exit-intent offers. I myself used to be afraid of them. And if I’m really being honest, even though internet pop-up ads have come a long, long way in terms of quality and effectiveness, most that I see are either irrelevant or try to guilt me to sign up for their email list.

Take this pop-up ad on for example…

Exit-Intent Ad Example

They give you two options: you can give them your email to get $10 off, or you can say “I prefer to pay full price.” They essentially make you say “Hey, I’m a complete idiot” if you want to close out of the ad. And this is one of the nice ones.

Luckily this one has an “X” to close it, but many guilt-trip ads like this will force you to click their button of shame.

It’s bad marketing like this that has created a fear (and a hatred in many cases) around using slide-outs, pop-ups, and exit-intent offers.

But today I’m hoping to help set you free from this fear – as long as you use them to provide helpful and relevant content, they can be one of the most powerful tools on your site to acquire new email addresses.

5 Exit-Intents that Acquired Tons of Emails and Didn’t Make People Mad

To Use Exit Intent Offers, or Not…That is the Experiment

In this experiment, ADF wanted to see if they could use a tool like an exit-intent offer on their News and Press Release pages to capture emails of people that had completed reading an article or browsing the headlines. On the original pages, you had to scroll to the footer to find an opportunity to sign up for an email list if you were so inclined.

They tested adding an exit-intent pop-up that asked the visitor if they wanted to “Stay informed of changes to your religious freedom.” Since this site provided news related to that topic, it was a relevant offer placed at time when the reader could very well be interested in knowing when there is more, relevant news.


Treatment #1

297.69% Increase to Emails Acquired

By using a relevant offer, they saw a 297% increase in emails acquired.

Should it Slide-Out? Or Should it Pop-Up?

This same organization had a slide-out offer running on their blog post pages. When the reader scrolled a certain amount down the page, this ad would slide-out and interrupt the reader with an offer.

While this tactic saw some success, it interrupted the eye-path and flow of the reader. They wondered if an exit-intent ad, placed when someone was finished reading and ready to leave, would get a higher conversion rate.

The exit-intent didn’t interrupt the flow of the content, but rather only displayed when someone showed signs of exiting. By implementing the exit-intent, they saw a 228% increase in emails acquired. You can see all the details here.

Ok, But What About Mobile Devices?

That’s a great question. It’s nearly impossible to tell when someone is about to exit on a mobile device. So Illinois Policy Institute developed a different type of pop-up offer specifically for people reading on their phones.

The original offer was a small lower-third overlay that offered a free eBook. But this type of overlay didn’t really force the user to make a decision – you could keep scrolling while it clung to the bottom of the screen.

So they tested a new style of offer that looked much more like an exit-intent (although, technically, it was still a slide-out). The new offer placed more of an overlay on the screen so that the reader had to decide whether or not to accept the offer.


Treatment #1

49.94% Increase to Emails Acquired

By making the offer more prominent, they saw a 91.6% increase in emails acquired. There are still ways to make these kinds of offers work on a phone. You just need to get creative in how they’re displayed.

I already have an offer on my page. Do I really need an exit-intent?

Harvest Ministries had an email capture offer placed in a fairly prominent position on their homepage. The original hope was that readers would naturally find the offer to sign up for a devotional, fill out the form, and be on their way.

But they wondered if an exit-intent offer could actually lift their conversion rates by placing an opportunity to get more content from Harvest right as they were about to exit.


Treatment #1

93.96% Increase to Emails Acquired

When they ran the experiment, Harvest saw a 94% increase in emails acquired by using the exit-intent offer over just the in-line offer.

Acquisition pages are different though, right?

In this last experiment, the Texas State Historical Association used an exit-intent offer in a slightly different way. The experiments above all show exit-intents showing a generic offer across home pages and article pages. But THSA thought they could increase conversion rates on a high-traffic email acquisition page by using an exit-intent to show a secondary offer.

The original acquisition page was offering a free eBook. Someone who visited the page either got the eBook, or they bounced. But the treatment used an exit-intent offer, hypothesizing that someone who would abandon the eBook page might still be interested in getting a Texas history update each week.


Treatment #1

36.89% Increase to Emails Acquired

After running the experiment, they saw a 37% increase in emails acquired. Interestingly enough, the exit-intent drove a significant increase in conversion from the original offer – meaning that the exit-intent captured their attention and actually drove them back to reconsider getting the eBook.

How have you used exit-intents and other acquisition tools?

There are a lot more ways you can use exit-intent offers. In fact, we use one on all of our webinar registration pages to offer a free recording if you can’t attend. These kinds of offers give the visitor something relevant and helpful, without being a nuisance and causing additional frustration.

Have you used exit-intent offers on your site? If so, have you tested it against other types? I’d love to hear more, and even help you log it in our research library so you can share your learnings with others.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

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.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

4 Essential Nonprofit Marketing Tools Most Fundraisers Don’t Know About

Published by Nathan Hill

Nonprofit marketing often lags several years behind the for-profit industry. But shouldn’t the world’s greatest causes be marketed and communicated with the greatest amount of innovation and sophistication?

We do ourselves and the world a dis-service if we become content with our marketing being 7 years behind the curve. That being said, innovative and effective nonprofit marketing doesn’t have to be super complicated.

Before I tell you about 4 essential nonprofit marketing tools, let me make this caveat. Tools and technology are never going to help you grow unless you have the right message. Your marketing strategy and your message should drive the need for new tools, not the other way around.

Now, let’s look at 4 essential nonprofit marketing tools that you can use to deliver your message to the right people at the right time.

An Effective Landing Page That You Can Optimize

If you’re trying to acquire new leads, the most essential tool you need to have is an effective landing page. And when I say “effective,” I mean a landing page that you can easily test and optimize.

I’ve learned from experience how difficult it can be to get a new landing page up and running, especially if it has a form on it. Most marketers have to talk to a developer on their team, or worse, head over to the IT department and put in a request.  And an IT request might be 3 months until it’s completed.

If you work at a smaller organization, you might not have a developer to lean on at all.

We need a way to build beautiful and effective landing pages without using a developer or a design. Unbounce makes that possible.

Unbounce allows marketers without any prior development experience or coding knowledge to design, build, and publish landing pages. It integrates with most email platforms and CRMs (including MailChimp, Hubspot, Salesforce, etc.) so that all your new leads can go straight into your welcome series.

Nonprofit Marketing Tools - Unbounce


Best of all, Unbounce lets you create variations of your page so that you can easily test your copy or design and discover what works to acquire more leads.

An Exit-Intent Offer to Improve Your Conversion Rates

In a perfect world, we could create a landing page with a 100% conversion rate. But realistically, not everyone who comes to your new landing page is going to register for your webinar, sign up for your course, or subscribe to your email list.

But just because someone doesn’t register for your webinar doesn’t mean they won’t download an eBook. This is where exit-intent offers come in.

When a visitor shows signs of exiting – moving towards the back button or the “X” – we can display a secondary offer that they may be more inclined to take. Here’s an example of an exit-intent offer we tested with one or our nonprofit partners:

Nonprofit Marketing Tools - Exit Intent Offer

So then, how can you set up an exit-intent offer on your landing page or website? If you’ve already decided to use Unbounce for your landing pages, you’re in luck. Unbounce lets you create these offers as well; they just call them “Convertables.”

Another tool you can use for exit-intent offers is called Sumo. They offer tons of different conversion and lead acquisition tools for your site, and they work on just about any website.

A Personalized Direct Mail Offer to Create Multi-Channel Donors

We all know that donors who engage with us in both offline and online channels tend to give more often and at higher levels. So most fundraisers try to get their offline donors to give their next gift online by simply including a URL in their direct mail appeal.

Sometimes that strategy works, but rarely do you see any substantial change in a donor’s behavior.

Recently, we tested going the opposite direction. We wanted to engage our online donors with an offline channel. So we sent them a hyper-personalized post card with a call-to-action that drove them online to watch a video.

Nonprofit Marketing Tools - Enthusem Post Cards

By nurturing these donors through multiple channels, we saw that they were 204% more likely to donate the next time we asked them to give.

So how can you apply this strategy with your donors? We use a tool called Enthusem. There’s a little bit of cost to maintain an account, and you obviously pay for the cost of the cards themselves. But when you see 204% increases in donations, they more than pay for themselves.

An Automated Thank You Call to Your Donors

Nonprofit Marketing Tools - Phone Call

Some of our most recent research on mid-level donors reveals that 92% of organizations don’t call their mid-level donors to say “Thank you” for their gift.

This seems strange to me as other research from Penelope Burke shows that donors who receive a thank you will give 40% more the next time they donate.

Now, I understand that it can take a lot of time and effort to set up a call center, or to take time out of your schedule to make thank you calls yourself. And I’d imagine that’s the reason the majority of organizations don’t do it.

That’s where SlyBroadcast comes in. SlyBroadcast will let you leave a voicemail message for your donor without actually ringing their phone. You simply record your voicemail message, enter all the phone numbers of the donors you’d like to leave a message for, and schedule the time you’d like the voicemail to be left.

Best of all, it can all be automated with Zapier. (If you’re not already using Zapier to tie all your tools and data together, you might check it out.)

Now, nothing this good is ever without cost. But in this case, the price couldn’t be better. At its most expensive, you can leave a voicemail for 10 cents. And if you’re working with a larger list, you can get it for as little as 4 cents per voicemail.

With such minimal cost and the potential for a 40% higher second gift, SlyBroadcast is a perfect tool to say “Thank You” and scale personal relationships with your donors.

Nonprofit Marketing is Not About the Tools, It’s About the Message

No one has ever grown their fundraising or their impact by simply purchasing a new tool. New marketing tools and technology are only going to be as effective as the message that you communicate through them.

Why Should I Give to You? - Nonprofit Value PropositionBefore you go out and pay for a new landing page builder or voicemail calling platform, make sure you’ve taken the time to refine the value proposition of your offer. If you’re trying to get people to sign up for your email list, consider this question: “Why should I sign up for your email list, rather than some other organization’s, or not at all?”

You can learn more about how to refine your value proposition in our nonprofit value proposition study, Why Should I Give to You?

Are there tools you use in your own nonprofit marketing that others should know about? Post your favorites in the comments below and let us know.


About the author:

Nathan Hill

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.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

Every agency, marketer, and fundraiser can list their favorite best practices that they think will help grow your online fundraising. But truth be told, none of the best practices that get recycled over and over are anything new.

And in most cases, these best practices don’t actually make an impact on your performance. Or worse, they’re actually hurting your revenue. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this post on why best practices are hurting your fundraising.

I’d like to suggest 5 online fundraising ideas that we’ve tested and proven can actually work to grow your revenue. Now, these aren’t best practices. And they shouldn’t be applied blindly. Always make sure to test every new idea to make sure it’s moving the needle in the right direction.

Idea #1 – Get rid of your email template.

Many people cringe at this idea thinking, “If I don’t use a template, it’s going to take me hours longer to send my email appeals.”

But getting rid of your template will actually save you time, and could help you bring in a lot more revenue from your email appeals. Here’s why:

Our donors are experts at sniffing out marketing. Any that looks like or sounds like marketing will more often get deleted than read. People give to people, not email machines. So our emails need to look like a real person sent it, not a robot.

Instead of using lots of graphics, images, branding, and colors in a nice HTML email template, try doing the following:

  • Send your email from a believable person (This could be your founder of you’re at a small nonprofit. Or maybe your Director of Development if you’re a larger organization.)
  • Send a plain text email that looks and sounds like it was written by a human being.
  • Instead of using HTML buttons, paste in the full URL of your landing page.

We have applied this tactic with every nonprofit we work with and continue to see incredible results. Here’s just one example:

Experiment #4647

Online Fundraising Idea #1

Idea #2 – Call your donors by their name.

Call your donors by their name.

The simplest way to start building a stronger relationship with your donors and potential donors is to call them by name. This isn’t a ground-breaking idea, but you might be surprised at how many organization don’t do this.

Instead of jumping right into your email appeal, try saying “Hi Jeff.”

This is exactly what we did in experiment 5707 with [organization] and we saw a 270% increase in clicks.

Experiment 5707

Online Fundraising Idea #2

Idea #3 – Craft an effective value proposition for your donation page.

Craft an effective value proposition for your donation page.

Whenever we start working with a new nonprofit organization, one of the first things we look at is their value proposition. We’re trying to answer one simple but crucial question:

“If I am your ideal donor, why should I give to your rather than to some other organization, or not at all?”

Many nonprofit donation pages have little or no copy that adequately answers this fundamental question. And there’s a huge danger in assuming that a donor is already ready to give just because they land on your donation page.

So take a look at your donation page and make sure you use copy that answers “Why should I give to you?”

Consider these 4 factors as you write your copy:

  • Appeal – Why would I want to donate?
  • Exclusivity – How is this different than any other organization?
  • Credibility – Why should I trust you?
  • Clarity – We don’t need to be persuasive; we just need to be clear.

In experiment 6623 with [organization], we applied this idea and added value proposition copy to the donation page. This resulted in a 150% increase in donations.

Experiment 6623

Online Fundraising Idea #3

Idea #4 – Write longer ads.

This is probably the most counter-intuitive idea from this whole list. You’ve probably heard a speaker, a blogger, or maybe even a colleague say that people don’t read ads. Or even that people don’t read online.

But after running several similar tests, we’ve learned that writing longer ad copy can actually strengthen the value of your offer, and build a stronger motivation to convert.

Here’s an example of an experiment that we conducted with Harvest Ministries. We wrote a Facebook ad that was way longer than the “best practice” ad. By doing so, we saw a 316% increase in emails acquired.

But it wasn’t about the length, it was about the value conveyed through the length of the copy.

Experiment 6045

Online Fundraising Idea #4

Idea #5 – Ask for a donation right away.

I recently had a conversation with a friend from an organization I used to work at, and he asked an interesting question: “How long does it take to convert a new name into a new online donor? 13 months? 14 months?”

This question was remarkable to me because I think it highlights a pervasive idea in online fundraising. Most agencies and digital “experts” say that it often takes a year or more to convert a new name into a donor.

In reality, we see substantial conversion rates when we make an instant donation ask.

This means that the moment someone signs up for your newsletter, downloads an eBook, enrolls in an online course, or any other time they submit a form – you should be asking them to donate right away.

Turning Likes Into DonorsAnd I don’t mean send them a donation ask in your email welcome series. You should turn your confirmation page into a donation page that connects the offer someone just downloaded to the value proposition of your organization.

There’s a lot to unpack in that strategy, so if you want to learn more about it, consider checking out Jeff Giddens’s eBook on Turning Likes Into Donors. This book will break down how to use Facebook advertising to target likely donors, capture their email address, and use an instant donation ask to convert new donors.

More Online Fundraising Ideas

These 5 online fundraising ideas are just a handful of the hundreds of ideas we’re testing every day. In fact, we’ve made our entire research library available for free to every marketer and fundraiser out there. To date, our library contains 1,852 experiments where we’ve tested new ideas to prove what works in online fundraising.

You can get even more ideas to test in your online fundraising by exploring our full research library.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

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.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

Three Principles of a High-Converting Content Offer

Published by Jeff Giddens

When developing any sort of donor acquisition campaign, the first essential ingredient is an effective content offer. Without a good offer, you’ll have nothing to advertise to your likely donors. And if you aren’t capturing the attention of likely donors, you’ll never convert new ones.

So then, how do we create a winning content offer that will capture the attention of likely donors and influence them to give a gift?

Through our research and testing, we’ve identified three principles to guide you as you consider what kind of content offer to use for your donor acquisition efforts.

1. Your content offer cannot – and will not – appeal to everyone.

Not everyone is a prospective donor for your organization. We must understand this, or we’ll be continually disappointed.

For example, if you run a food bank in a specific city, you might create an eBook offer that explores the scale of poverty and hunger in your city. But this kind of offer won’t appeal to people who live in a different city, state, or country.

The key to success is in defining who your likely donors are, developing an offer that will be relevant to them, and strategically targeting them with your advertising.

Demographic Targeting

Demographic Targeting for Facebook Ads


We often hear stories of fundraisers who develop an offer like this, set up a Facebook ad campaign without any targeting, and then wonder why no one is clicking, downloading, or donating. And it’s because there are 1.8 billion active Facebook users – most of which aren’t interested in your offer.

2. Your content offer must deliver more value than it costs.

People aren’t looking for a reason to take your offer. People are looking for a reason to move on and do something else, especially on Facebook. So for an offer to be successful, it has to be higher in value than it is in cost.

You might ask “What cost does my offer have if I’m giving it away for free?” While there may not be a monetary cost for your offer, asking for someone’s name and email address creates cost. They have to give something up in order to receive your offer.

We also create cost when we increase the amount of effort it takes to get the offer. For instance, a petition has very low cost. Someone will read through your petition and sign their name to it by giving you their email address, all within a matter of seconds.

Cost Force vs Value Force

On the other hand, an offer like an online course has a very high cost. It requires the user to dedicate a significant amount of time in order to read, listen to, or watch the course. In both of these cases, the value of the offer needs to outweigh the perceived cost.

If we get this out of balance, and the perceived cost is greater than the value of the offer, you’re going to see very low conversion rates.

How perceived cost affects value

However, sometimes there needs to be a small amount of cost. We have found that the increasing amount of investment that someone spends on your offer has a significant impact on their likelihood to eventually become a donor.

Investment and Conversion Rate of Various Content Offers

Petitions have very little investment and cost. They are great opportunities to get cheap emails because a lot of people will fill them out. But we’ve seen that the donor conversion rate is usually low.

A quiz requires a little more investment of time and effort, but they are also requiring an added level of intellectual engagement. This helps people understand the problem to which your organization offers the solution. Because of this extra investment, we have seen a 2.73% average donor conversion rate with this type of offer.

An e-book might take around 10 minutes to read, but when people are willing to invest in that, they have a much higher likelihood of donating. An online course can take several weeks, but it has almost a 6% donor conversion rate.

From this data we can draw the conclusion:

When people are willing to invest their time, they may be more willing to invest their money.

3. Your content offer must be relevant to your mission.

For example, it doesn’t make sense for a breast cancer awareness foundation or humanitarian organization to give away the Texas Almanac as a free offer. But this offer has meaning when it comes from the Texas State Historical Association.

There are all kinds of offers out there that you could give away, but you have to ensure that they line up with what your cause it about.

One of my favorite places to find an offer is to walk to the receptionist’s desk at a nonprofit organization. Most of the time there are pamphlets and written content like magazines or books that never make their way into the digital world. We can digitize those products and offer them because they have value packed inside.

Hopefully these parameters help you begin to understand what it takes to create an effective offer. Target your offers to your ideal donor. Make sure your offer delivers more value than it costs. And make sure your offer is relevant to your mission.

Turning Likes Into DonorsAnd if you want to learn more about how to use your offer to acquire new donors, take a look at my eBook, Turning Likes Into Donors. It will walk through the steps to setting up a Facebook advertising campaign to target your likely donors and influence them to give a gift.

About the author:


Jeff Giddens

Jeff was the 1994 Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

3 Principles of High Converting Email Acquisition Page Design

Published by Tim Kachuriak

Your email acquisition page design should have just one goal: to facilitate the mental conversation between you and your visitor. If the design is too beautiful, it’s a distraction. If it’s too ugly, it’s a disgrace.

The goal is to strike a balance. The whole page design should focus intently on the offer that’s being communicated.

Using your email acquisition page design to clarify the header

Experiment #2684

In this example, we tested an element of copy – a header – that doubled as an element of design. We’ve noticed that it’s become somewhat of a website design standard to put a big block of imagery at the top of every page.

This page was for Hillsdale College as part of an email acquisition campaign. It uses a traditional page header that contains the headline for the landing page. Traffic was being driven to this page from a Facebook ad with a similar “We the People” design in the background and floating text to create congruency between them.

When we reviewed the page, we wondered if this design took up too much space. Was the key headline that conveyed the value proposition getting lost in the background?

To find out, we first removed the graphical header and created a new headline. This was Treatment 1.

Then, we created a second treatment. We still removed the graphical header, but kept the headline exactly the same as the original page. This was Treatment 2.

Experiment 2684 - Results

Treatment 1 produced a 6.6% increase in conversion rate, and Treatment 2 produced a 9.2% increase.

For whatever reason – mental friction, distraction, etc. – we saw a lift in performance with both treatments by removing the header entirely and moving the headline into the content area. We created a tighter connection with the value proposition. After this, we began testing the headlines themselves and chose the one that conveyed a stronger value proposition.

The difference in these conversion rate percentages may seem minimal, but they’re meaningful because these are easy changes. Not every experiment on your email acquisition page design needs to produce huge results. Small changes like this get you one step closer to better conversion.

Visually reinforcing the value proposition

Experiment #1937

When a site has minimal traffic to begin with, testing small differences may not be the best place to start optimizing your email acquisition page design. When you have low traffic and small changes in conversion, tests normally take too long to validate.

Let’s look at a radical redesign example. This is an events signup page for Heritage Action for America. Traffic is being driven to this page from multiple sources, but primarily from Facebook and email. The goal of the page is to get people to sign up to attend their event.Experiment 1937 - Control

As you can see, the initial page is text-heavy. It focuses on communicating the value of becoming an insider and gaining exclusive access to this special forum being held for the upcoming presidential election.

The treatment version of the page is radically different. We wondered if we could use images to enhance the value proposition for attending the event, so we added a full-color image of each candidate that would be present. Then we nuanced the copy and the primary value proposition to focus on accountability.

Experiment 1937 - Treatment

Even though a visitor may not want to see each of these candidates at the event, it does communicate more clearly the value of actually attending.

This change produced a 28.8% increase in the number of signups for the event.

Doing a radical redesign of your page might be a great place to begin increasing your conversions. Consider starting over with a completely different hypothesis than what the existing page is portraying, and then test the differences against each other. Of course, there is always the possibility that a hypothesis produces negative results.

Regardless of the outcome, you will be able to discover exactly why the hypothesis was right or wrong and adjust the page accordingly. Be sure to document each test result to learn from each one and to confidently make changes to optimize the page.

Increasing congruence between your email acquisition page design and your ads

Experiment #314

This is an email signup page we treated for the Hoover Institution. Traffic is being driven to this page from a Facebook ad in order to sign up to receive their newsletter, Strategika.

We used a long-form page and a two-column layout. As you can see, there’s a branded header, a clear call to action, and plenty of copy to communicate what a person will receive by signing up. Overall, the page was performing well, but we wanted to make it better.Experiment 314 - Control

Here is the Facebook ad that drove people to the signup page. As you can see, they look very different.

Strategika Facebook Ad

We wondered if that difference was causing cognitive friction for the visitor, and decided to test it. We created a treatment that follows the same stylistic approach as the ad to create congruency between them. We matched the background image of the ad, and took the brand – which was unfamiliar to the visitor – out of the headline. Then, we highlighted the credibility factors instead of showing unknown contributors. This treatment uses less copy, and follows the same design theme introduced by the ad.

Experiment 314 - Treatment

The treatment produced a 39.2% increase in the number of email signups.

Not only did it increase conversion on the page, but we also reduced the cost per subscriber by 86%! This is because we were sending paid traffic from Facebook advertising to this signup page. Every boost in performance, in terms of conversion, means that it costs less per subscriber to grow the email file.

The key insight we learned from this experiment is that the site visitor is more likely to respond when the ad and the landing page maintain a consistent visual experience.

Wrap Up…

A well-balanced email acquisition page design is important. Review your page, and make sure that the entire design focuses on the offer that is being communicated. If it doesn’t, consider a radical redesign of your signup page, or adding congruency between several pages. The goal of the design is to facilitate the mental conversation between you and your visitor.

Acquire more emails and donors through effective Facebook advertising

It’s one thing to have an effective email acquisition page design, but that alone doesn’t guarantee new leads. In order to capture new email addresses, you have to acquire the right traffic.

We’ve been perfecting a model that will help you acquire the right traffic by turning Facebook into your best source of new email addresses, donors, and dollars. This eBook, Turning Likes Into Donors, clearly unpacks that model and gives you everything you need to start your first Facebook Ad campaign today.

TurningLikesIntoDonors_coverIn this book, you’ll learn:

  • How to create a killer Facebook ad
  • How to target your organization’s best prospects
  • 7 elements of an effective email acquisition page
  • The 4 pillars of a strong value proposition to convert visitors to donors.

Get your free copy of Turning Likes Into Donors: The Definitive Guide to Facebook Advertising for Nonprofits by completing the form below.

About the author:


Tim Kachuriak

Tim is the Chief Innovation & Optimization Officer for NextAfter. Tim has accomplished a lot over his career between driving online fundraising growth for countless nonprofits, sitting on the board of multiple nonprofits, and being a sought-after international speaker. But his biggest accomplishment may be winning "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

How do I get donations from my Facebook audience?

This question comes up all the time in my conversations with nonprofit marketers and fundraisers. Even organizations that have millions of Facebook likes still struggle to get measurable value out of Facebook. 

The answer to this question has eluded many nonprofits – often to the point that most have given up hope on Facebook being a viable platform for direct response fundraising.

But the answer to this question is a lot simpler than you may have guessed. And the key to understanding it is recognizing one key fact: people don’t get on Facebook to give, they get on Facebook to get.

And what are people looking to get? Content.

So if Facebook users are only on Facebook to get content for themselves, how do we get their attention? We have to give them what they want.

A New Model for Acquiring Donors on Facebook

Over the past few years, we’ve been optimizing a model for acquiring donors from Facebook that uses 4 components: a content offer, a Facebook Ad, a landing page, and a donation page.

Turning Facebook Likes Into Donors1. The Content Offer
First, we have to develop a content offer that meets the need of the Facebook user who is in the “getting” mindset. We have to offer them something related to our organization (like an eBook) that will be relevant and bring value to them.

2. The Facebook Ad
A content offer is nothing if it’s not being delivered to the right people. By using Facebook’s ad platform, we can target people that are most likely to become our donors and show them our offer right in their Facebook newsfeed.Facebook Ads
3. The Landing Page
When someone clicks on our Facebook ad, they get directed to a landing page where they can fill out a form to download the offer. On this page, we must ensure that we make the perceived value of our offer outweigh the perceived cost.Content Offer Landing Page

4. The Donation Page
Now that user has said “yes” to our organization by filling out the content offer form, we’re in a position to make a donation ask. Rather than showing a typical form confirmation page, we can show them a strong donation ask with a form to make a gift right there. We call this the instant donation.

Aligning Each Component

We’ve tested this model with many organizations, with all sorts of different offers. Over and over again, we see nonprofits acquiring new emails and new donors – and growing their online revenue in the process. The revenue that these instant donations generate often outweighs the actual cost of the Facebook advertising.

So what does this mean for you?

You can acquire new prospects, convert new donors, and grow your online revenue simultaneously.

In order for this model to work, each component has to be working effectively and be aligned with the other components. There’s not enough room in this blog to break down how to optimize each component, but there is an eBook that does.

Turning Likes Into DonorsIn the eBook, Turning Like Into Donors, you’ll learn how to:

  • Develop a unique content offer
  • Launch an effective Facebook ad campaign
  • Design a high-converting landing page
  • Make a compelling instant donation ask

Turn your Facebook likes into new donors and new revenue for your organization by downloading the free eBook, Turning Likes Into Donors.

About the author:


Jeff Giddens

Jeff was the 1994 Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

For most organizations, traffic is perhaps the least understood metric that directly contributes to online revenue. Even though our Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization (FCORM) shows that optimizing traffic is just as important as conversion rate and average gift, few people know how to get more traffic. What happens when you realize that your traffic levels leave something to be desired?

FCORM - Traffic Optimization

Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization – Traffic Optimization

You can always buy traffic. Most organizations already buy traffic through advertising, email list rentals, or co-registration campaigns. But if your end goal is to get more donors and not just website page visits, buying traffic is not exactly the end all solution.

That’s why I’m devoting this post to going over three strategies to bring more traffic, and more motivated traffic to your website and your donation pages. By focusing on engagement and targeting high-value visitors, these strategies will help you acquire more of the right traffic to convert new donors.

1. Capture, Retarget, and Remarket to existing web site visitors.

People who have already visited your website are some of the most valuable segments of traffic. They also are some of the most neglected. Existing website visitors are no strangers to your organization, but are one step away from being an active lead. How can we get these visitors to re-engage on our websites?Multi Step Remarketing and Conversion

A while back, we developed a campaign called Multi-Step Remarketing and Conversion (MSRC) where we designed a compelling multi-step experience for website visitors.

It can be a quiz, a game, or a survey—something that engages people’s minds and creates an elongated engagement experience. At the end of this experience, we give them some sort of free offer.

The purpose of the free offer is to capture an email address. It could be a white paper, a download, an eBook, a petition, or any number of things; as long as it requires people to give you their name and email address. This will allow you to continue to engage them in a conversation through another channel.


Petition Example


After they give their email address, the engagement doesn’t end. Present these new subscribers with an opportunity to give a gift right away.

As the visitor says “yes” each step of the process, momentum is building in their mind. This increases the likelihood of them saying “yes” to a more significant call to action. You might be surprised how many people will say “yes” to a donation ask right after they’ve just said “yes” to joining your email list.


Donation Ask Example


The people who don’t give a gift enter a remarketing experience. We can tag these people and target them with display ads. That way, when people leave our website and go to other sites, they see our ads showing up everywhere.

This tactic allows us to stay in front of that targeted audience. We’re not wasting advertising dollars by advertising to a generic group. We’re advertising directly to people who came to the website and engaged with us.


Remarketing Walkthrough


Since we captured their email address, we also can send them an email – or even a series of emails – that connects the dots from their initial interaction to an opportunity to support our organization with a financial contribution.


Email Follow Up Example


We have found that there is a pretty dramatic downstream effect when using this model. Not only do we get instant conversion from the initial donation ask, but we get significant conversion later on.


Downstream Revenue - Traffic Optimization


This rainbow chart represents revenue. Where the dotted red line stops is where the initial campaign ended. The big blue bar is the initial revenue that was donated right away. They gave their email addresses and gave a gift immediately—we call those instant conversions.

All of the other color bars you see are the downstream effect of revenue that was generated. Over time we got two times the amount of revenue from the downstream effect than we get from the instant conversion.

When you think about traffic, don’t think only of strangers discovering your site for the first time. The most valuable traffic is the traffic you already have if you create an engaging, long term experience that brings that traffic to your site again and again.

2. Optimize upstream channels and sources of traffic.

Upstream sources could be a number of things. If you do a banner advertisement or search engine marketing, you may optimize your ads to generate more clicks. You can also optimize your keywords to generate more traffic. But all of us have an email list that could be optimized.

Let’s look at a formula to help breakdown email optimization:


MECLABS Email Heurisitc


If we break this down, there are two different components: Value factors and Cost factors. The value factors are relevance, offer, and incentive. The cost factors are friction and anxiety. The goal is to find ways to increase the value factors while lowering the cost factors.

Here’s an example of how to take that abstract formula and apply it to your email campaigns:


Email Click Optimization Example


These two emails are exactly the same – the only difference is the final sentence in the email: the call to action.

We set up our A/B split test, sent out the emails, and found that the treatment produced a 139% increase in click through rate. It also produced a 42% increase in revenue.


Email Click - Call to Action Example


What conveys the stronger value proposition to the person who’s reading this email for the first time? Is it taking the taxes out of the online contribution or becoming a Charter Member of the George W. Bush Presidential Center? By setting up a simple A/B split test, we were able to find the answer and experience a huge boost in revenue.

Next, let’s look at an example of optimizing a Facebook ad to get more highly motivated traffic. Here’s one we did with the Susan B. Anthony List:


Facebook Ad Control Facebook Ad Treatment


In this experiment, we thought that the people seeing our ads might have a different motivation than what we were targeting with the control ad. We created a treatment in which the imagery focused on the educational opportunity through the eBook rather than the protest.

Facebook Ad - Test Results


As a result, we saw a 76.4% increase in names acquired from the Facebook ad.

Not only does optimizing upstream traffic sources allow you to get more traffic, but it can help you get more of the right kind of traffic that will increase conversion rates.

3. Make it easy for your traffic to get to the right place.

When you send an email, tweet out a link, or even print a URL in a mailing, you’re sending your soon-to-be web traffic to a specific location on your web site. But what about the traffic to your site from organic search, direct traffic to your homepage, or other sources where you haven’t precisely directed them to a landing page? In order to get more of the right traffic to the right place, we have to optimize the donation pathway.

Let me show you a simple example of how even small changes in the donation pathway can have a drastic impact on traffic and revenue:


DTS Donate Button Test


In this experiment, we wondered what effect we could have on traffic to the donation page if we simply made the donate button stand out against the other navigation options. We made it look more like a button and gave it a purple background color.


DTS Donate Button Results


Now, we expected to see an improvement since the original donate button blended in with all of the other options. What we didn’t expect, was exactly how much treatment would impact revenue.

When we looked at the donations that came from the treatment we saw an 860% increase in average gift size. The compounding effect of the traffic increase and the average gift increase produced a 2682% increase in revenue.

This test goes to show that simple methods of optimizing your traffic can have a huge impact on the downstream revenue.

Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue MaximizationNextAfter - FCORM Report

Looking 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 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.