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Data Science and Technology for Nonprofits with Steve MacLaughlin

Published by Nathan Hill

Not all of your data is important. So how do you determine what’s helpful, what’s not, and make decisions with the right data?

Steve MacLaughlin has been analyzing data and helping nonprofits make data-driven decisions for many years, and shares some of his insights in an interview on the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit live stream. He also discusses how we should view new and emerging technology in relation to fundraising and nonprofit marketing.

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out his entire NIO Summit session for free.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Optimization Evangelist 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.


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5 Online Fundraising Habits to Stop in 2019

At the start of a new year, there’s a universal sense of resolve to look at our lives and consider what we’d like to do differently in the year to come. While it’s healthy to do this in our personal lives, it’s also essential to a healthy online fundraising program.

To help you hit the ground running with your online fundraising in 2019, I’ve outlined 5  online fundraising habits that you need to stop doing right now.

But a new year is also a time for new beginnings. So I’ve also included 5 online fundraising habits and strategies that you need start using this year if you haven’t already.

The Top 5 Online Fundraising Habits You Need to Stop 

1. Stop Using Heavily Designed Email Templates

Time and time again, our ongoing testing and research has shown that personal, humanized emails greatly outperform heavily designed email templates. People give to people, not email machines. So when an email looks like marketing that was sent to thousands of people, donors tend to ignore or delete it.

In experiment 7466, we saw a 19.7% increase in clicks by dropping the heavily designed email template:

How stripping out branding in an offer email affects clickthrough rate (Experiment #7466)

Control

Treatment #1

19.69% Increase to Clicks

2. Stop Using “Donate” Short-cut Buttons on Your Donation Pages

Not every donor visiting your donation page has actually decided to give. This seems like a generally understood idea, but most fundraisers create opportunities to short-cut donors right to the donation form.

The most common example of this is a page with a “Donate Now” button in the navigation that jumps the visitor right to the form. The problem here is that it lets the visitor bypass the reason why they should give, and decrease the likelihood of them actually donating.

In experiment 2107, we saw a 52.6% decrease in revenue when we used the short-cut button:

How creating a "shortcut" to the donation form affects conversion (Experiment #2107)

Control

Treatment #1

28.16% Decrease to Conversions

3. Stop Calling Your Donors “Friend”

The quickest way to let your donor know that you don’t actually know them is by starting your email with “Dear friend.” Nearly every email tool on the market today allows you to insert the recipients first name. And as it turns out, when we call our donors by name, our email performance improves.

In experiment 5707, we tested inserting the recipient’s first name and saw a 270% increase in clicks.

How first-name personalization affects email engagement (Experiment #5707)

Control

Treatment #1

270.07% Increase to Clicks

4. Stop Using Words That Every Other Organization Uses

If you were to go look at the donation pages of 10 different organizations, chances are that you would see several common phrases across all of them. Give hope. Stand with us. Join the fight.

Phrases like these are generic, and can apply to almost any cause. To improve donations, we need to communicate our message and the reason to donate in a way that is unique. The way that your organization solves a particular problem or fills a specific need is exclusive to you, and your copy should communicate this.

In experiment 5729, we saw a 134% increase in donations by using more exclusive value proposition copy:

How a radical redesign that reduces friction and increases the force of the value proposition affects donor conversion (Experiment #5729)

Control

Treatment #1

134.19% Increase to Conversions

5. Stop Using Donation Confirmation Pages

Once someone fills out your donation form and clicks the “Make my donation” button, that natural assumption is that they’ve completed their donation. Yet, many donation pages include a confirmation or verification page for a donor to review their gift before making it is final.

This extra step creates unnecessary confusion because most donors will click the “X” and assume their donation is complete – causing you to lose a donation without your donor ever knowing it.

In experiment 3712, we removed the verification page and saw a 175% increase in revenue:

How additional friction from a verification screen affects revenue (Experiment #3712)

Control

Treatment #1

175.62% Increase to Donations

The Top 5 Online Fundraising Habits and Strategies You Need to Start

1. Start Personalizing Your Emails

Personalization is more than just inserting a first name here and there. It’s about making the entire email feel personal to the recipient – as if you sat down and wrote an email specifically to them. This includes personal sender names, subject lines, and copy.

In experiment 4307, we saw a 137% increase in clicks by creating a more personal email:

How subject line personalization affects open rate (Experiment #4307)

Control

Treatment #1

137.19% Increase to Opens

2. Start Writing Emails Like a Human Being

It’s not always just the details of your email appeal that make a difference in donations. The tone of your email has a huge impact on the likelihood that someone will open, clicks, and respond. Use a tone that sounds like a human wrote it, rather than a brand or marketing machine.

In experiment 4171, we used a more personal tone and saw a 145% increase in donations:

How a personal tone affects donations in an email fundraising appeal (Experiment #4171)

Control

Treatment #1

145.5% Increase to Conversions

3. Start Writing More Copy for Your Donation Pages

Most fundraisers want to keep their donation pages short and sweet. Maybe this is because of the common notion that “people don’t read online.” Or maybe this is because some fundraisers just simply don’t know what to write.

Regardless of the reason why, testing says that using copy to thoroughly explain why someone should give to you will increase conversions and revenue.

In experiment 6623, we saw a perfect example of how more copy on a donation page increased donations by 150%:

How the addition of value proposition impacts donor conversion (Experiment #6623)

Control

Treatment #1

150.15% Increase to Conversions

4. Start Tracking Your Campaigns Properly

UTM MakerEvery time we start working with a new nonprofit partner, the first thing we do is look at all of the analytics and donor data to find where the greatest opportunities are. Yet, most organizations aren’t properly tracking their campaigns with consistency or accuracy.

Kevin Peters created this fancy little tool called UTM Maker that will make it super easy to track all of your campaigns back in to Google Analytics. Just enter your URL and a few pieces of info about your campaign, and it will generate a perfectly tracked link to make sure your analytics are clean.

5. Start Optimizing

Every learning in this entire blog post is a result of ongoing optimization. Every day, we’re testing new ideas and hypotheses across donation pages, email, advertising, articles, and more. And every new experiment leads to greater learnings and understandings of what works to raise more money online.

Make a commitment this year to start testing and optimizing your own online fundraising. And if you need help getting started, we’ve got a blog post that will walk through the steps of setting up your first experiment.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Optimization Evangelist 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.


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

Is your online fundraising turning away donors?

Published by Mike Tobias

Mystery Donor Study blog image

If you want to find out what really works in online fundraising, there’s only one expert whose opinion really matters: your donor.

Experts suffer from something called the curse of knowledge. They literally know too much to be able to see the issues facing a novice. And when it comes to online fundraising, this curse is costing you donors and dollars.

The problem we face as marketers and business leaders is the more we work on the business side of things, the further we get from our donor’s perspective. As we add employees and expertise inside the organization, our level of sophistication increases. Greater sophistication is good, but sophistication can cause our empathy to decrease, which can be counterproductive.

I’m a huge fan of the television show Undercover Boss. If you haven’t seen it or heard of it before, it’s a reality television show that deals with this very topic. High-level corporate execs leave the comfort of their offices and secretly take low-level jobs within their companies to find out how things really work and what their employees truly think of them.

This Emmy-winning reality series utilizes hidden cameras to provide an authentic view of executives’ journeys as they are immersed in the day-to-day operations of their organizations. In the process of this undercover mission, they learn of the perceptions about their companies, the spirit of their work forces and — maybe — something about themselves as well.

The Undercover Donor

What would happen if you created an Undercover Donor scenario so you could experience what your donor experiences when they give to you?

The Online Fundraising ScorecardWe asked ourselves this for the first time about 5 years ago. And this question was the catalyst for our very first Mystery Donor Study called The Online Fundraising Scorecard.

In this mystery donor study, we signed up for email lists of top nonprofits, tracking every step along the way. Then, watching our inbox closely, we gave a donation at the first moment we were prompted. Again, we tracked every click, every form field, and every line of copy.

This first study helped uncover the basis for much of our original online fundraising testing and experimentation, now numbering 1,383 experiments – all openly published in our online fundraising research library.

But all this research is worthless if it’s done in isolation or kept in a box. It’s only effective if you can apply it to your own fundraising program.

So, how do you turn on the hidden cameras, put on the disguise, and run your own Undercover Donor study?

8 Steps to Running Your Own Mystery Donor Study

There are 8 things that need to happen in order for you to become a mystery donor and get the real, undercover look at what your donor experiences.

  1. Make up a name, and create a new email address. Take on your role as a mystery donor – unknown to the organization. A cold prospect that has an affinity for your cause.
  2. Ask questions. Why should you donate to this organization rather than another organization doing similar work?
  3. Engage on all communications channels – website, contact forms, phone numbers, social media and find out how your organization responds.
  4. Make a donation online – click the buttons, fill out the forms, feel the friction, the confusion, the number of steps, the micro decisions and document every step along the way.
  5. Discover the gaps between what you think you’re telling donors and what they are really
  6. Measure your findings against the benchmark reports we’ve created.
  7. Determine which gaps are creating the biggest area of improvement.
  8. Put together an action plan to work on the easiest things that will make the biggest impact first so your most effectively using the resources you do have.

Step 1 – Create a new online persona

Create an online persona – name, address, phone number, and email that nobody has ever heard of before.

Step 2 – Search for relevant keywords

Google search the keywords that represent what your organization does, not your name but your end result. Examples could be something like “water wells”, “international disaster relief”, “child literacy”, “forest protection”, etc. Does your organization show up in relevant search results?

Step 3 – Visit your website

Visit your organization’s website using an Incognito Window. What’s the first thing you see? Remember you’re a donor. Fill out the contact form. Give your new name and email address, asking “I’m thinking of donating, but why should I give to [Organization] rather than some other organization, or not at all?

What responses do you receive?

Call the organization, and ask the same question. Then go to their Facebook page and ask the same question through Messenger. Record all the responses so that your team can hear the actual words used.

Step 4 – Donate

Decide to donate. Was it an email that lead you to this decision? Where do you go to donate? What questions do you still have? What specific information are you having to give?

Is the information asked for really needed (remember to think like a donor, not a fundraiser)? Screen capture and record every step of the donation process.

Step 5 – Review your donation process

Review everything with respect to what you believe should be happening. Discover the gaps between what you thought you were saying and what people are really saying. Listen for the critical elements – is it clear? Is it credible? Is it compelling? Is it unique to you?

Step 6 – Measure and benchmark

Measure and rate your organizations communications against the Value Proposition Index report. Which areas need the most work? Which channels are communicating well, and which channels are falling short?

Step 7 – Review your key fundraising metrics

There are 3 key metrics that influence your online revenue and indicate the overall health of your online fundraising: web traffic, donation conversion rate, and average gift.

Take these 3 metrics, and plug them into this free online fundraising benchmark tool to see what areas are strong, and what areas have opportunity for growth.

Are you lacking traffic to your pages? Do you need to work on conversion? Do you need to work more on increasing your average gift?

Step 8 – Make a Plan

What’s going to make the biggest difference in the next 3 months that you can tackle first? Of all the things you should be working on where do you start? The best place to start are the areas that are easy to fix and are high-impact.

Create an action plan for your team to execute so they can stop guessing and start fixing those things that will have the greatest impact on gaining donors and dollars.

Great. What’s the easiest way to get started?

Mystery Donor Study Checklist

The first thing I would do is download the mystery donor study checklist. This checklist will be a guide, outlining each step you need to take to get a full understanding of how your donor sees your online fundraising.

From there, you can start conducting your own study, developing your own action plan, and optimizing your program.

You can download the free mystery donor checklist using the form below.


About the author:

Mike Tobias

Mike Tobias

As Director of Strategic Partnerships, Mike looks for ways to serve our community of non-profit organizations in an effort to help them raise more money and acquire more donors. Mike works with clients and strategic partners to develop and implement programs that maximize donor giving.


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

Utilizing Your Donors to Tell Your Story with Lee MJ Elias

Published by Nathan Hill

Lee MJ Elias is a hockey coach, an entrepreneur, an author, and was the closing key note speaker at the 2018 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit. And in this special Optimization Insider episode, Lee shares some insights on how we should be utilizing our donors to tell your story.

He also spends some time talking about what he has learned about how to build a culture of trust on any kind of team, whether that’s a hockey team or a nonprofit fundraising team.

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out his entire NIO Summit session for free.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Optimization Evangelist 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.


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

A Thanksgiving Lesson on Donation Page Optimization

Published by Nathan Hill

Thanksgiving Optimization Blog image

The centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal is the turkey. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably Googled “how to cook a turkey” in hopes of finding a step-by-step guide on how to cook the best turkey you’ve ever eaten in your life.

With searches like this, you find all sorts of ideas and opinions that often give you conflicting information. And how are you supposed to know which “best practice” is right for you?

  • Ways to Cook a TurkeyShould I bake the turkey?
  • Should I brine the turkey?
  • Should I smoke the turkey?
  • Should I deep fry the whole thing?

After 10 minutes of being overwhelmed with articles like “25 Ways to Cook a Turkey” (yes, there are apparently 25 different ways), we’re left planning to cook the turkey the same way as always – like mom used to make it.

But what if there is truly a best way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey? How could we go about proving that one way is better than another?

The answer is optimization. Not only can it help you cook a better turkey, but it can also prove what works to convert more donors and raise more money on your donation page.

My Thanksgiving Hypothesis

To get started, I need a hypothesis. A hypothesis should be an idea you have about your donation page, email, advertisement, or turkey that could help improve performance. My hypothesis is this:

Hypothesis: A deep-fried turkey will be more enjoyable than an oven-baked turkey.

After defining my hypothesis, I need to convert it into a research question – something we can actually measure and answer with data. If you’re optimizing your donation page, you might look at total conversions. With a turkey, you might measure how many people say “Mmmm…”

But an “Mmmm…” could mean a lot of different things. So let’s go with something more concrete: the number of post-turkey-dinner-naps.

Research Question: Which turkey will cause more people to take a post-turkey-dinner nap? 

Next, I need to define my treatments. Which turkey cooking methods (or designs, copy, form fields, etc.) am I actually testing? In this case, I have my control and one treatment:

Control: Oven-Baked Turkey

Oven Baked Turkey

Treatment: Deep Fried Turkey

Deep Fried Turkey

Running A Valid Thanksgiving Test

Before I get ready to run my test, I need to make sure that I’ve considered any environmental factors that could skew my results.

If you’re trying to test too many variables at once (design changes, form fields, copy changes, etc), you’re going to have a hard time knowing what variable affected your results.

In this case, my results could be skewed by someone eating more mashed potatoes than anyone else. Or maybe having one too many glasses of wine. In the same way, if I change both the headline and the design of my donation form, how will I know which change caused more conversions?

To ensure I get a valid learning, I need to make sure that all turkey-eaters have the same Thanksgiving spread. My personal go-to dishes include:

  • Thanksgiving MealMashed potatoes (with brown gravy)
  • Real cranberry sauce (not the gelatin kind…)
  • Stuffing (more savory than sweet)
  • Green bean casserole (not because I like it, but because it’s tradition)
  • And pumpkin pie (made with Libby’s pumpkin)

You’ll also want to make sure you’re collecting your data properly. Be sure to define what constitutes a nap before hand. Is it 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour?

On a donation page test, you’ll want to make sure your analytics tools are properly tracking donations for your various treatments, and that nothing is skewing your data.

Once you’ve considered and eliminated all validity threats, you’re ready to run your test.

Cook the turkeys. Set the table. Feast.

Determining the Champion Turkey

As the results come in, you’ll want to make sure they’re valid. You’ll need to have a large enough sample size (people eating your turkey, or visiting your donation page) and a statistical level of confidence of 95% or greater. If this is too much for you to calculate on a holiday, we have a free experiment validator tool you can use.

After plugging in your results, you may realize that your sample size is too low. In that case, you’ll want to grow your email file for next year so you can invite more people to your Thanksgiving meal. We have a resource for that as well called 6 Ways to Grow Your Email File.

Campaign Donation Page TemplateAnd if you wake up from your Thanksgiving coma realizing that you could use these same optimization principles on your donation page to grow your fundraising exponentially…we have just the tool to help you get started.

Inspire more generosity this year-end season by crafting a high-converting year-end campaign donation page. Download your free copy of the Campaign Donation Page guide with 21 ideas that you can test.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Optimization Evangelist 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.


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

How Does Nonprofit Culture Effect Online Fundraising Success?

Published by Justin Beasley

How does nonprofit culture effect online fundraising?

A few months ago, a nonprofit reached out to us to start what we like to call the “roadmap.” It’s basically a massive data and analytics review to figure out where to start testing.

During these roadmaps, we often get some tough questions. These questions aren’t just around donor data and optimization. One question we received recently sound like this (I’m paraphrasing):

Is there an ideal organizational structure that would help improve the effectiveness of our fundraising?

I wrote this partner of ours a long answer about what factors we’ve seen can set up a nonprofit for success that’s trying to grow their online fundraising. And I wanted to share those factors here because the more fundraisers we talk to, the more we hear the same types of organizational issues crop up that are holding nonprofits back from being as successful as they could be.

Here are the 4 key factors that I’ve seen help lead to online fundraising success – regardless of staff size, resourcing, and team structure, or hierarchy at a nonprofit.

1. You have to build a culture of optimization

I’ll admit it: I’m biased. Our entire company and business model is based on testing and optimization. So in a sense, it’s in our best interest that nonprofits start optimizing. But there’s a reason we think it’s so important. Time after time I’ve seen the transformative power of testing and optimization disproportionately impact an organization.

Here are some ways I’ve seen optimization affect nonprofit culture: 

If you embrace optimization, it makes failing ok (it’s just a test). Being able to accept and learn from failure instead of rationalizing or blame-shifting has in immediate positive effect on team dynamics and effectiveness.

Let’s face it—we often learn more from our failures than our successes, because we don’t want to believe it when we’re wrong. . . so we dig deeper looking for answers below the surface.

A culture of optimization protects organizations from being set in their ways or overly risk avoidant. It also keeps them from jumping headlong into every new tactic, technology, or fad. Testing limits risk while also demanding a proof of value.

Many organizations struggle most with resources and capacity, and they have difficulty prioritizing organizational objectives that are often contradictory. Testing lets you fail early and move on to a better option before betting the farm on any one path.

Optimization keeps us humble. The reality is that none of us has all the answers, and the world that we’re serving is constantly changing. We’ve all been certain beyond doubt that a certain strategy or tactic would make a big improvement . . . just to have it go the opposite way when tested. This reminds us that we’re students of our donors, not the other way around.

It redistributes the weight of opinions. Testing presents an opportunity to actually draw out new perspectives and ideas from any and every level of the organization. And it often uncovers solutions (and results) that you wouldn’t have otherwise. The goal isn’t to democratize the process, but rather to inform stakeholders so that they can discern the wisest path.

It helps people ask the right questions. By its nature, testing and optimization is a feedback loop—both with the user and within the organization. It teaches stakeholders to ask not about what you’re doing, but about what you’re learning.

2. You have to be able to execute on strategies and decisions

This is a key differentiator of successful teams. Often despite having good data and a solid action plan, organizations get caught up in the busyness of serving their cause. That often leads them to become unable to seize opportunities in a timely manner.

There needs to be a reasonable balance between effectiveness and efficiency in order to run a successful online fundraising program. Being able to get things done quickly sets you apart and allows you to capitalize on things that others miss out on.

Often times, the key element in the ability to execute is having the right systems in place. When set up in a correct way, the right system can allow individuals to best accomplish their job. With current technologies, there is no reason that a marketer should have to rely on IT to create a landing page. The same could be said for a fundraiser wanting to send a segmented email. If the right systems are in place, it makes everyone’s jobs easier.

If you’re having trouble getting things done, it could also come down to hiring. We conducted a research study on what makes effectives nonprofit fundraising teams this past year that has some good insights on how to build an effective team using human data. This finding was pretty staggering:

Practitioners Aren't Task Oriented

There’s also a lot of other insights into how nonprofit executives tend to have a hard time driving new ideas forward, as well 4 concrete ideas to help you create a more effective team. You can check out the full study here.

3. You must have clearly defined goals (and the ability to measure them)

The most effective teams I’ve worked with didn’t just have goals, but they had specific, realistic, and actionable goals. But a good goal means nothing if you can’t measure your success. The most effective teams make sure to create goals that are able to be tracked regularly and accurately.

Maybe most importantly, your goals and your progress towards your goals need to be visible to everyone on the teams that have ownership or responsibility to hit the goals. As the old adage goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’re bound to hit it every time.”

4. Each team member needs to understand their contribution to the mission and vision

Whatever your mission or vision is (ending world hunger, curing a disease, supporting impoverished communities, etc.), every single team and person needs to understand how their day to day work is contributing.

When a person (regardless of responsibilities or level at your organization) knows how their role is tied back to the mission, it will help to avoid contention and mission creep.

For example, you might have a goal of increasing your web traffic by 5%. But the people responsible for creating the content, setting up advertising, and building landing pages need to know how a 5% increase in traffic relates to the cause.

It could be that the increase in traffic leads to greater awareness of the problem you’re trying to solve, or more students enrolled, or more donations to help provide a meal for someone in need. Without this understanding, these goals just turn into vanity metrics.

One way to help this is to be able to clearly articulate your value proposition – “Why should your ideal donor give to you, rather than to some other organization, or not at all?” If your team members are all equipped to answer this question for your donors, it can be much easier to understand how their day to day work leads to real impact. If you need some ideas on how to answer that question, you can dive deep into the Why Should I Give to You? study.

Each factor works together

When these 4 factors are working together, you’ll be very well equipped to start seeing some major results. A team that is connected to the mission and vision and can help work around or break down organizational silos. Even if you have directives flowing from the top down, data and insights can flow back up the chain of command in a highly effective feedback loop leading to more data driven decision making.

The best part is that this effect is contagious. Often times, when one team sees another’s success, they want to figure out how to do that themselves. And ultimately, if your leadership catches the “optimization fever,” that can lead to full organizational buy-in. And when everyone is testing and optimizing, that means more proven learnings about what works to increase effectiveness, raise more money, and multiply your impact.

Nonprofit Optimization GuideIf you want to take some concrete steps towards optimizing and testing, you should check out the Nonprofit Optimization Guide. It will give you a quick synopsis of what testing and optimization is. It will also show you some of the most important factors to test right away to start seeing growth.

You can get a free copy of the Nonprofit Optimization Guide here.

About the author:

Justin Beasley


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

5 Year-End Fundraising Ideas to Actually Grow Your Revenue

Published by Nathan Hill

5 Year-End Fundraising Ideas
Almost every fundraiser or marketer I’ve talked to has a similar story about year-end fundraising: they spend hours and hours coming up with new ideas and new strategies, only to end up doing the same thing they did the year before.

Doing the same thing over and over again will never help you grow your year-end fundraising revenue. You have to try something new.

Here are 5 simple year-end fundraising ideas that you can easily apply to your campaign this year to help grow results – all based on data and results from over 1000 online fundraising experiments.

Idea #1 – Don’t be afraid to write a long email (or a really, really long email).

One of the most common questions about email fundraising is, “How long should my emails be?” Here’s the short answer:

“Your emails should be as long as it takes to thoroughly explain why someone should give to your organization.”

The hard part is understanding exactly how much information is needed for your donor to trust that investing their money with your organization is the right decision.

For example, in this experiment, we started with a really, really long email appeal. We thought that we could condense the same information down into an email appeal that was half the size (maybe even shorter).

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Write a longer email

The results? The shortened email got more clicks, but it saw a 57% decrease in donations. This contradicts every best practice out there.

Here’s the main takeaway: It often takes much more copy than you think to thoroughly explain why someone should give to your organization. Don’t be afraid to write long emails for your year-end fundraising appeals.

Idea #2 – Ask donors for a phone number, and send a thank-you voicemail afterwards.

Generally speaking, adding more fields to your donation form is a bad idea – especially if you’re asking for excessive or too personal of information.

But if you don’t ask for a phone number, you can make phone calls or send voicemails to cultivate your donors. And according to a study from GuideStar, donors may give up to 42% more after 14 months if they receive a thank you call from a board member (more on how to make this super easy and scalable in a second).

How do you ask for phone number without asking for too much information? Make your phone number field optional.

According to our testing, using an optional phone number field doesn’t affect donations. But requiring a phone number can decrease donations by 42.6%.

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Ask for an optional phone number

Once you have the phone number, you need to be able to make some thank you calls. But depending on the size of your organization, that may seem impossible.

The good news – there are services popping up left and right that will let you send voicemails in bulk to your donors without having to even ring their phone. Obviously it’s better if you can make a personal phone call, but here are some tools to make it easier:

Idea #3 – Use content as a bridge to ask for a donation; especially for new donors.

It’s tempting to flip all of your communication channels to ask directly for donations during year-end fundraising. But not everyone is going to be ready to give, especially those that have never donated before.

Here’s what I’d recommend…

If you have any acquisition campaigns (free downloads, online courses, email sign-ups, quizzes, petitions, etc), keep them running. But try using what we call an instant donation page as your confirmation page.

In short, the instant donation page becomes your confirmation page after someone submits a form. This page briefly thanks them for downloading your ebook, opting in to your email series, or whatever the offer was. But it then pivots into a donation ask, making an appeal related to the original acquisition offer.

The key here is to make sure your donation form is on this page – don’t make people have click again to get there.

Here’s an experiment that illustrates the model, and shows its effectiveness:

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Use an instant donation page

The direct donation ask resulted in zero donations. The content offer to instant donation page resulted in a 209% increase in clicks, and a 1.18% donation conversion rate.

Want to learn more about how to use the instant donation page? You can read a quick blog post about it here. You can download a free template here. Or you can take the free online course (it’s covered in session 7).

Idea #4 – Don’t use videos to make your donation appeal; use them to prime donors for your appeal.

People get angry when they hear this, but videos are not the most effective way to ask for a donation. At least not directly. Here’s an example:

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Don't use a video on your donation page

In this case, replacing the video with text that explained the same message led to a 560% increase in donations.

Let me say that again…Removing the video led to a 560% increase in donations!

If you think this is just a one-off example, check out these other experiments showing the same type of result:

If you want to (or have to) use a video in your year-end fundraising, use it as a primer to show your potential donors the value of your organization before you make your appeal like this:

  1. Send it in an email towards the start of your campaign without any sort of donation ask.
  2. Then send a direct ask donation appeal without a video within 2 weeks. 

Idea #5 – Ask donors to upgrade to a recurring donation when they click to submit their gift.

Recurring donors can be up to 4x more valuable than a one-time donor. And with year-end fundraising being the biggest giving season of the year, increasing the rate that donors become recurring donors could make an enormous impact on revenue.

One way we’ve found to help boost recurring giving numbers is to use a pop-up prompt on your one-time donation form. It works like this:

  1. Donors come to your donation page.
  2. They put in all their info for a one-time gift.
  3. They click the button to submit the donation form.
  4. A pop-up appears that asks the donor to upgrade their gift to recurring.

We tested this model and saw a 64% increase in recurring donations – all without affecting the overall donation conversion rate. In other words, we had the same total number of donors, but a larger percentage were recurring donors.

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Use a recurring gift pop-up prompt

Need more year-end fundraising ideas?

Year End Fundraisng - Cut Through the ClutterWe have a whole eBook called Cut Through the Clutter that is devoted to year-end fundraising. You’ll find 10 unique ideas to help your fundraising stand amount to your ideal donors, all based on real-world research and field-tested experiments.

Get your free copy of Cut Through the Clutter here.

Have other ideas you’d like to share? Just drop them in the comments below.

Planning a year-end fundraising campaign can be a huge stressor – in particularly if you’re caught in a rut of running the same campaigns over and over again, hoping it brings in as many donations as last year (or more). This free online course on year-end fundraising will give you a fresh look at your year-end fundraising, and help you craft a plan based on data, testing, and research that will bring in more money this year-end than you thought possible.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Optimization Evangelist 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.


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

4 Lean Startup Principles To Transform Your Nonprofit

Published by Gabe Cooper

Seven years ago, Eric Ries wrote his seminal book, The Lean Startup, to help entrepreneurs accelerate innovation. His book remains one of the most helpful guides for driving innovation at startups, large enterprises and even nonprofits.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen tremendous success in applying Lean Startup principles in fundraising. Ries’ basic ideas, along with some broader concepts included in Agile software development, have proven to be powerful tools for quickly accelerating fundraising and knocking down barriers to innovation. To help kickstart your thinking about lean-centered fundraising, I’ve outlined 4 core lean/agile principles that can have an immediate impact on your fundraising success.

Before we jump in, I’d like to acknowledge a common roadblock that we see in adopting lean principles in fundraising. The idea of rapid innovation and change can feel intimidating – and most nonprofits find it difficult to shift their entire culture to implement lean practices across the organization. To lessen this stress, we recommend starting small. Try limiting the scope of these recommendations by only implementing lean within your email and online giving optimization programs. By starting small, you’ll be able to prove out these concepts and demonstrate a few key wins in online fundraising. Once your organization sees the success that these principles can deliver, you’ll likely begin to see a much broader organizational shift toward innovation using Lean Startup practices.

Let’s jump into the core principles to see how lean principles can drive fundraising success.

 

PRINCIPLE 1 // ELIMINATE UNCERTAINTY

One of the basic tenets of the Lean Startup methodology is risk mitigation. Too many nonprofits spend thousands of dollars (and many years) on fundraising programs that face a huge risk of failing. These “speculative” fundraising campaigns tend to create an organizational excitement that often causes leadership to invest thousands of dollars into a program before they know if the idea has any chance of working. As a fundraiser, you have a responsibility to yourself (and to your donors) to focus on mitigating as much fundraising risk as possible, as quickly as possible, for as little money as possible. When you implement a new marketing initiative or program, your primary goal as a fundraiser should be to identify the biggest risk of failure before any real budget is allocated.

Once you identify the risk, you’ll want to figure out the smallest amount of time and money possible to test, validate and eliminate the risk and uncertainty. For example, if you are thinking about using music concerts to raise money, try launching one small, local concert first to validate your cost structure, response rate, and attendance. If you are thinking about launching a peer-to-peer program, try one simple, self-contained peer-to-peer campaign first to see if you can motivate your constituents to engage. Your goal in any new tactic is to fail fast and learn fast in order to eliminate uncertainty. A quick failure that allows you to eliminate risk, learn and pivot direction is far better than a prolonged, expensive and ineffective strategy.

PRINCIPLE 2 // THE MVP APPROACH: BUILD, MEASURE, LEARN

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. For fundraisers and marketers, the “MVP” represents the minimum viable marketing execution needed to test your fundraising assumptions. There are several areas where this concept can be applied, but one of the best uses of an MVP for nonprofits is the practice of message testing using Facebook Ads. If you are interested in how a new marketing message or program will play with your constituents, don’t start by putting it on the homepage of your website. Instead, create a landing page using a tool like Unbounce, then create a Facebook Ad that pushes visitors to that new landing page.

Test various copy and messages in each of your ads and landing pages, then track click and response rates to quickly see which messages resonate with your audience. For $200 and a week’s worth of tests, you can often identify your most effective marketing message without changing any of your existing programs. In almost any area of fundraising, you can use this MVP approach to test a new program at a small scale and validate results before launching more broadly.

PRINCIPLE 3 // CELEBRATE FAILURE

The principle of Celebrating Failure also appears as part of our first principle “Eliminate Uncertainty” but, because I see this as a massive problem in the nonprofit space, I wanted to give more emphasis here. As a rule, nonprofits often have very little incentive to change or innovate. Change represents risk. It can also represent new job roles, new required learning, etc. Unfortunately, many nonprofits have (often unknowingly) created an organizational culture that is actively resistant to change. Nonprofits consistently reward employees for making the “safe” choice rather than taking risks. When an employee tries something new and fails, their failure is often written into the permanent lore of the organization and recounted at every staff meeting when a new idea is suggested. There’s an old adage in software that is particularly true for nonprofits: “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” In other words, the easiest way to keep your job is to make the safest choice possible. The problem is that making safe choices with no innovation is the fastest path to irrelevance and a slow death.

To truly innovate, your organization must encourage and even celebrate failure. Nothing great was ever accomplished without a few failures along way. In one case study, the tech startup IMVU saw a 200% increase in revenue when they implemented lean principles of encouraging failure and learning across the entire team… then they continuously released product improvements based on learnings. Even the Wright Brothers had years of repeated, painful failures which helped them learn enough to launch the first manned flight. If you aren’t failing, you’re not growing or learning. And if you are criticizing failure, you are creating a culture where innovation will not exist. The next time someone tries a new fundraising idea and fails… buy them a cake and balloons. Cheer for them on their learning. Then get back on the horse and try again.

PRINCIPLE 4 // DONOR-CENTRIC FEEDBACK LOOP

The final Lean Startup principle that can increase fundraising is shortening the donor feedback loop. Any good technology startup finds ways to constantly gather user feedback and make small changes to their marketing and product based on learning. If you aren’t getting constant feedback from your donors, it’s almost impossible to make quick adjustments that will increase engagement. We recommend having two distinct digital strategies for getting donor feedback: Active and Passive. Passive feedback can include tactics like A/B testing donor landing pages, email subject lines or landing page messaging. Good digital testing practices help you make implicit assumptions about what your donors really want based on their clicks – and then adjust messaging in real time to optimize results. That said, it’s important to pursue more active, engaged feedback loops as well.

I recommend surveying a portion of your donors on a continuous basis to identify their passions, interest in your programs, preferences or stage or life. A Net Promoter Score (NPS) for nonprofits can also be a helpful metric to monitor donor sentiment. An NPS is simply this question you are often asked on websites: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend xxxx to a friend?” The aggregated result of this survey is called your Net Promoter Score. NPS scoring can help nonprofits get a better sense for donor satisfaction and even help identify your most passionate donors who might be willing to host an event, tell a friend, or help in a deeper way with your cause. Research has proven this approach to work at even the most complex companies. For example, the popular cloud software company DropBox used Lean Startup principles and user feedback loops to increase registered users from 100,000 to 4 million in just 15 months.

I believe that each of these four principles has the power to have a profound impact on your fundraising. You’ll likely find that you are innovating faster and raising more money within weeks of putting these principles in place. We’d love to hear from you on your tactics – try out the principles in one of your upcoming campaigns and let us know if you’re seeing improved results.

About the author:

Gabe Cooper

Gabe Cooper

Gabe Cooper is the Founder of Virtuous Software, a CRM and Marketing platform helping charities increase their impact. He is also the founder of Brushfire Interactive, co-founder of Shotzoom Software, and has a passion for creating market-defining software and helping charities re-imagine generosity.


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

Even tests can become fundraising lore — so always go back to the data

Published by Nathaniel Ward

Like all marketers, fundraisers often work on pure instinct. How we solicit gifts and cultivate donors is often guided by assumptions, organization-specific mythology, and industry “best practices” rather than an evidence-based approach.

It’s easy to get trapped by our own assumptions. We humans aren’t very good at discerning what’s true from what’s not, and we often cling to assumptions even in the face of contrary evidence.

But there is a solution. We can use data and testing to constantly check our assumptions about what works with donors and make sure that what we think we know is actually true. That’s one of my chief roles at The Heritage Foundation’s Fundraising Innovation Lab.

When tests become lore

Even marketing tests can themselves become the stuff of myth. A decade ago, Heritage ran a two-year test to a portion of our donors who self-identified as social conservatives. We had an assumption about donor behavior and checked it in the marketplace—great!

The firm conclusion repeated around the office was that our existing practices are most effective. Unfortunately, the results of the test were never properly documented, which led to questions about whether this conclusion was real or simply reflected confirmation bias.

I dove into the data to find out what really happened.

Confirming fundraising lore

After the 2004 election, pundits argued that social conservatives had delivered the election to President Bush. Heritage hypothesized that we could drive more giving from this group by tailoring the message and tone of the fundraising messages we sent them.

Our traditional fundraising message emphasized fiscal issues and the role of government. Could fundraising language focused on questions of morality, family, and the like appeal more to social conservatives?

To test this hypothesis, we identified 70,000 self-described social conservatives among our existing donors. Over the next two years, half this group of social conservatives (the control group) received traditional Heritage messaging in the mail and online, and the other half (the treatment group) a more social-conservative message. The social-conservative messages were crafted by an agency that had successfully raised funds from this audience before.

Donors in the treatment group, receiving social conservative messaging, gave 22% fewer gifts and 26% less revenue compared to those in the control. While a handful of appeals during the two-year test weren’t adjusted in tone, a potential validity threat, it’s reasonable to conclude that adjusting our message and tone caused our donors to give less money less often.

Lesson: brand matters

In simple terms, the conventional wisdom about the test was confirmed: our traditional language worked best. But what could explain this? Why wouldn’t talking to donors based on their interests boost fundraising?

One possibility is that our social conservative appeals simply weren’t very compelling. On the other hand, these messages were crafted by an agency who had done considerable work with similar audiences in the past.

Another compelling possibility: by adjusting our message and tone, we effectively went “off brand” with our social-conservative appeals. We had set an expectation among our members about the message and tone we would use, and the new approach violated that expectation. Our brand, in other words, exists in the mind of the donor.

Testing trumps guessing, and data trumps intuition

At the end of the day, what works in fundraising isn’t a matter of opinion or conventional wisdom. It’s a matter of fact. And testing in the marketplace is the best way to confirm whether our assumptions about what works are true.

Equally important, however, is recording your experiments to make sure the results are properly understood in the future. Given our predilection for confirmation bias, it’s easy for a test result to reinforce the conventional wisdom even if it doesn’t!

About the author:

Nathaniel Ward

Nathaniel Ward

Nathaniel is the Counselor for Fundraising Strategy and Innovation at The Heritage Foundation.


Learn how to set up and conduct an A/B test in your online fundraising during the upcoming live webinar »Learn More »

Google Search Donations: What Every Nonprofit Needs to Know Before They Sign Up for the Google Donate Button

Published by Tim Kachuriak

Google has recently introduced a new, easy way to donate to nonprofits called Google Search Donations, but before you run to go and sign up, you should read this post.

Introduced leading up to Giving Tuesday, Google has added a new ‘Donate Now’ button that shows up in the right information panel when you search for some nonprofit organizations.

Google Search Donations

The good news is that unlike Facebook that charges a 5% transaction fee, Google claims that 100% of the donation goes directly to the organization. Great Right?

How Google Search Donations Works

The functionality is pretty slick. One click of the Google Donate button and you can quickly complete your transaction in just two easy steps:

  1. First, you select your donation amount (if you don’t want to choose one of the gift array options, you can also add your own custom amount):Google Search Donations Array
  2. Second, you enter (or confirm) your payment information. If you have ever used Google Payments and asked Google to remember your payment information, all of those payment options will be displayed by default.Google Search Donations Payment

But here is where it gets a little interesting. If you read the fine print, you will see that the donation actually doesn’t go directly to the organization. It goes to Network for Good, a Donor Advised Fund. And they also get “exclusive legal control” of your contribution:

Google Search Donations Fine Print

If you are used to working with Donor Advised Funds (DAF), then you know that this is pretty standard procedure. DAFs act as a clearing house for individual donor contributions and make lump-sum distributions to donor-selected nonprofits based on funds collected on behalf of those nonprofits. The advantage of DAFs for smaller nonprofits is that they don’t have to invest in significant infrastructure to collect donations. In the example of Google Donate, smaller nonprofits can instantly have a ‘Donate Now’ button that shows up whenever anyone searches for their organization (by name) in Google.

What are the positives?

So, let’s list the positives about Google Search Donations:

  1. Google Search Donations is free. You’ll need to first set up a Google for Nonprofits account, but once you do that, enabling Google Search Donations is as simple as a few clicks to get set up.
  2. Google Search Donations is fast. Once you have the Google Search Donations Button activated, anytime someone searches for your organization in Google, a simple, two-step donation opportunity will show up in the right info panel on the search results page.
  3. Google Search Donations doesn’t require you to do anything except cash checks. All processing of the gift, receipting, and tax forms for the donor is completely handled by Google and Network for Good.
  4. There are no transaction fees for Google Search Donations. That means that your organization gets 100% of the donation made through the Google Donate Button.

Pretty sweet, right?

Well, let’s take a closer look.

Are there any downsides? Oh yes.

If you dig around a little bit, you will eventually stumble on to the FAQs. The first one is a killer:

Google does NOT provide the nonprofit with the contact information for donors that make a gift using Google Search Donations.

Everyone knows that the key to building a lifelong relationship with your donors is regular, consistent, and relevant communication. In fact, even Google knows this and acknowledges it in the FAQ! But, they still aren’t giving you the names and contact information for your donors. OUCH!

To me, this is a killer. It’s why I originally hated text-to-give in its early configuration—because no matter how many $10 gifts I get from phone companies, I have no way of even thanking my donors for their gift. And Google Search Donations seems to be making the same mistake with their Google Donate Button.

Fundraising is not just a transaction. It is a relationship. And even though big tech companies like Google acknowledge that, they still don’t understand the profundity of that simple idea and how essential it is for us when it comes to retaining and growing our relationship with our donors.

And not receiving the donor contact information also creates more complexity and confusion in the mind of your donor.

It’s not just tough for fundraisers; it’s confusing for donors.

For example, gifts made through the Google donations system can’t be receipted by your organization:

So, follow me on this little mental journey a donor goes on when they give a donation using Google Search Donations:

  1. A prospective donor that has never given a gift to you before receives an acquisition direct mail piece at their home.
  2. They open the letter; read it, become completely inspired by your cause, and are compelled by your appeal. They decide to donate!
  3. But they don’t like messing around with a checkbook so they go to Google and search for your organization by name.
  4. The search results come up and in the right hand info panel of the page, they see your organization name and logo—the same logo that’s on the mail piece you mailed to them. And that’s when they spot the “Donate Now” button.
  5. Now, they use Amazon all the time and instinctively see this as a “one-click” donation option that will save them some time. Boom—two clicks and they are done! Wow, wasn’t that so easy!

Here’s where it gets rough…

Then, your brand-spanking new donor receives an email from Google and a receipt from Network for Good. They don’t even think anything of the receipt since they have never heard of Network for Good and their “receipt” just meshes together with the rest of the junk mail they typically receive.

But guess what never happens next—your donor never gets to hear from you. That donor that you most likely spent between $10 and $100 to acquire, is never going to give to you again.

Whoof!

Unless, of course they decide they actually want a refund. And they Google you again and this time go to your web site because they need to actually talk to someone to get a refund on their donation.

So they call and explain they made a donation to you, but because they never heard from you, they want their money back.

You go into your fancy CRM system, look them up, and try to explain to this obviously irritated donor that you show no record of their transaction.

Still, they persist. And so you give in out of the interest of trying to win over the upset donor and avoid some sort of negative social media tirade later that causes you to lose a Charity Navigator star.

You refund the amount of the gift.

Then you realize that this may have been a donation given through Google Search Donations via Network for Good. Maybe you can reach out to them and at least recoup the amount of the donation that you had to refund.

And then you find out that Google Search Donations does not give refunds:

I know, you probably feel like this right about now: 

Now, let me tell you what’s really jacked about Google Search Donations.

When donors give to your nonprofit using the Google Donate Button, they bypass your website, which means they are never exposed to the #1 factor that we have discovered most greatly influences: a) their probability of giving a gift, and b) the amount of their gift.

Do you know what that factor is?

The number one factor influencing online fundraising

This month we will publish our 1,000th online fundraising experiment. And based on all our experiments, spanning a combined sample of more than 123,424,714 donor interactions, we have found that the number one factor that influences giving behavior (that’s within your control) is the force of your organization’s value proposition. That’s it. It’s not ease of giving (although that is certainly a factor). It’s not the technology that you use (although that helps facilitate online gifts). And it’s not even how ‘pretty’ your web site is (in many cases pretty = poor performance—sorry to all my designer friends!).

What is the value proposition, you say? It’s the answer to a simple (yet extremely profound) question:

If I am your ideal donor, why should I give a gift to you, rather than some other organization (or not at all)?

Now, there is an incredible amount packed into this one simple question, so let’s take a moment to unpack it:

If I…

This is a first-person question, so it requires a first-person answer. And do you know who the first person is? Here’s a hint—it’s not you! It’s your donor. This question needs to be answered from the perspective of your donor. But you have a significant problem here right from the start—you are not your donor. If you try to answer this question from your point of view, you will completely miss the mark. So, what are you to do? How can you answer this question from your donor’s point of view? The answer is Research. You need to start by researching your donor and beginning to piece together:

  • Who they are (demographics)
  • Where they come from (analytics)
  • What interests them (psychographics)

Until you form a basic understanding of your donors, you will be shooting completely in the dark.

…ideal donor….

But hold on—it’s not just any donor’s perspective, it’s your ideal donor’s perspective that you are after. That means you need to get really clear on who your best donors are and be willing to focus all of your attention on them. That also means that you must be willing to accept tradeoffs. In other words, you have to be willing to accept that you can’t expect to reach everyone with your message—only those who are the best fit for you and your organization (i.e. that may mean that you need to stop trying to reach Millennials!!).

…why should I…

A value proposition is not your mission statement. It’s not what you do. And it’s not your three-point plan. Ultimately, a value proposition is a reason. It is a reason why someone should move from their status quo and take a new action. For you, that means donate. And so, a value proposition is essentially an argument. You need to ‘make your case’ before the jury of potential donors. You need to appeal to both their emotions and their intellect. You must inspire them.

Here’s a hint: if your value proposition statements don’t begin with the word because it’s probably not a value proposition.

…rather than some other organization….

In order for it to be strong, your value proposition must be unique; it must be exclusive. It must be something that you do that no one else can do—or something you do better than anyone else. If your value proposition has an -est modifier (biggest, fastest, strongest), or a most differentiator (most efficient, most trusted, most effective), then that’s a good start.

Now, I know, we don’t like to ever talk about competition in the not-for-profit space. After all, we are all making the world a better place, right? We are all inspiring people to be generous. One of my mentors once put it so eloquently, “there is not competition among lighthouses.”

But the reality is that we compete every day for donor dollars. Data suggests that although the amount of money that is donated to charity continues to grow, the number of individuals that are giving continues to shrink. That means the total universe of ‘probable’ donors is shrinking. So not only do we need to acknowledge that competition in the nonprofit space exists, but we need to prepare for even more fierce competition for donor dollars in the future.

…(or not at all).

And to further exacerbate the issue of competition, we need to acknowledge the null hypothesis. That is, the donor has a third option. They can decide to give to you. They can decide to give to some other organization. Or, they can decide to not give at all!

What this means is that we are not just competing against other nonprofits, but against every organization on planet earth (both nonprofit and for-profit) that is trying to generate revenue. This means that your value proposition either needs to be so compelling that it moves your donor to give to you rather than buy something for themselves.

I know that is a lot to digest, so let me give you a little bit of a break to process that by showing you a few experiments that illustrate the power of the value proposition in action.

Experiment #111 – How Copy on a Donation Page Affects the Force of a Value Proposition

I love this experiment because it is so clean and so perfectly illustrates the power of the value proposition on your donation page. The most dangerous mistake you can make is to assume that your potential donor firmly grasps your value proposition by the time they click on the ‘Donate’ button and land on your donation page.

I liken it to fishing. If you have ever been fishing then you know that once you hook a big fish, you can’t just put your pole down and expect the fish to swim into shore of its own accord. Any seasoned angler knows that the key to landing a big fish is to keep the tip up—keep the tension on the line—and keep reeling until you land the fish on dry land.

Tim Kachuriak with a fish
(yes, that’s me with a ‘bow I caught in Broken Bow, OK)

The same is true on your donation page—you need to continue to ‘sell’ the donation all the way through the transaction.

Here are a few more experiments from our research library that highlight this point:

Experiment #6623 – How Value Proposition Impacts Donation Conversion

Control

Treatment #1

150.15% Increase to Conversions

Experiment #3793 – How a radical redesign of the value proposition affects donation conversion rate 

Control

Treatment #1

146.54% Increase to Conversions

Experiment #1780 – How the right value proposition can impact donation conversion rate

Control

Treatment #1

186.46% Increase to Conversions

And finally, check out this last experiment that illustrates how dangerous it is to bypass the value proposition by introducing a “quick donate” button that skips past your copy:

What I really think about Google Search Donations

So as you can see, value proposition is extremely important to your online fundraising success. And that’s why when I see new technologies like Google Search Donations, I’m always a little bit leery. I think the Google Donate Button is a step in the right direction. And I love the spirit behind this initiative—Google and Network for Good are obviously trying to make giving easier for donors so that they give more to causes that inspire them.

But instead of bypassing the nonprofit’s web site, I wish that the Google Donate button actually took you directly to the organization’s donation page—or at least make that an option! That would undoubtedly send significantly more traffic to this critical conversion pathway by creating a shortcut for donors to jump right to the place where they can make their gift.

And if organizations can benefit from a boost to traffic to their donation pages, then we could validate experiments faster, which means we can learn faster what works and what doesn’t. And if we can validate experiments faster, we can accelerate our mission of decoding what makes people give so we can unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world!

About the author:

Tim Kachuriak

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