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The Secret Code to Increasing Online Fundraising Revenue (and How to Use It)

Published by Tim Kachuriak

The goal of online fundraising optimization is to increase the amount of visitors that convert through our organization’s donation funnels (which are upside down). The MECLABS Conversion Heuristic is a very useful tool that provides a framework for how to increase conversion.

conversion heuristic

Here’s a breakdown of what this formula means:

  • C represents the probability of Conversion
  • M represents Motivation. Motivation is the primary factor in conversion (that’s why its weight in the conversion heuristic is multiplied by 4). Motivation is also the most difficult factor to influence — you can’t always control the motivation of someone who comes to your website. Motivation speaks to questions like:
    • Why did they visit in the first place?
    • What is their intention?
    • What is their mindset as they come to the website?
  • V represents the net force of the value proposition. You actually have a lot of control over the value proposition in your marketing. We can control the elements that convey value proposition. Things like:
    • Words
    • Images
    • Videos
    • Message
  • I represents Incentive. These are elements that we might introduce at the point a user decides to take an action. They are designed to be appealing additions (i.e. extra value) that help tip the conversion scale in our favor. Incentive answers the question “why should I donate right now“?
  • F stands for for Friction, which is anything that inhibits action. Friction slows our prospects down or, even worse, stops them dead in the tracks and causes them to abandon the page. This is a negative factor, and we must work to reduce unhelpful friction as much as possible.
  • A represents Anxiety. Anxiety exists in the mind of the visitor. To mitigate its impact on conversion, we must work to neutralize as much anxiety as possible and reassure our donors that their gift is safe and our organization is credible.

We have found this tool to be incredibly useful. If you examine one of your existing conversion sequences, you will see how each of these different variables very neatly tie to this equation. You can list the value factors of motivation, value proposition, and incentive and compare them against the cost forces of friction and anxiety to get a clear picture of why (or why not) your visitors are converting.

If you apply this heuristic to every micro-yes in your donation funnel (which is inverted, remember) you can create experiments that boost conversion.

the force to yes

The Laboratory

There are five variables in the conversion heuristic. With that many factors influencing conversion, it must be impossible to identify the primary factor affecting your campaign performance, right?


That’s one thing that makes online fundraising unique. We no longer have to guess why (or why not) our visitors are converting. We can use the web as a living laboratory to scientifically test a hypothesis about a specific variable in real time and get data that will help us to better understand our prospects and donors.

This is critical. In fact, the ability to scientifically experiment and gain insight is the most powerful feature of online fundraising.

Let me introduce a very simple model that we use to help us find the primary areas where we can increase online revenue.

The FCORM: Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization

The FCORM, or “Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization” (yes, we love Back to the Future) is a simple formula that measures the three factors that affect online revenue. You read that right — there are only three factors: traffic, conversion rate, and average gift.

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Traffic x Conversion Rate x Average Gift = Revenue

The amazing thing about the FCORM is that each factor has the exact same impact on revenue. If I increase traffic by a certain percentage and nothing else changes, that exact percentage is added to the bottom line revenue. But, if we can boost two or all three variables, revenue grows exponentially.

This is the secret to revenue growth:

  • The laboratory of the web allow us to measure every step of the funnel
  • We can use the FCORM model to evaluate each variable in the revenue equation
  • We can use the conversion heuristic to devise treatments that target each variable for improvement
  • We can validate our treatments through scientific optimization experiments

By systematically optimizing each variable in the FCORM equation, we can dramatically increase revenue. This level of testing and insight is possible only online.

Published by Tim Kachuriak

Tim Kachuriak is Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer of NextAfter.