How the "fear of failure" at a campaign's deadline impacted donor response rate - NextAfter
Americans for Prosperity

How the “fear of failure” at a campaign’s deadline impacted donor response rate

Americans for Prosperity

Experiment Summary

Ended On: 01/08/2021

As a part of American’s for Prosperity’s year-end fundraising campaign, they had a final email appeal reminding the donor of an upcoming deadline (midnight) so as to inspire them to give.

We decided to experiment with a positive message (implying that as the deadline approached, that the reader’s gift right now could “put us over the top” of our goals) vs. a more negative tone that focused on the fear of loss (implying that “we, collectively, will not succeed” without the reader’s gift right now as the deadline is approaching).

Research Question

We believe the fear of failure will increase donor response rates.


C: Control
T1: Treatment #1


  Treatment Name Conv. Rate Relative Difference Confidence
C: Control 0.05%
T1: Treatment #1 0.25% 374.4% 93.9%

This experiment has a required sample size of 1,980 in order to be valid. Since the experiment had a total sample size of 10,024, and the level of confidence is not above 95% the experiment results are not valid.

Key Learnings

With a 93.9% level of confidence (just shy of a significant result), we observed an increase of +374% in the donor conversion rate when using a negative tone (eg a message that emphasizes the fear of not hitting our collective goals without the donor’s gift right now).

Subsequently, we also observed an increase in revenue from the treatment (negative tone) message of +898% (LoC: 85.8%).

This revenue increase was achieved by a combination of a +52% increase in the average gift size, as well as the increased response rate—which multiplied together to drive the revenue lift seen within the study.

Overall, the samples are pretty light and we’d like to further experiment with this approach again in future studies, but the results seem to indicate that the “fear of loss” within the treatment message drove a higher response and better generosity.

Experiment Documented by Courtney Gaines
Courtney Gaines is Vice President at NextAfter.

Question about experiment #17675

If you have any questions about this experiment or would like additional details not discussed above, please feel free to contact them directly.