How multichannel cultivation impacts year end giving Experiment ID: #6404

Hillsdale College

Founded in 1844, Hillsdale College is an independent liberal arts college with a student body of about 1,400. Hillsdale’s educational mission rests upon two principles: academic excellence and institutional independence. The College does not accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies for any of its operations.

Experiment Summary

Timeframe: 11/19/2017 - 12/31/2016

The impact of cultivation and stewardship is something that is often hard to measure. We know that we need to thank our donors but it is difficult to put the exact impact this kind of communication has on their likelihood to give.

Leading into the calendar year end campaign, Hillsdale had discovered a technology that would allow them to send personalized post cards to their donors. The cards would include their name on the front and would contain a link to a custom video; all of which would be trackable back to the individual donor.

We decided to test out the impact of this kind of technology by sending a post card to a random segment of active donors for the sole purpose of cultivation and stewardship. We sent this at Thanksgiving time and then monitored their giving throughout the coming year end campaign. We were able to then compare their giving to a similar group of donors to get an understanding of the impact.

Research Question

Will sending a personalized cultivation message via mail have an impact on the donors’ likelihood to give and amount given at calendar year end?

MECLABS Conversion Factors Targeted

C = 4m + 3v + 2( i - f) - 2a ©

Copyright 2015, MECLABS


C: No Post Card
T1: Post Card


Treatment Name Conv. Rate Relative Difference Confidence
C: No Post Card 8.8%
T1: Post Card 26.9% 204.1% 100.0%

This experiment has a required sample size of 20 in order to be valid. Since the experiment had a total sample size of 293,796, and the level of confidence is above 95%, the experiment results are valid.

Flux Metrics Affected

The Flux Metrics analyze the three primary metrics that affect revenue (traffic, conversion rate, and average gift). This experiment produced the following results:

    0% increase in traffic
× 204.1% increase in conversion rate
× 0% increase in average gift

Key Learnings

The donors that received the post card cultivation saw a statistically significant 204% increase in their year end giving. Additionally, we saw a 105% increase in their average gift when compared to the control group (although this average gift increase did not reach statistical significance.)

This increase in giving resulted in a significant increase in the amount of revenue received from this test group. It reinforces the need for good stewardship and cultivation, especially when leading in to the major giving times of the year.


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Experiment Documented by...

Kevin Peters

Kevin is a Senior Vice President at NextAfter. If you have any questions about this experiment or would like additional details not discussed above, please feel free to contact them directly.