How a numbered explanation of ‘next steps’ affects donor conversion Experiment ID: #8124

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: 11/28/2017 - 12/15/2017

Hillsdale College recently performed an audit of all of its existing course donation pages, and looked for ways to improve conversion performance. In their analysis, found that their best performing pages always reduced the amount of friction the page visitor experienced by giving the visual signals and making the page easily scannable. As they began to hone in each particular element of the page, they wondered: Will adding a numbered explanation of what the visitor can expect next increase donor conversion?

They created a treatment page that included a numbered list and launched an A/B test to find out.

Research Question

Will a numbered list of ‘next steps’ increase donor conversion?


C: Control
T1: Treatment 1


Treatment Name Conv. Rate Relative Difference Confidence
C: Control 7.1%
T1: Treatment 1 4.0% -43.0% 95.9%

This experiment has a required sample size of 436 in order to be valid. Since the experiment had a total sample size of 941, 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
× 43.0% decrease in conversion rate
× 0% increase in average gift

Key Learnings

Hillsdale College actually found that the numbered list detailing the ‘next steps’ for the visitor decreased donor conversion by 43%. Despite the treatment’s attempt to add more clarity in an easy-to-read format, its clear that this change adversely impacted the potential donor’s journey. How? Its likely that the numbered list did increase clarity for the page visitor. However, it seems to have done so at the expense of also disproportionately increasing the amount of friction. In other words, what was gained in clarity was quickly lost in the additional time it took the viewer to digest the numbered list.

This addition also pushed the line, “We are often asked–why does Hillsdale offer this course for free?” further down the page. This means that some visitors had to scroll down the page to read the value proposition language surrounding Hillsdale’s free online courses. Hillsdale is further testing their Constitution 101 page to determine the optimal way to inform the viewer without discouraging them from giving.

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Experiment Documented by...

Kevin Peters

Kevin is the Chief Technology Officer 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.