The power of simple, not-pretty design in fundraising

Here’s an interesting test reported at ProActive Content: Are Your Fundraising Emails Over-Designed?

The test compared three different versions of an email:

  1. A fairly typical, minimally designed email offering a free book in exchange for a donation of any amount.
  2. Used the same design, but added in deadline-driven copywriting to increase urgency.
  3. Altered the copy to sound more like a letter, and presented it as a text-only email with no design.

The winner: #3 — 116% more donations than #1, which was the lowest performing version. (#2 was between, doing 36% more than #1.)

My experience with this type of testing in most fundraising channels has been similar.

Pretty design rarely does the job in fundraising.

If you’re putting a lot of effort into making your fundraising materials look beautiful, you are working against yourself.

Keep it plain, simple, ordinary, even home-made looking. It might not be as pleasing that way, but I think you’ll find the results more than make up for it!

You have just one day left to register for the free online workshop, The Hidden Treasure of Fundraising: Your Map to Transformational, Sustainable and Practical Success. It’s on September 5th and September 6th. Don’t miss it!


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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