What you can (and can’t) learn from direct response testing

Testing Tuesday: A weekly series on how to get the most of direct-response fundraising tests

Smarttesting

When I was new to fundraising, I read about a direct mail test that showed putting the stamp on the outer envelope at a slightly off-kilter angle increased response by a statistically significant margin.

I was in awe. And overwhelmed. If a detail that insignificant could move the needle, how many other details I’d never thought about might be scuttling my work?

What I hadn’t really taken in was the fact that it was a test in commercial direct marketing that was mailing millions of pieces year ’round. They could test things like that.

There may be nonprofit direct mailers with the volume to test that kind of thing, but I don’t know them. (If they’d like to get in touch, I’d be happy to talk!)

For those of us in the real world, testing tiny, subtle things is a waste of time. Wondering between two different shades of orange? Testing is unlikely to tell you which. It also won’t likely show a difference to a minor change in copy.

And, in my experience, even a whole new, completely different logo doesn’t move the needle enough to give a significant read.

To learn useful things, test bigger.

Test completely new approaches.

Test new offers.

In direct mail, test the outer envelope — this is the element that has the most impact on response, so changes to it can do the most good (or harm).

Finally, be sure whatever you test is repeatable, that whatever you learn can be rolled out in the future.

Read the full Testing Tuesday series


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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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