3 ways to keep your fundraising tests smart and on target

Testing is one of the great advantages of doing direct-response fundraising. It frees you from guessing what will work. It shuts down the uninformed opinions of amateurs. (Well, it should.)

But you have to test right.

Here’s a helpful post from the Heroic Fundraising Blog, at When to Invest in a Fundraising Campaign Test? 3 Questions to Ask. (It includes a helpful decision tree for testing.)

  1. Why are we testing? It may seem so obvious you don’t need to do this, but you need to put your answer to this question in writing before you launch into a test. Of course, the reason you’re testing is most likely to improve performance. Are you intending to improve response with different messaging or format? Are you going to a different audience? Are you hoping to cut cost while preserving performance? Put the why in writing. If you you lose sight of the why (believe me, this happens all the time), you can wrongly interpret test results.
  2. What’s your hypothesis? Say it out loud (and write it down): We hope that doing X will yield Y result. Be specific about it. Sometimes a test tells you something beyond your hypothesis. But you’ll construct a smarter test if you are very clear about what you are looking into.
  3. What if it wins? Make sure you are able and willing to take action based on the test outcome. Otherwise, the test is a waste of time and money. This can be difficult when you test something that costs more to do than your control. It might “win” in the test … but cost too much to make the win repeatable.

See also Smart testing for nonmathematical fundraisers, a 7-part series on testing.


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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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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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