How are you testing the boundaries of your annual giving program?

Throughout the year, you may get to a creative roadblock or see fatigue in your marketing campaigns. Know that you are not alone. This is why industry conferences are so important to help in growing and sustaining your annual giving program. There is nothing like the feel of entering a convention center and joining fellow fundraising and marketing professionals to get reinvigorated and be in on the pulse of industry trades, gaining insightful ideas that you can take back and start incorporating immediately.

I recently attended the 2018 DMA Nonprofit Federation Conference in Washington, D.C. for the first time this past February, which covered tracks on ways to build, sustain and transform your annual giving program. It was fascinating to see what other organizations had tested and what worked or didn’t work for them.

The below content will share a few of the takeaways from the conference.

Challenge the control.

A lot of times we get too nervous to push the boundaries and test new direct mail packages. Or maybe you just don’t have the budget to be more aggressive with your testing. But, I have found even the slightest change can have a positive impact on your revenue and growth of donors. Each organization is different, but we all get to that point where we need to revive the control package. This is the time to get creative and challenge it. This can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. Many organizations have seen success with just minor tweaks to their packages, including adding new components, such as refreshing the language/images or trying new premiums, testing stock colors, ask strings and postage treatments. I can attest to this. Recently, I worked with an organization that was seeing a lot of fatigue and just by adding a free three-page booklet premium to their control direct mail package, their response rate doubled.

One organization at the conference talked about how they tested a closed face envelope versus a window envelope showing a member card and saw a 9% increase in revenue and 8% increase in donors. And it cost less!

We recently did a font size test for a client’s direct mail package, where we increased the font from 10 point to 14 point. We have seen great success with this test for our clients who have an older demographic, as we believe this audience finds a larger font makes the letter more readable. The test saw a 7% increase in response rate compared to the control and a 34% increase in average gift. So, it just proves that even the smallest changes can make a big difference.

Never miss out on the opportunity to test something new, and if initial results are promising, it’s worth taking a risk to mail larger quantities. If your budget doesn’t allow for a big test, online is the next best avenue to get initial results quickly and at a lower cost per donor.

Technology is changing; how you can make optimization work.

Information these days has become more accessible to people, and if you don’t provide an easy and visually enticing interactive experience, you’ll lose them immediately. When marketing to audiences through email, website or social media, a number of the case studies that were presented at the conference included testing text versus images (i.e., Facebook ad using a “Donate Now” button versus “Donate Now” text). Images, the majority of the time, won out. It’s no surprise, as images/videos help to convey your story instantly when there are so many other organizations competing for your donors’ attention.

Aside from images, your website is another opportunity for donor conversions. People look to your website as a resource of information. Use your content and find those high-traffic pages that have no CTA and test a donation form.  Once they reach your online donation form, make it as easy as possible for them to enter their information. One organization at the conference tested this by reformatting their donation form to be two columns with the left column being the content and the right column the CTA. They found out that, although it didn’t work for their memorial gifts, it increased their one-time gifts.

So, as you think about your next campaign, whether it be direct mail, online or finding ways to optimize your online tactics, there’s no better approach then testing and testing again!

Interested in hearing about other conference ideas, keep an eye out for my next blog about the NACCDO-PAMN conference hosted in Seattle, WA, from March 26 to March 29.

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Lauren Endler