Fri, August 16 2013

Test your fundraising instincts

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   How to improve emails and newsletters •

Which Test Won? is a fun resource that regularly highlights A/B tests of emails, landing pages, and more. This week, Which Test Won? released their 2013 Email Testing Hall of Fame, a showcase of tests that nonprofit fundraisers can learn from.

I was pleased to see the hall of fame included a fundraising test from a membership renewal campaign launched by People for the American Way. The test pitted a member drive letter featuring a fundraising thermometer vs. a letter with a virtual “membership card”. Which version do you think received the most donations?

Which Test Won Fundraising Email Test

Click over to view the emails and vote to find out if you got it right, then come back and tell me if your instincts were right. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here.

Did you guess right? Were you surprised by the results? Scroll down for some thoughts (and spoilers) on this membership drive.

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While many factors likely affected the outcome of this test, here are a few things that probably tipped the scales in favor of winning version B: the renewal card letter.

Strong and prominent call to action
In the winning version, a bold, short, and clear call to action is centered at the top of the email. Version A also features a call to action to the right of the message, but it’s much longer and easier to overlook.

Fundraising thermometer
The prominent feature in version A was a Statue of Liberty fundraising thermometer. When using tickers or thermometers in your campaigns, it’s best to wait to show progress when you HAVE progress. In this email, the progress bar isn’t even to lady Liberty’s kneecap! Showing an empty thermometer or low number of participants can actually discourage action—people want to know that others are supporting a cause and that they’re giving to a campaign that will succeed. (See also: Empty donation boxes.)


Tangibility
It’s hard to say if the visual cue of a “membership card” helped to improve results of the winning email, but a membership card in a renewal reminder helps to tie the letter to something more immediately recognizable. Skeumorphic elements—elements that mimic a real-life (think about the way envelope icons represent email on our phones and computers)—can make it much easier for a reader to associate an abstract or intangible idea with something more familiar and easily understood.


Personalization
In addition to the membership card being a visual cue, this element also helps to personalize the email. When an individual sees their own name within an image or block of text, this catches the reader’s attention and makes them more likely to read carefully. This, along with the lead-in text, makes the email more about the reader than the organization.


This test is a great reminder to regularly assess and experiment with your appeals and landing pages. No matter the type of organization or appeal, taking the time to test will ensure you’re getting the most from your outreach efforts. Even if you are positive you are using the right version. Even if—especially if—you’ve been sending the same templates or messages. Test it to learn something new. Or revel in the fact that you were right. (You could even take it a step further and show off your best victory dance.)

Are you regularly testing your emails and landing pages? What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned? Chime in with your experiences in the comments below!

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