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Why You Should Test Your Digital Fundraising Campaigns

By Ben Keating, Digital Project Manager

What’s the value of testing in a digital fundraising campaign?

Maybe you’re already generating good results from the strategies you’re implementing without testing — it hasn’t hurt your organization in terms of connecting with donors or inspiring their generosity.

But … what if those good results could be made even better?

The difference between testing and not testing isn’t a good or bad fundraising campaign but rather an opportunity seized or missed to enhance and improve the effectiveness of your communications with donors.

Let’s explore some of the value that testing can lend to your fundraising efforts.

Benefits of Running Tests

There is so much valuable data and insight to be gleaned from conducting a simple test in your digital communications and then measuring the results.

Here are just a few of the ways you might find testing adds value to your organization:

  1. Getting to know your donors better — What’s the best way to grab their attention, motivate them, and inspire them to respond to your cause? A test can help you figure this out.
  2. Providing content better tailored to your audience — You’ll be better able to target your communications to what your donors care most about — more likely to generate the kind of engagement you’re looking for (be it donations, volunteer sign-ups, or simply a click to learn more), and less likely to bounce back or generate “unsubscribes.”
  3. Experimenting with new ideas in a relatively “safe” way — You can get creative, think outside the box, and try out a theory without staking your whole campaign on the idea. The segment of your audience receiving the “control” communication will still get exactly what they’re used to … and you’ll learn something from those who receive the “test” version that will empower you to confidently stay the original course or pursue the change on a broader scale.

In other words, testing allows you to learn what’s working, what isn’t, and tweak your strategies accordingly to incrementally maximize your results over time!

Now that you know why to test … how should you go about getting started?

Fundraising Tests You Should Try

While it’s possible to run tests with multiple variables, BBS & Associates strongly recommends testing just one variable at a time — often called an “A/B Test.”

In an A/B Test, you’ll run your “typical” fundraising letter, email, ad, or other communication for one segment of your file as the control. Then for the other segment, you’ll pick one key element to switch up and test — everything about the communication will be exactly the same except for that one variable.

We typically suggest this type of single-variable testing because of the clarity it will provide you when analyzing results. If only one thing has changed and the results are significantly different, you can more confidently attribute that difference to a single possible cause than to several.

Some of the variables we often recommend for testing include:

  • Calls to Action (CTAs) — For example, whether you say “Donate Now” versus “Give Now.”
  • Design and Layout — Presenting the same exact copy in a different format, perhaps with and without pictures, using bullet points or not, or trying a different font style.
  • Copy Length — Would a 200-word email work better, worse, or the same as a 500-word email?
  • Plain Text vs. Creative — Maybe eliminating all the bolding, italics, CTA buttons, and hyperlinked text except for the full URL to donate in your email will feel more authentic to your donors … or maybe implementing the more creative formatting will make it easier for them to read and respond!
  • Organization vs. Person — Do your donors respond better to an email from your organization or from your organization’s CEO or other individual leader?
  • Giving Matrix — You can try suggesting different dollar figures in your ask to see if your donors are more likely to give when they’re asked to give $5 versus $20.

Of course, there are plenty more variables that can be tested — so don’t be afraid to come up with your own hypotheses of what might work (or not) with your own donor base and test, test, test!

As you do, you’ll find testing is an incredibly useful (and easily implemented) tool for optimizing your digital fundraising strategies and maximizing your campaign outcomes.

Should you have any questions or desire more information about maximizing the benefits of testing in your organization’s fundraising strategy, I’d love to share more with you. Simply send me an email at