I have one wish for the holidays. It’s a big ask, I know, but an important one, too.

I want to raise testing’s beleaguered profile in the nonprofit community. Why do I believe testing has been relegated to the back seat? Simply, testing is perceived to be a nice-to-have as opposed to a need-to-have. And that needs to be changed.

Working in the fundraising trenches, you know testing can be a daunting task due to competing priorities. If you’ve ever pushed a test to the back burner in lieu of an email that needed to get out yesterday, you’re not alone.

However, I’d argue if you subject testing to a secondary role, you are limiting how much your program can grow. Theodor Suess Geisel, aka Dr. Suess, summed it up best:

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

And places we want to go! Testing is about building your organization’s institutional learning capacity to go more places. In other words, testing is about establishing a culture at your organization that rewards learning as much as successes.

But building your organization’s institutional learning capacity is not about testing subject lines to learn which one is better; testing is about creating learning objectives to advance your fundraising program. For example, developing a learning objective for your organization requires you to go beyond seeing which email subject line is better. Instead, a learning objective may be what increases open rates.

Miriam Kagan’s post, Proven Practices for Year Round Testing, said it well:

Every test needs a hypothesis or “theory” it is aiming to confirm or dispel. One-off testing is like driving your car without an ultimate destination and asking “Where am I going?” at every intersection.

This holiday season, I’ve provided an EOY testing framework that allows your organization to capitalize on the learnings before the New Year. To adopt the EOY testing framework, follow these steps:

Step 1: Define Learning Objective. The EOY testing framework learning objective is to develop an understanding of the factors that impact email click-through rates in December. The desired action is to incorporate the findings on the December 31st email to optimize tax-deductible giving appeal.

Step 2: Conduct three tests. Identify three already planned December email appeals and conduct three separate A/B (i.e. 50/50) tests. The proposed tests include –

  • Test #1 – Does an appeal lift note inspire a higher number of clicks? Example below.

test1

  • Test #2 – What iconic image motivates the audience to act? Example below.

test2

  • Test #3 – Does a brightly colored button drive more clicks? Example below.

test3

Step 3: Apply what you’ve learned on the December 31st email! Your tax-deductible email may look something like this based on what  you’ve learned from the three above tests.

test-learnings

Lastly, please share the results! Together, we can re-brand testing in the nonprofit community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chas  Offutt is a senior fundraising and marketing professional with more than 10 years experience in the nonprofit sector. He joined Convio, now Blackbaud, in 2008 and has worked with more than 75 clients across all verticals to develop and implement acquisition campaigns, fundraising strategies, and integrated marketing programs. Prior to his current position, Chas was the Director of Internet Strategy at American Rivers where he was responsible for the management and execution of all online programs.

Chas has spoken at the Association for Fundraising Professionals (Greater Atlanta Chapter), Convio Customer Summit, NTEN, Blackbaud Conference, Forum One Communication’s Web Executive Seminar, and other public speaking engagements on a variety of topics including mobile fundraising, generational giving, and online marketing strategies.

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