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Donor Participation Project

State a Hypothesis to Guide Your Testing

Testing fundraising changes should not be directionless. A hypothesis, an educated guess, guides testing toward useful results. Crafting a hypothesis forces fundraisers to determine what they expect the outcome to be before testing begins.

To state a hypothesis, fundraisers start by identifying a problem to solve or opportunity to improve. For example, “Donors who lapse for 3-5 years rarely renew their gifts. Can we re-engage them?” This question suggests the hypothesis: “Sending a customized renewal series to 3-5 year lapsed donors will increase retention rates for this group by 15-20%.”

The hypothesis identifies what will change, renewable outreach to 3-5 year lapsed donors, and the expected impact, 15-20% increased retention for this group. The null hypothesis is that the change will have no effect or reduce retention. Testing aims to reject the null hypothesis.

A hypothesis guided testing to adding a $500 option to a donation page might be: “Adding a $500 amount to our website donation page will increase the average online gift amount by 10-15%.” The expected impact is an increase in the average gift, and the null hypothesis is no change or a decrease.

Specifying the hypothesis and null hypothesis at the outset determines the metrics, variables, and sample sizes needed for the test. The test can then focus on measuring the expected impact to determine whether to reject the null hypothesis. Knowledge of the hypothesis also prevents “data fishing,” testing multiple metrics to find any impact rather than the expected one.

While the problem and opportunity prompt the question, crafting the hypothesis and null hypothesis requires fundraisers to determine the specific change and impact they expect before testing tools are determined or a single donor experiences the change. The hypothesis acts as a compass, pointing the way to insightful results and evidence-based decisions. Overall, a hypothesis leads to strategic testing with purpose and direction.

In summary, start developing a hypothesis by identifying a key problem or opportunity. Then determine the specific change you believe will impact it and the way(s) you will measure the expected impact. Use this information to build your null hypothesis. With a guiding hypothesis, your testing will be strategic and focused.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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