Fundraisers test to determine if changes to their fundraising strategies have the intended impact. Rigorous testing also eliminates external variables that could skew the results. Without testing, fundraisers risk making changes that unintentionally decrease revenue or alienate donors.
To test properly, fundraisers must state a hypothesis
A hypothesis would be be “adding a $500 option to our donation page will increase the average gift amount.” The null hypothesis is that the change will have no effect or decrease revenue. Statistical testing aims to disprove the null hypothesis with a high degree of confidence, like 95-99%.
Measuring results requires determining a margin of error, like +/- 3%, based on the sample size. A larger sample size means a smaller margin of error and higher confidence in the results. For multivariate testing of several variables at once, the sample size must increase to account for more possible outcomes.
Back-testing uses historical data to build models that predict future outcomes.
Divide donors into groups, building models based on one group and testing them on the other. This confirms the model works for that donor base before applying it broadly.
While “best practices” provide a starting point, fundraisers must test them.
A tactic that works for some groups could alienate others, gradually eliminating them. Testing also considers donor segments to avoid negatively impacting any group.
Though testing sounds complicated, basic tools can run simple A/B tests. Focus on effect size, like whether results exceed the margin of error, more than statistical significance. For small donor populations like major donors, smaller sample sizes may still yield useful insights.
Testing requires time and resources, but so does making uninformed changes that reduce revenue. As fundraising becomes more data-driven, testing is key to developing evidence-based strategies tailored to each organization’s unique donor base. Fundraisers must test to determine true impact, eliminate variables, and avoid blindly adopting “best practices” that do not serve their donors or mission. Overall, testing leads to more sustainable growth and impact.
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