Study results: Improve response with relevant asks

Meeting donors where they’re at using the X factor in ask arrays

Our analytics team is always looking for ways to improve results with data. One of the key places we can influence this is ask arrays. They’re the basis of an exciting study we recently completed.

Using single largest gift in ask arrays has been a commonplace marketing practice for non-profit organizations for quite some time. We weren’t convinced it was the best way, so we asked a key question:

“Is there a better way to meet donors where they’re at, by asking them for a gift that reflects their present giving potential?”

The answer…YES.

The study details

In February 2013, Masterworks embarked on a five-month longitudinal study to determine if there was another factor that could improve the responsiveness of donors. Our goal was to determine if ask arrays that relate to a donor’s giving potential can impact response. Let’s call this the X factor.

There were many reasons behind testing this hypothesis. The most important reason for finding a new ask strategy was that single largest gift tends to represent an outlier in a donor’s giving history. It isn’t predictive of a donor’s future behavior.

The X factor was tested by our analytics and insights team, and our research and development team. The X factor was most predictive of future donation behavior and was therefore chosen as the variable for this test.

Masterworks hypothesized:

  1. Donors are more likely to respond to a gift array that represents their giving potential.
  2. When presented with a gift array that is out of their giving potential (single largest gift) donors tend to shy away from a response.

With this in mind, the goal of the test was to increase overall responsiveness of donors over the five-month period.

During the course of the test, the organization that was involved in the longitudinal study received a call from a control group donor, requesting that their ask array be changed to a lower gift ask. They wanted to be asked for something more reflective of what they could give. This validated our theory anecdotally before we had seen any results!

The findings

An analysis of the test was conducted in July 2013 to determine the impact of the X factor ask arrays on direct mail impacts.

It was determined that the X factor increased responsiveness of donors to direct mail impacts by 5.36% over the single largest gift control. There was a 5.41% increase in the number of gifts from the donors receiving the X factor treatment. Something unexpected happened during this test as well. There was a slight (0.36%) lift in the average gift! As a result of the increase in response and slight increase in average gift, there was an overall 5.78% lift in revenue by using the X factor to calculate ask arrays.

The X factor is successful because it meets the donor where they’re at in their giving potential. Since 2009, donor giving behavior has changed drastically with the shifting economy. Variables, such as single largest gift, do not take into account factors such as the timeframe by which that gift was given or if that gift was a one time outlier.

It’s time to become more donor centric, even in ask arrays, because it has proven to increase responsiveness and gifts that drive up overall revenue!

Do you want to learn more about the study? Send me an email. I’d love to talk.