Do you have a taste for testing?

The road to direct mail fundraising success is paved with frequent, careful, and disciplined testing. And that testing should include regular attempts to find new — and optimize older — offers, package formats, ask strategies, and the like. In other words, the stuff that really matters.

Of course, you should be testing carrier envelopes, letter length, and postage treatments. In fact, many of the biggest breakthroughs we’ve experienced at Masterworks have been with envelope treatment tests. But there is arguably even greater potential elsewhere. You’ll have to find your own “elsewhere” by testing, learning, and rolling out with your winners.

Summer appeal smackdown

We recently tested an entirely new appeal package for a mission client in an effort to boost flagging response in the August timeframe. In this summer smackdown, the control was a long-standing strategy — a three-coupon rescue format. An immediate August gift would be doubled by matching funds. Donors were asked to follow-up with additional September and October gifts to provide meals and care and to help the mission prepare for a demanding fall season of outreach.

The test package was dramatically different: a mid-year giving statement that updated donors on their generosity both to date and compared with 2020. Letter copy prompted donors to review their giving and consider helping as the mission heads into a busy fall. As with the control, any gift would be doubled by the match.

The test rationale is this: approaching the busy fall season of outreach, a reminder of the donor’s giving at mid-year (and a comparison with the prior year) might be an even greater motivation to contribute than another summer rescue coupon mailing.

Finding the most promising opportunities

The results are in. And it’s an easy call. The test won with a 44% higher response rate and more than double the net income. ROI was way up too.

The point is not that you should do this specific test, or that your results would be this impressive. It’s that you should be testing regularly and wisely to find the most promising opportunities for your organization. The nonprofits that are charging hard toward double-digit growth test constantly to learn and innovate.

Right now, for example, we’re conducting longitudinal ask strategy tests for several clients, so we can further optimize the guided ask arrays in their appeals and newsletters. We want to make sure the suggested asks are appropriate, meaning they bring us the most gifts, the highest average gift, and the greatest possible long-term donor value.

This is the kind of testing — and the attitude toward the value of testing — that can make a huge contribution to your fundraising success. Go ahead and put THAT to the test.