Our industry of nonprofit fundraisers and marketers are an amazing bunch. At the 2016 Bridge Conference, our team of consultants came away rejuvenated with a bagful of tricks and ideas to test for our clients.

And we want to share our favorites here. 

#1: The way you express the dollars in your gift string effects giving

During a session on neurofundraising we learned that using numbers and currency symbols in a gift string have a positive impact on conversion rate. For example, five dollars does better than 5 dollars, which does even better than $5.00.

The currency symbol and number switch people to think in a market norm mindset which alters how they view the decision they’re about to make. Test how you write out donation asks in ad copy, emails, landing pages, etc. You may find that changing something as simple as this has a positive impact on your ROI.

#2: In our own Quick Tips on Testing session, we shared the following tips for creating successful and statistically valid digital tests:

Tip #1: Make sure you can reach your target sample size in your proposed test duration. Top-funnel tests (ex. homepage, global navigation, or site-wide) reach significance faster than bottom-funnel tests (donation forms). Use this test duration calculator to determine duration.

  • Optimal test duration is 2-4 weeks
  • Run tests for full week cycles
  • Avoid running tests during holidays or seasonal anomalies
  • Use a sample size calculator and run tests until you achieve your full sample size, not until you reach statistical significance. 

Tip #2: Separate mobile traffic and desktop traffic when reporting results to reduce sample pollution.

Tip #3: Create a testing roadmap with dependencies and calendar of other web, email, and advertising activities. Here’s a link to a free testing roadmap template: inahat.co/bridge-roadmap. Remember that testing doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

To see more testing tips check out our free Tips, Tools and Checklist for Testing paper.

#3: More solicitations can equal more revenue

Anne Lewis and Sierra Club used the political fundraising model and found that more emails equates to more revenue. In 2015, Sierra Club doubled their email efforts and doubled their revenue!

#4: How to Engage Mid-level Donors

We learned a few quick tips on how to engage mid-level donors  from Tom Gaffny and Food for the Poor.

  1. Eliminate the word “help” from your language (e.g. your gift helped fight human rights abuses.) Instead think about how the donor’s gift actually fought human rights abuses.
  2. It’s not me, it’s you. Without you, this would not be possible.
  3. Respond to gratitude with a generous attitude.
  4. A prompt thank you is more important than the language used in that thank you.
  5. Ask for a monthly gift upgrade immediately after a donor’s one-time gift.
  6. Replace poorly performing fundraising campaigns with a simple thank you/stewardship. Still offer a way to give, but not within the message (e.g. click through to something else and offer conversion through that experience).
  7. Love your donors and demonstrate your affection!
  8. Approach donors with an attitude of humility and give back to them. Don’t just give them the good feeling of donating.

#5: Digital ads can boost your multi-channel campaigns

During a session focused on digital ads, we learned that:

  1. 16% of multi gift donors are giving online and offline
  2. It takes 7-12 touches of your digital ad before your message becomes memorable
  3. There is a 30% chance that an online donor will donate offline for their next donation
  4. Donors acquired online are more likely to give higher gift amounts, give more frequently and give via multiple channels
  5. 6-9 second animated ads had a conversion rate lift of 38% against the category average

#6: How to Build a Sustainer Program

Sue Adams of Target Analytics and Laura Connors of NPCA gave a great presentation on sustainers with a ton of facts and tips, including:

  • The number of directly acquired recurring givers is growing. 63% of first-time recurring donors were new to file in 2015.
  • The donors most likely to convert are those with a history of responding to the first renewal notice and credit card responsive.
  • Telemarketing will convert more donors either through two-step acquisition to sustainer giving or by converting multi-year donors.
  • Sustainers are younger and more female than the rest of your file – 40-something women are top prospects.
  • Annual retention rates for recurring donors were 59% higher than single gift donors. After 13 months, 70% of recurring donors were still giving.
  • Over 5 years, recurring donors are worth 4x as much as one-time givers.
  • Prepare for the possibility of less cash collected in year one. Use accrual to show the full value of sustainers but base collections on 5 gifts per sustainer in the first fiscal year.
  • Be prepared for less cash in the current FY. Don’t be tempted to revert back to single gift messaging. 
  • Make sustained giving the expected way to give on your site.
  • Put the sustainer option first on your forms.
  • Put the option on all forms
  • Train frontline fundraisers and callers to ask for sustainers.
  • Use all your channels to recruit sustainers. In 2015, revenue for sustaining gifts by source looked this:
    • Direct Mail 25%
    • DRTV 19% 
    • Digital 19%
    • No source – 15%
    • Telemarketing  11% 
    • Face to Face   8% 
  • Do not promise you won’t ask again. Ask for upgrades once or twice a year and include them in your best appeals. 

#8: A session on behavioral economics with Nancy Harhut, Wilde Co. and Joe Harr, AARP, blew our socks off and gave us incredible test ideas. Did you know:

  • There are “charm prices” – which is any price ending in a “9”. You’re completely familiar with this in retail, yet we continue to offer nice big round numbers with zeroes in our gift strings. Why?
  • These are the magic words to use in headlines and copy:
    • Who, what, where, why, when, how
  • Make it easy for your visitors to do what you want, but not easy for things you don’t want them to do (i.e., Keep conversion buttons large and make the unsubscribe link much smaller than other text in footer).
  • Phrases that rhyme are considered more truthful (i.e.,“the quicker picker upper”)
  • $120.00 reads as a larger number than $120.
  • Once someone says yes to take an action (i.e., a small gesture such as signing a pledge), they are more likely to say yes again. Start small, then build upon the ask. They don’t think as hard about it after the first action.

#9: In a session on The Truth About Online Trends M+R and LCV taught about the importance of unsubscribe optimization.

LCV tested adding language to the unsubscribe button asking if the user really wanted to unsubscribe from their updates. They found that adding the verbiage to the unsubscribe button significantly lowered unsubscribe rates. Before the test started, LCV was concerned that adding the language might increase the spam reported but found that it actually lowered emails from being reported as spam. Over the course of 15 months, LCV stropped 220,000 subscribers from unsubscribing!