Embedding a testing and optimisation approach to digital fundraising

Ongoing testing and optimisation work requires a process and culture shift. It’s worth the additional effort, as the wins are compounded over time: even the smallest tweaks to digital programs can create significant, sustained returns for organisations.

But for busy teams, building a culture of testing from the ground up can be challenging – which is why SumOfUs asked us for help.

Over four years we tested and optimised even the most granular elements of their digital fundraising, bringing in thousands of additional regular donors and hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

At the same time, we helped them set and grow a culture of innovation and data-led decision making within the fundraising team.

What we did

Working to test and optimise over many years meant we could focus on a lot of different aspects. This long-term project spanned everything – the optimal position for a donation ask in a supporter journey, the most effective use of buttons on pages, the best performing copy variants, and more.

Of course, not every test produces a positive result, but by being persistent we were able to continually learn what motivated supporters and what made it easier for them to take action.

Optimising for donations and shares

At the start of the project, we found that having a sliding petition page, that scrolls the supporter to the next ask rather than redirecting them to a new page, increased donations and shares.

We then tested adding a question to the page once the supporter had signed: “Thanks for adding your name to “Stop Dominic Cummings stripping away our rights”. Now, will you share the campaign to triple your impact?” – and found this additional step increased shares further.

Later, we hypothesised that adding a survey to a petition (inviting signers to reflect on their motives for signing) would boost donations. When we added a survey to the petition page, results showed a 27-32% increase in one-off donations – a significant boost brought about just by asking supporters the right questions.

In another test, we trialled copy variants to see which framing on the donation slide was most motivating to convert new supporters to donors.

The winning variant – “Thanks for taking action, Lauren! Together we can win this fight — can you chip in today to power this campaign to victory?” increased recurring gifts by a staggering 157% compared to the original donation ask. That’s thousands of dollars in lifetime donations that SumOfUs would have missed out on without embracing a testing and optimisation approach.

Building a culture of testing

Testing and optimisation should be an ongoing, iterative process – there are always new things you can test to try and improve conversion rates.

So our biggest achievement with partners like SumOfUs is always embedding a culture of testing that will be valuable long-term.

Over the course of four years, we worked collaboratively with a cross-functional team that included the Fundraising Director, the Product Director and 2-3 other team members. Together we selected and executed tests, analysed results and implemented changes.

SumOfUs now has a raft of results to inform their future work, as well as effective benchmarks to run testing programs internally.

What’s the take-away?

When a small tweak could bring in thousands of extra regular donors, it’s vital for organisations to embed a testing culture to continually optimise supporter journeys – rather than stopping after a few positive results.

By continually striving to improve supporter experience and gathering data on what works for their audience, SumOfUs’ digital fundraising continues to go from strength to strength.