Direct Response: Test Your Fundraising Ask Methodologies

What motivates a donor to give is one issue. How much you can persuade them to given is a completely different story. What it comes down to is testing and those tests don’t have to cost much to perform.

Some ideas on the direct response ask string were presented during a session at the recent ANA Nonprofit Federation Washington, D.C., conference. The session was presented by
Angie Miller, vice president of development at HumanKind and Ashley Gundlach, vice president of client services of Nexus Direct.

You should test ask strategies because it’s easier than you might think and an inexpensive way to make a significant impact on your program. There’s a good chance you’re leaving money on the table. Start small and build from there, according to the presenters. And, don’t isolate asks to your reply form or donation page, get creative, they suggested.

It is important to establish key performance indicators, such as an increase in average gift; lift in response; small, but meaningful number of high-dollar gifts; a decreased cost per dollar raised; and, acquiring donors with the potential for a higher long-term value.

One of idea to test an compared how changes in the ask string will impact the highest past contribution vs. the most recent contribution vs. the donor’s average gift.

You should test the number of asks versus the number of blank asks, they suggested, such as giving the donor several choices or just having a blank box. For softer asks, such as on an acknowledgement, a blank option might be appropriate.

More options are sometimes better and sometimes they aren’t and that information should be implemented the next time that donor is solicited.

Test whether subtle or overt cues to specific asks make a difference. That can be in the form of underlining, highlighting, handwritten notes, and pre-populated gifts on donation pages.

Keep in mind the “Center Stage Effect” when putting together an ask, they said. That’s the idea that one’s attention (a donor’s) gravitates to whatever is front and center.