Fundraising Evolution – Accelerated Learning: Testing & Research
On the heels of Dirk Rinker chiming in on a recent post here, I thought it might make sense to devote some time to a topic that Dirk is a specialist in the area of - Research.
This is one of the best ways for an organization to really supercharge the speed at which it is learning. While nothing replaces real in-market testing, the value of executing research projects of varying sizes and scope from time to time will help your organization really “hear” what your supporters are telling. Everything from what they want to hear from you, what they want to receive from you, and how you fit into their lives.
We all test, or we all should be testing. Testing is a cornerstone of learning for direct marketers, not just fundraisers, and while it is the most common way of gaining understanding into the minds, preferences, and behaviors of our constituents – it is not terribly efficient from a cost-time benefits perspective.
Even with more robust multi-variant testing frameworks in place, which allow for several elements to be evaluated in a single test environment, we still end up with the same general scenario as a traditional A / B test when you boil it down.
Step 1: Test.
Step 2: Hopefully identify a winner(s) (95% or more of all tests fail to unseat the Control).
Step 3: Re-Test Winner at larger volume.
Step 4: Hope that initial winning test produces results that hold up.
And so on.
This can quickly turn into a several month long, or even year long, process. And who knows if we have covered all our bases or even identified the best solution?
We are trying to identify, by elimination, what offer, format, treatment, or technique works or doesn’t work for our audience or segments. What flavor ice cream do they like? Maybe Mango, test. Maybe Orange-Nectar, test. Maybe Vanilla Bean, test.
What if, instead, we were able to come right out and ask our audience up front, to provide us with some guidance that might more inform our testing direction and focus, so that instead of eliminating an endless universe of ideas for our entire audience population, we are testing directly into a more defined space they pointed us towards? Our audience likes Chocolate! Now what particular variation on Chocolate works best, Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate, or Mocha-Latte-shoot me now
Enter in Primary Research.
I actually presented on this topic at the most recent DMA-Bridge Conference with Dirk Rinker, and a large health charity partner of ours—the presentation is embedded below or you can find it here.
The point of all this is – if you are trying to learn something major about your donors quickly, the painstaking and time consuming trial and error efforts of testing from every angle is not the only option available to us. Do the Primary Research up front – and then execute more informed tests. It will save you time, expense dollars, and frustration – PLUS – your donors or prospective donors will appreciate that for once you “heard” them loud and clear.
Stephen is a Strategy Director at Merkle with a combined 12-years of expertise in both commercial and nonprofit marketing, strategy, and analytics. In his free time Stephen is working on becoming a ninja, as well as focusing on his life-long dream of completing the last side on his Rubix Cube.