Opt in to opt in testing

The new opt in requirements under GDPR (which will start being enforced on May 25) have a lot of us freaking out.

Enter the team at Forward Action – they’ve got you covered through this excellent opt-in checkbox and language test:

We tested two different versions of opt in copy on a petition page for All Out. Our aim was to see if using the copy to emphasise different incentives to sign up for emails could increase opt in rates.

So far so good.

We tested this approach on two petitions (adapting the copy appropriately for each petition).

The results were striking. On the first petition, the “campaign win” framing produced a relative increase of 48% (statistically significant). Opt in rate rose from 52% on the “theory of change” control to 77%, the highest opt in rate we’ve seen on a petition to date in our testing.

They saw an increase of nearly 50% more people subscribing to the All Out email list purely through focusing the opt-in language on the person signing the petition.

Of course. OF COURSE!

And for All Out, this testing is definitely worth the effort. From Forward Action again:

Legal compliance is, of course, one half of the role opt in language has to fulfil — but it also has to actually get supporters to subscribe, and charities and campaigns groups cannot afford to ignore this second role. Email list growth is essential to the success of digital programmes: it is the foundation upon which your digital fundraising and ability to mobilise to win campaigns is built.

Bingo.

All Out’s ability to fulfil its mission is greatly increased because they took to the time to invest in testing. As a result, their ability to fundraise and win campaigns will be considerably stronger.

This is exactly why I put testing at the top of my list of Best Practices for Online Fundraising.

Full and explicit opt-in (to physical mailing lists too!) is only one part of GDPR, but it’s great to see one org absolutely smashing it.

Great work Forward Action and All Out!

(If you haven’t already, go read the full write-up here)

How to beat Facebook’s new algorithm

Facebook is feeling a bit of heat lately (understatement of the year?). But even with all of talk of #deletefacebook and reports of declining usage, the truth is the vast majority of people are still on it and using it very regularly.

Many of those people will be your donors.

Facebook’s new algorithm is throwing up new challenges to lots of nonprofits (especially those without the luxury of having big budgets for advertising).

M+R posted a great update about how the new algorithm seems to be working.

The main takeaway: The only way to beat the algorithm (without paying) is to post actually engaging content. 

It’s actually really easy to figure out how engaging your content is, too – thanks to their nifty calculation:

Jump into M+R’s article and check out the Clap, Talk, and Share scores for more specific engagement measurements.

M+R’s April benchmarks study will have the baseline Facebook engagement score for nonprofits – luckily that’s not too many sleeps from now.

You can get a pretty good idea of what’s resonating with people (and what might work on social media) by tracking the right metrics and following best practices.

But yeah, I highly recommend you check out M+R’s blog post for more on this.

 

P.S. If you’re a Firefox user, you can now use this extension to prevent Facebook from following you around the web.

The Trust Equation will make or break your fundraising

The Trust Equation was introduced to me last year by my friend Hanna and it’s really stuck with me since.

First, a quick intro to the Trust Equation.

The equation is made up of four variables:

Credibility has to do with the words we speak. In a sentence we might say, “I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she’s very credible on the subject.”

Reliability has to do with actions. We might say, “If he says he’ll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he’s dependable.”

Intimacy refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something. We might say, “I can trust her with that information; she’s never violated my confidentiality before, and she would never embarrass me.”

Self-Orientation refers to the person’s focus. In particular, whether the person’s focus is primarily on him or herself, or on the other person. We might say, “I can’t trust him on this deal — I don’t think he cares enough about me, he’s focused on what he gets out of it.” Or more commonly, “I don’t trust him — I think he’s too concerned about how he’s appearing, so he’s not really paying attention.”

Add Credibility, Reliability and Intimacy together and then divide by Self-Orientation. It ends up looking like this:

the trust equation

If you remember fractions at school, you want those ones across the top to be as high as possible, and the one of the bottom to be as low as possible.

The equation is mostly geared towards individual behaviour. But it’s totally relevant to organisational behaviour too.

I think you’ve got an opportunity here to run your own organisation through the Trust Equation.

Totally honestly, I don’t even think you need to assign values to each variable – it’s just helpful to know that the top line should be high, and the bottom should be low.

The Trust Equation for nonprofits:

Credibility for your organisation is what you’re saying to people about the work you do and how you’re positioning yourself. This encompasses pretty much all of your outgoing comms (including fundraising).

Reliability is whether or not you actually deliver on what you say you do. This is one of the easiest areas you can improve as an organisation: report back on how you’re spending donations. Show the impact you’re having in the world.

Intimacy is about people. High levels of intimacy are why peer-to-peer fundraising does so well. It’s why so many nonprofits invest in major donor officers. But even if you don’t have those resources, you can create intimacy with people by telling stories about people. Be transparent about finances. Make people feel like they know you at more than just a surface level.

Put a human face on your organisation and don’t keep secrets.

Self-orientation is how much you’re looking out for your own interests vs. the interests of the people your non-profit is set up to serve. How much do you talk about how you can make your donor’s vision of the world become reality? Because that’s literally why people give – they’re giving through your organisation to make their dreams come true.

All of this sound kinda familiar? It’s essentially the basis of donor-centricity. It’s about just doing the right thing as an organisation that literally exists to help other people.

How to find out where you stand

Ask people. Survey your donors. Call them to say thanks and then have a chat. Set up a focus group. Make time to learn more about how people perceive you – because their perceptions of you are their reality.

Revisit your baselines each year.

Next steps

Trust doesn’t improve overnight – it takes months or years of repeated actions to build up trust.

Be critical with yourself as an organisation. Look at the equation variable-by-variable. You may discover there are some areas where you can quickly make changes to improve.

Do some testing. You’ve set your baselines, so focus on a variable in the equation and see how certain things improve trust – and results. Take self-orientation as an example. Try talking about yourself vs. talking about your donors and the people they can help. Reducing self-orientation is a no-brainer to me and the results from that experiment should be super clear.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on or read more about the Trust Equation here.

(p.s. Wanna learn more about how you can use the Trust Equation to make your fundraising better? Come to my full day workshop at #WCFC2018)

Google just announced a huge change for email

Classic Google… just like that, what seems like a small announcement has the potential to shake up the way all of us do email fundraising and campaigning.

On the face of it, Google is making things a lot easier.

People will be able to interact with you from within the gmail app on mobile without having to go to a new webpage. Especially if you’re asking for donations, this has potential to be a game changer.

Check this out:

The AMP for Email feature will allow you to do things like RSVP to events, browse and interact with content, or fill out forms without leaving an email. For example, Google says if a contractor wants to schedule a meeting with you but isn’t able to see your calendar, they’ll contact you about availability. With AMP for Email, you could respond interactively through a form without ever leaving the email client.

The vast majority of your donations online will be driven through email (it’s how Obama, Bernie, and Labour in the UK made most of their cash!) so potentially having a donate form with pre-filled name and credit card details within the email itself is really really big.

So this means huge opportunities: more engaging email and higher action rates, purely because people won’t have to leave their inbox to take action with you.

But it’s not all fun and games – it could provide some major challenges.

It’s planning to make the changes through its AMP (accelerated mobile pages) tech. AMP has been called a “blight on the web” and coming to email is largely being called a bad idea and a power play by people that know things about the internet.

Just getting technical here: to use AMP means adding a third MIME-type to emails, which most email service providers don’t offer.

For non-techies: you’d need to create a unique email just for Gmail.

It’s still early days – I’m looking forward to seeing how this actually rolls out.

 

Come see me in Vancouver

I’m going to be at the Western Canada Fundraising Conference in Vancouver this year (May 30-June 1).

I’ll be doing a full day digital masterclass and workshop. No matter what size your nonprofit is, you’ll leave with a digital strategy – plus a whole bunch of practical skills you can start implementing as soon as you’re back in the office.

I personally think it’s the best value conference out there by a long shot (CAD $399 for the early bird, including a masterclass!). I’ll be joined by Simone Joyaux, Tom Ahern, Tony Myers, Harvey McKinnon, Sam Laprade, Jennifer Collins and more.

As a bonus, it’s at the Museum of Vancouver and HR MacMillan Space Centre (killer venue!)

Plus, Vancouver itself is pretty nice I guess…

Check out all the deets at wcfc.ca

Best practices for online fundraising (part 1)

Best practices for digital fundraising are a funny thing to define.

Digital is relatively new and changing all the time – even just defining ‘digital’ is changing*. Because of that, best practices for online fundraising aren’t prescriptive**.

So here you go – my no-bullshit, non-definitive list of best practices for digital fundraising that (shouldn’t) rapidly go out of date:

1. Test. All the time.

I yammer on about testing for a reason: it’s the single best way to figure out how to engage with your audience and send them stuff you’re doing that they’re interested in too (and want to support!)

I wrote a testing guide, and there are lots of ideas for testing all over this blog.

There are a few things personal to you to make testing work best:

  • Be open to learning new stuff
  • Test your assumptions
  • Be OK with it being wrong, just learn it quickly
  • Actually change how you do things

2. Go to where your audience is

Find out who your key supporters are*** and then do some research on where they are online and how they use the internet.

Go for the low hanging fruit – focus your resources accordingly. Find out where you’re getting the best return, then test and optimise.

It’s almost 100% guaranteed they have an email address if they’re under 65 – and they’re checking it regularly. So building an email list probably makes sense.

If you’re in the UK, 82% of 45-54 year olds use their mobile phone to access the internet (65% of 55-64 year olds do too) – that’s significant, because odds are your online donors are aged between 45 and 65.

And top three things they’re doing online: checking email, searching for information on goods and services (how’s your website?), and looking at social media. That key age cohort is just as likely to use the internet for social media as they are to do their banking.

So it’s up to you to figure out what social media they use. If they’re on Facebook, go there. If they’re on Instagram, go there. You get the picture.

Remember this most of all: Use smart data to figure out where you should be putting your efforts. And then test!

3. Send good content when you have good content

I want to emphasise good content. Because you’re testing all the time, you’ll figure out what that is based on what’s resonating with your supporters (track actions to actually figure out what people like).

Here are some good ideas to help start you off:

  • Rapidly respond to things that are affecting you, especially stuff in the news (your equivalent of disaster funding!)
  • Let supporters know how you’ve spent/are currently spending their money
  • Give people a sneak peek behind-the-scenes – and it doesn’t need to be super-pro (probably better if it’s not)

Test what’s resonating with people.

Edit: Here’s another way to approach it from Jeff Brooks that I like

4. Make it as personal as you can

People love the human touch, and they love that you’re not just a robot.

There are lots of opportunities to add the personal touch – especially through email or social media when it’s SO easy to reply in real time. The Women’s March showed the potential of Messenger bots in being able to provide a personal experience to people online without necessarily needing a person involved.

And just because I’m talking digital, it doesn’t mean you have to keep your communication in the online space (even if their donation came in online).

Try calling, or hand-written cards, or anything else that’s been working for you in fundraising so far. And test out ways to do that same kind of personal touch in digital ways too (e.g. texts, IMs, video… so many choices).

**********

Finally, a reminder: the single best thing you can do is test.

 

*Until fairly frequently, mobile was being chucked in its own category (hint: it’s digital)

**Beware anyone who tells you otherwise, especially consultants

***Don’t know? Ask them!

And check out the Office of National Statistics (UK) website for up-to-date internet stats. Tons of gold here.

Unsubscribes aren’t always bad

Unsubscribes from emails are one of those metrics bosses love to measure (and flip out over).

Don’t freak out too much about people unsubscribing from your list. Establish a baseline unsubscribe rate, and then just make sure it doesn’t get too high.

In fact, you should think seriously about actively unsubscribing anyone who’s been inactive* for 3 months or more.

Here’s why actively unsubscribing people from your list is good:

  • You’ll get fewer spam complaints
  • Your deliverability (number of emails hitting inboxes) will stay in good shape
  • Your email performance should increase, since the people on your list actually want to be on there

And remember: sometimes unsubscribes – like complaints – can be a sign that your fundraising is kicking ass.

 

*By inactive, I mean people who haven’t even opened an email from you.

The perfect email template

I get asked what the perfect email template is all the time.

My response? Keep it simple, and keep testing. 

And then MailChimp comes along with their giant data science team. They’ve just gone and published their findings on what makes the perfect email template. They have a lot of data to pull from: millions of accounts sending billions of emails (*ahem* including mine, if you’d like to sign up).

I love me some data-driven decision making! Especially from outside the nonprofit space.

Their results? There isn’t any one winning email template, it depends on you and your list.

But there were two key principles:

Keep it simple

Use a basic layout, and keep your copy concise.

Keep testing

MailChimp’s findings also show that the best performing email lists tested constantly. Testing was THE indicator of high performance.

They found the best email lists:

  • Use their own data – they didn’t assume what works for everyone else works for them too
  • Challenged their assumptions – they didn’t just accept someone else’s best practices as the final truth
  • Never stopped testing – successful design was about figuring out what worked for THEM and refining it.

Check out the full MailChimp blog post here.

Testing is so important*. Still looking for a New Year’s resolution? Resolve to test everything, all the time.

 

*Here’s my testing how-to guide to get you started.

 

People are weird and will lie to you

People are outwardly mostly normal. But if you scratch the surface, pretty much everyone out there is kinda weird. And with that weirdness comes a degree of unexpected behaviour.

This isn’t anything new. Anyone that’s been doing fundraising for a while knows just how strange donor behaviour can get.

So we try and mitigate the weirdness the best we can by asking donors what they like, in the form of surveys and focus groups and stuff like that.

But people are damn dirty liars and won’t tell you the truth.

They don’t *mean* to lie to you. People legitimately just don’t know what they want or like.

A few years ago I was at a conference where a really big UK charity was talking about how they surveyed their mid-level donors about the kind of images they were using in their fundraising. A couple of donors had made comments (not even sure if they were complaints?) and so they wanted to understand if it was a bigger problem or not.

And then I listened in horror when they said they’d just swapped the images out based on what the donors had said in the survey. No testing.

The donors had picked images they *thought* were good – and would make them look like good rational people too. All crap: pictures of scientists doing research, some lab photos, that kind of hyper-rational stuff that makes sense on the surface. All because a couple of comments (come on people, sometimes complaints are good!)

Everyone will give with their emotions and will rationalise it later on.

It’s why the SPCA’s Sarah McLachlin ad and ones like it are so good.

Don’t get me wrong here. Surveys, focus groups, interviews – all of that stuff has its place. Especially as a way of engaging people deeper. You should always be listening.

But when it comes to behaviour, you’ve gotta take what people say they want and test to see if it’s true.

Luckily testing is pretty easy, especially if you’ve got a guide.

(The classic example of testing behaviour was a study done by Good Luck margarine in the 1940s. They figured out why margarine had a bad rep through behavioural studies, changed a few things, and margarine overtook butter as the spread of choice in US households for the next fifty years).