Testing your Strategy

Naturally, there will be some cultural adaptation from country to country or organisation to organisation, but there is also a remarkable level of similarity of response around the globe to fundraising techniques. Schools’ sponsored walks work for HelpAge International in India, Africa and Latin America. Direct mail works in Germany, India and Japan. Telemarketing works everywhere there is a phone. This is because consumerism has raced around the world changing the way we all live and creating business structures and ways of doing business which fundraisers can adapt for very positive ends.
Testing everything is a central tenet of good fundraising practice. It is at its most important in direct mail work. Here it is quite possible for you to test even the difference made in the response by a comma in one place or a comma in another place. By splitting the mailing list into two equal, random sets of people and mailing each of these sets with a slightly different letter (coding the reply coupon differently for each)the results can be directly compared.
Of course, more significant things than commas are tested. In fact, so much has been tested so carefully that direct mail letters often bear a frightening similarity to each other.
If your organisation lacks a significant variety of income sources or is neglecting just one important technique, then try out a new idea on as small a scale as possible (always provided the results will be statistically significant) and, if it works, roll it out on a grand scale.
It is important to maintain this practice in all your fundraising, as far as possible, as the years go by, and not to get set in your ways. Testing new techniques, innovating and developing old techniques to keep them working and relevant to the changing market, all take time, research and enthusiasm; but that effort will be repaid by the results. Sometimes the difference will be sufficient to make a whole programme profitable, but though it may be worthwhile as an investment, obtaining resources is much harder if the programme makes even a small loss. In time the response to all ideas and materials runs down, and the best ideas become unprofitable unless renewed; but it often takes very little imaginative thought to revive a programme and regain a healthy return.