Speak to people skilled at nonprofit programs or marketing or fundraising and you’ll hear that they know what works because they constantly test.
But promote those people to leadership, or elect them to a board of directors, and they get “risk averse.” They stop testing. They opt for “industry benchmarks” and doing what’s worked in the past.
They completely ignore the fact that neither the people they serve nor the people who support them are “industry benchmarks.” Clients and supporters of your cause are people. And the only way to know how best to help them, how best to communicate with them, is to test.
Even Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalists do Split Tests
There are few guarantees in today’s world. But uncritically doing what’s worked in the past is a guaranteed way to bankrupt your nonprofit.
That’s why I loved today’s email from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristof. In it, I found out that even he tests!
He ends his first paragraph with the one word link to his article: “Read!” Then he writes:
By the way, I’ve had some indignant emails about my “read” in these emails from readers who find it imperious and presumptuous. Now, I see that as a cheery “read” rather than an imperious one, but here’s the back story. I’ve periodically done A/B testing of different messages to see what drives traffic, and it turns out that if I say “Read!” then people are significantly more likely to click on the link. So I do worry about offending all of you… but I also want people to go to the damn column!)
Test or Fade Away
If your nonprofit is at the end of its life span, isn’t needing to impact the world anymore, than go ahead and stop testing.
But if even a two time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist is split testing his emails to see what works, don’t you think you should let your team test too?