Details Matter

Date Published
Amy Houke

We all know how important it is to keep your thumb on the pulse of your fundraising program. High-level summary reports will tell you how well each of your primary channels is doing and can help in allocating budget. However, within each channel, you are constantly testing and tweaking and need to be able to measure and evaluate every detail.

  • You extended your renewal mail by a month and used a more urgent call to action
  • You tested a newly created package to your lapsed members
  • Your acquisition campaign included three brand new test lists
  • You added a follow-up mailing to multibuyers for the first time

If you have unanswered questions at the end of a campaign, chances are your source codes didn’t account for all the things you wanted to measure, you didn’t establish the metrics that would determine success or failure, or you didn’t utilize a tool to establish the statistical validity of your results.

Time and care taken up front will pay off during post-campaign evaluation. Untracked test components lead to an absence of actionable learning.

Before the Campaign

Source code design and development

Source codes capture all the critical campaign components so that you can measure and evaluate results accurately and completely. The source code should include an indication of campaign timeframe (typically yy/mm), hit/effort, audience segmentation, list code (for acquisition), package code, and an “other” to help in identifying testing vs. control segments.

Temporary IDs and finder files

By appending temporary acquisition ID numbers to each record and uploading the file in your database, all responses can be accurately attributed to the right person, the right source and the right appeal. Don’t risk keying errors in your customer service area! Be sure that all new donors you acquire get properly attributed to the effort you used to acquire them.


Further automate your gift processing and ensure tracking accuracy by using scanlines. While the primary purpose of scanlines is to speed up and streamline the processing of gifts, they can also be used to more accurately track the source of your incoming gifts. Your bank or caging service will scan your returns and be able to provide you with a file containing all the information you captured in the scanline (account ID and source code for current donors; temporary ID and source code for acquisition).

Establish metrics to determine success or failure

What will define the success of the mailing? Most new donors? Lowest cost per renewal? Highest net income? Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) now and be ready to report on and evaluate those post-campaign.

During the Campaign

Capture the source correctly on each and every response

Be sure you’ve tested scanlines or provided your caging company or customer service group all the information they need to accurately enter each and every gift you receive that is associated with this effort.

Build reports that provide the necessary data to evaluate the campaign completely

Set up the queries ahead of time for reports you know you’ll need to determine if the campaign was successful, if the test beat the control and if you met revenue goals.

After the Campaign

Use a statistical validity calculator to ensure the win is really a win

Slight differences in key metrics can be meaningless if they fall within the margin of error.

Review the pre-determined metrics to evaluate the campaign

Was the package test strictly to raise response rate? Was a cheaper package tested to lower costs and increase net? Was a cost per new donor or cost per dollar raised set as an organizational goal?

Extra effort up front will eliminate post-campaign questions, reduce how much re-testing you need to do, and move up the timeline on taking action based on your findings. A well-designed and properly tracked test is a fundraiser’s most powerful tool.

About the Author:
Amy Houke
Media Director, Agency Services

Role at the Company

I am responsible for providing media research and recommendations to AFG clients. I work closely with other AFG team members to assure that prospect list and print recommendations are consistent with the overall strategic and creative direction of each program.

My experience has included media planning for many types of non-profit clients, including public broadcasting stations, animal welfare organizations and food banks.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

Successful fundraising is about getting your organization’s mission into the hearts of your current and prospective donors. My job is to identify your future donors. That comes from a deep understanding of who your current donors are and what they look like. That’s exciting!

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I enjoy serving in small group leadership and doing local mission work with my church.

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