Using a test and learn approach to level up your fundraising

10 November 2022
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In this interview, Saira Rahim, Individual Giving Manager of JDRF talks about implementing test and learn on a budget ahead of her presentation at the Future of Fundraising Conference.

Can you tell us what to expect from your session?

In a nutshell, we’ll be showing how to develop a test and learn strategy on a budget, and how to deliver low-cost campaigns in general. How we used insight from previous campaigns and supporter engagement to understand our supporters and their motivations is a big theme of the session. Our very first test will be used as an example, and the related campaign which will be live at the time of the conference. So, we're excited that we will be able to talk about how we set that up, and what kind of results we're seeing right now.

We'll share how we built a lottery campaign from scratch, the lessons we've learned and how we're using those now to help us invest in and grow our lottery program. Also, we'll talk about how we're planning on getting more digital to help grow our program. Having built digital into our testing strategy, a discussion will take place into how results and learnings helped to grow confidence in individual Giving within our organization and increase both supporter acquisition and income for the charity. So, those will be the main things we'll focus on.

What advice would you give charities who are looking to implement a test and learn approach?

First off, I would say be sure you know your supporters – understanding your audience and their motivations is key. Though sector insight is extremely helpful, remember to do what works for your charity, not what works for other charities – base your strategies, your campaigns and your KPIs on your supporters and past learnings. Change your way of thinking from ‘What do we want to do’, to ‘What do our supporters want from us?’ and ‘How do we want our supporters to feel?’. Then think about how you can best deliver that.

I'd say think big, but start small and then grow – don't try to do everything at once. So, set short, medium and long-term plans and goals for your testing and strategy. For the short-term, start by focusing on low-cost campaigns, using channels that you know work for your audience. It’s important not to spread yourself too thin. And I think this is particularly useful advice if, like us, you don't have previous insights and learnings and are working with a small budget. By using this approach and focusing on that low hanging fruit, you will both keep your costs low and know where to go next to maximise your impact. That means that you can then develop evidence-based strategies for your medium- and long-term plans, including using your learnings to expand into new channels.

Also, I'd say not to focus on supporter acquisition as a standalone, single step entity. Use your learnings to optimise and grow your campaigns. Every learning should be fed back into your campaigns to help improve them. Think of it as a constant cycle of growth. Also consider what happens not just when you're acquiring a new supporter, but what happens next when you've got that supporter on board. Things like welcome journeys and supporter journeys have a huge impact. In doing so, don't use a one size fits all model – think about your different supporter groups and their motivations. How will you be tailoring your campaign so that it reaches and engages more people?? Think about personalisation, making your new supporters feel valued and delivering motivation-based journeys as part of your test and learn campaign.

Finally, set up a reporting system. Report holistically – have all your results in one accessible place, not divided between teams or communication channels, for example. This will really help you with your medium to longer-term plans, but will also help you demonstrate the potential for growth to senior management as well. For example, when you're requesting more budget, it will really help grow confidence in what you're doing and why it is important.

What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

I'm really looking forward to hearing about innovation across the sector, from different sized charities, across different channels. I think the variety is really interesting – there will be charities of all sizes coming along and that’s something that really excites me.

It will be really interesting to hear about what others have been doing and how we can learn from this. As we consider how we can grow our testing strategy and improve our methods of fundraising, there's going to be so much that we can take away and apply to all areas of work.

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