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  • Writer's pictureKaren Hopper

Organization: We need to be testing and learning things more quickly.

Same organization: It'll take legal 4 weeks to approve those proposed changes.


Are you as scared as I am? Let's unpack why:

One of the most costly mistakes I see organizations make with their testing programs is a lack of internal alignment on resources and priorities. In one such occurrence, we are spending in the $MM range on ads, but are unable to move landing page testing forward in a timely fashion due to hangups with legal and internal review on the organization side.

Let's play this out in real life: If this landing page change does what we think it will, we'll see a 10% improvement in purchases - which, given our traffic volume and investment, results in hundreds of thousands in additional revenue per quarter. Then, our next improvement idea could then boost purchases by an additional 5%, compounding our initial improvement. And the next one could... I think you get the idea.

But! Because of a 6 week internal turnaround time on any copy or content changes, we are losing half a quarter for every test, stopping our testing momentum in its tracks and letting valuable audience and market insights that are based on a specific campaign or cultural moment fall by the wayside. We're also leaving thousands, if not millions, of dollars on the table.

you've gotta be forking kidding me

Landing page and conversion optimization is a team sport: it only works if everyone is moving towards a common goal. Otherwise, it's like getting lost in a dark corn maze with the chainsaw maniac chasing after you and your friends decide it's better to split up than stay together. Spoiler: the ones that split off from the group always get murdered first. It's science.

Ok, ok. Testing isn't that morbid - but it can have long-lasting effects if done properly (and improperly, for that matter).

What's the scariest testing or optimization story you have? 'Tis the season, after all. 🎃🎃🎃

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  • Writer's pictureKaren Hopper

You have mere seconds to catch the attention of your customer or donor - but are you also doing enough to convince them to follow through and make a donation or purchase?

60% of donation page conversions happen in less than 60 seconds. But what about the other 40%? Turns out their conversion peaks at 4-5 minutes. (Source: Classy)

What are they doing with that time? Reviewing your value proposition and impact, of course. If it's there.

Time and time again, we've heard that we should "get out of the way" of a donor and make the form experience as smooth as possible, because people who have clicked through to that form - usually from your website - have already decided that they're going to donate.

But the data from the Classy study shows us that while that might be true for about half of our eventual conversions, what about everyone else? Is that form title and image, and perhaps a couple of generic sentences about the mission, enough to convince a skeptic to pull out their credit card and part with their hard earned cash?

For the same reason you don't purchase everything that has a "one-click buy" option on Amazon, donors don't give just because your form is "flawless" and "easy to complete." The content on your landing page is there for the skeptics, not for the folks who have already made up their minds.

So how do we convince skeptics? Check out the copy on PETA's donation form (you can hide the graphic image!), and how impact-focused it is. charity:water has also crafted their donation forms to be much more content heavy, reducing the prominence of the transactional form and making it way more about the experience of the potential donor and what they can do to become a part of the community.

Going one step further, this landing page from the Humane Society, where you land if you click through their paid search ads - before you get to the donation form. If that doesn't fly in the face of "everything we know about donor behavior", I don't know what does. We'll get into the power and persuasion of landing pages in more depth in a future blog (or if you want more right now, go check out Unbounce and their incredible resources).

All that said... having a confusing or hard-to-complete form can sink your conversion rate, even among people who really, really want to give you money.

Here is perhaps one of the most horrifying donation forms I've ever laid my eyes on (for multiple, obvious reasons). I'm not linking to it directly because they don't deserve the traffic.

The part that gets my goat about this form more than anything else is the sheer number of options and decisions the user has to make before they click through to the next step. This gets us into the realm of decision paralysis, where the brain shuts down in the face of too many stimuli. The "elite donor" box even jumps back and forth like a gif, which adds to the overwhelming colors, checkboxes, and asks.

This is an extreme example, sure, but I think we've all experienced a confusing checkout process for something we actually want to buy - and perhaps we've gone so far as to abandon that cart because the page keeps firing an error even though we know we typed our credit card information in correctly, or it doesn't recognize the District of Columbia as a real place in the U.S. (which has happened to me more than once).

Rants aside, please remember that everyone filling in your form is a human. They have thoughts, distractions, and feelings. They're on your website because they care about your issue or are looking for a solution that you're providing - now it's up to you to get them to take the plunge, and to make it easy for them to do so.

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I have donated to several racial justice organizations lately and the ones that stick out to me now are the ones who are going out of their way to show how my gift, no matter how small, is helping change lives and move the world forward.

Donors who are motivated to give by an event or other "occasion" are 146% more likely to want an impact report for their donation rather than to receive an additional thank you or acknowledgement - and as a donor, I feel this tremendously. But jumping beyond nonprofit land, where social good is literally the name of the game, corporate social responsibility is playing a more integral role in consumer decisions to purchase products - and how companies market those stances can be the difference between success and failure, especially when those customers want to see you living the values, and not just spewing empty words.

Customers are itching for purpose

Backing up a titch, you should know that more than 50% of customers surveyed in the Neilsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility report that they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, and millenials and Gen Z buyers prefer to do business with corporations and brands with pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods, and ethical business standards.

So the same principles that back a donor's decision to support an organization because of the work they're doing are coming into play with purchasing decisions - and the line between purchasing a product because of the product and the bigger picture of what that product represents is becoming increasingly blurry.

What does this mean?

Companies who have invested in this social good model, and who market themselves as such, are growing - some of them very rapidly, including companies such as Ben and Jerry's and Patagonia. But customers who purchase a product because of what that product stands for have a vested interested in seeing that company uphold their end of the bargain. That means that when it comes crashing down (Everlane, looking at you) it's much more damaging than it would be otherwise. This is where we can go back to the nonprofit model to see what has happened to those who have been burned. For some, like the Red Cross, their reputation allowed them to weather bad press but for others, like the Wounded Warrior Project - the damage can be lasting.

How to use transparency in your marketing:

1.) Be specific about what a customer can expect from you.

That includes if you intend to communicate regularly, say that. (you should be communicating regularly. If you don't think you should be, we should have a chat).

2.) Make your model easy to understand.

Businesses and nonprofits alike are notorious for talking in words only people on the inside understand. The long and short is that the groups that are able to clearly communicate their mission and how they're making the world a better place are more successful than those who cannot. If you need inspiration, check out charity:water and PeaceGeeks as well as Patagonia.

3.) Promote your social responsibility and impact model on your product pages (or your donation pages).

Don't make people hunt for it. If it's not on a page that a typical consumer sees in their checkout process, chances are, they will never see it - and the research shows that this social good material improves cart averages and donation conversions. In one recent test, a nonprofit was able to improve conversions by 16% by simply giving examples of what a donor's money could do.

If you're putting in the work to have a social good program, don't leave the money on the table.

4.) Be open about your principles in all channels, to get the most bang for your buck.

Again, this goes back to the "if they don't see it, they don't know about it." If you have a social good program, you have a competitive advantage. If you're a nonprofit, you are literally help changing the world. Show the impact, show the transformation, and make your customers and donors feel like part of the mission.


The Minnesota Freedom Fund took some heat initially for not 'spending all $35MM right away'; because donors are rarely reasonable, they want their gift to be the most important (another topic for another time). But by being transparent about the situation and addressing the criticism head on, Minnesota Freedom Fund was able to win more confidence from its base, and continues to provide insight into how their program is changing lives.

So the lesson? Be honest. Live up to your values. Show, don't tell.

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