The above words of wisdom are from the comments for a post on Future Fundraising Now. The issue at hand was whether it was more important that an email look appealing or produce results.
We’ve all had this argument. It usually goes something like this:
“It works! We should use it.”
“I don’t like it. It’s ugly!”
The folks in the “it works” camp are making an objective decision based on careful analysis of data, testing, and/or industry best-practices.
Those unfortunate souls in the “it’s ugly” camp are voicing a subjective opinion, based on personal aesthetic preferences – pretty much the opposite of careful testing and data analysis.
Guess which group has the most successful fundraising campaigns?
There is an important question all development professionals must ask themselves. What’s more important: communications you like, or communications your donors will give to?
Of course, that’s not to say you can’t have the best of both worlds – communications you like that your donors also give to. Shameless plug: I write that exact thing for clients all the time…
But it’s important to know how you form your judgment of what “good fundraising” is.
Do I have all the answers? No. You can’t know for certain that something will work unless you test it first.
In the absence of a testing budget, industry best practices (derived from others’ tests - sensing a theme here?) serve as a ‘next-best’ source of decision making.
I’m forced to make guesses for clients all the time. It’s the nature of the business. But I never base my decisions on what I like or don’t like.
Case in point: I do not like P.S’s in letters. They fairly scream “direct mail.” But I use them religiously, because research has shown they are one of the most important parts of a letter.
Other things I don’t like but use because they work include: envelope teasers, Johnson Boxes, hard asks, running, and push-ups.
I use them because they tend to produce better results, not just for me, but for most writers who use them correctly, most of the time.
Maybe there's nothing you can do about it. Maybe final editorial authority doesn't rest with you. But if it does:
How are you basing your decisions?
The business week article on the hugely successful Obama email campaign.