The word optimization is creeping more and more into my everyday vocabulary – to the point where I now refer to those items at the back of my fridge as sub-optimal. In Fundraising, optimization is not just bluster and buzz though. It’s creating real results and deserves to occupy some of your thought.

The details recently revealed from President Obama’s online fundraising team are staggering: 4,276,463 donations and 81,548,259 pageviews. Through the use of A/B testing they were able to increase the conversion rate of their donation form by 49%! Very buzzworthy. While most organizations do not have the resources to run the same amount of tests (Obama’s campaign ran 240 A/B tests) necessary to generate an improvement this large, but think what even a 10% increase could do for your organization.

Why Donation Pages Are So Important

For anyone who makes an online donation to your organization, there are two main decisions being made: One is to look at your donation page and the other is to actually make the donation. More people than you think decide to look rather than to make an actual donation – in many cases 90%. To put that in real terms, let’s say you send a fundraising appeal to 1000 people and your average donation is $50. Out of those thousand you get 100 (10%) to go to your donation page where 10 (10%) donate. Increasing your conversion rate to just 11% puts an extra $50 in your coffers.

How Obama’s Online Fundraising Team Did It

While there are a few online page optimization services, the Obama team chose Optimizely to create their A/B tests. The way all page optimization services work is that you take your original page and then create one or more variants of that page. These variants can be minor like increasing a font size or total reworkings of the page. The service then randomly decides which page each new visitor should be shown and over time calculates which of your pages is more successful. Because the service is deciding which page to show, there is no need to change any of your links in order to run the tests.

Have you tried A/B testing for your donation pages? What have the results been? Let me know in the comments.

For more information on the behind the scenes work of their optimization efforts, please read Kyle Rush’s blog post (it gets geeky but it is good information).