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You’ve probably heard marketing experts talking about A/B testing, and there’s a good reason why – especially for your school’s advancement campaigns! If you’re not familiar with it, A/B testing means changing small aspects of an email to see if it impacts its performance.

Some premium email tools will automate A/B testing for you. The solution will send the two different versions (the A and B tests) of your message to a subset of your recipients. Once it identifies which performed better, it will send it to the rest.

If you’re not using as sophisticated a tool, you can still apply these same principles on your own. You can create two different versions of your email and send them to small, random groups. Once you look at the results, you can send the stronger version to your entire audience.

When it comes to A/B testing, a key is to only change one element per test. That way, you can always identify what is having an impact. To help you get the best results out of your advancement emails, we looked at four areas you should be testing!

Subject Lines

As the first thing your recipients see, it’s no surprise that a subject line is crucial. There are a few different parts of a subject line you can try testing, such as length, personalization, and even capitalization of words.

When you analyze the results of your test, open rates will be the key indicator. However, make sure to look at the impact the changes have on click-through rates and conversions, too. Your subject line may compel recipients to read the email, but it may not help convince them to act.

Opening Sentence

Once your email is opened, your reader will typically see a few paragraphs of text. The first sentence could impact their willingness to take the time for the rest. With many opening emails on a mobile phone, grabbing their attention right away can make a big difference to the success of your email.

Like with subject lines, you should test personalization in the first sentence. You may also want to change the format to start with a question, a piece of dramatic news, or sometimes even a casual joke.

Suggested Donation Amount

Often, advancement professionals like you will want to put a donation amount into the minds of their supporter before asking for a gift. While this can be very effective, it is definitely worthy of a test! After all, it’s possible that the amounts you suggest are discouraging smaller donors. Sometimes, you may even push a donor to give less than they had initially planned.

You can test different suggested donation amounts or whether it is better to give a few options. You may also want to test the impact of leaving the suggestion out altogether. In these cases, you can analyze the impact on click-through rates, conversions, and donation sizes.


The final element to most fundraising emails is the call-to-action. As the final barrier between your email and your donation form, it’s a very important one to test.

There are so many ways to build your call-to-action and see how it affects conversions. For one, you can test the style, like trying a clickable button, large text or a full graphic banner. You should also test the colors you use, since they can have a surprisingly large impact. For example, you may find that using your brand’s theme if the most effective, but in other cases, it may be better to use a vibrant color that catches eyes.

Last but not least, don’t forget the words themselves. In some cases, using direct phrases like “Donate Today!” may create a sense of urgency in your readers. Other times, friendly language, like “Click here to contribute,” may be more effective. Like every scenario laid out here, the best way to know is to test, test, and test again!

What happens when a supporter reaches your donation page?

We want to help you ensure you’re advancement donation page is converting as well as possible! That’s why we’re offering a free, customized donation page assessment to higher education institutions. You’ll see how you compare to best practices and other areas of improvement to generate more revenue for your advancement goals.

Click here for a free assessmenet of your advancement donation page!

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