June 3, 2019 Jillian Jenkins

Why a simple reactivation strategy works

If you’ve spent any amount of time with one of the Strategists or Consultants here at Douglas Shaw & Associates, you’ve likely heard us recommend a test in your direct response program.

We’re passionate about learning and improving donor communications, and we’re serious about using science and research to inform your strategy. Testing the offer, the creative packaging, ask arrays, and many other elements of a fundraising campaign can maximize your investment smartly and effectively.

Does that mean that running a test is always a good idea? Almost.

In a few special scenarios, a test may be unhelpful or even harmful. So, before you decide to test something, ask yourself these questions to verify if the test is a good use of your time and resources.

Is the Test Measurable?
I know my ad campaign on Facebook did well, but I don’t know which ad did the best.

Ensuring you have accurate tracking through a digital coding structure or print appeal codes is critical to a successful test. If you can’t read the results, there’s no reason to test.

Is the Test Valid?
The Control Package generated more responses, great! Oh wait, it’s only two responses more . . .

When setting up a test, look at the number of responses you expect from each group and verify if the difference will be significant enough to draw a conclusion. Since the math behind calculating this number can be complicated, we have created a free-to-use tool for anyone who wants to check this for themselves. Simply go to douglasshaw.com/testcalculator, type in your numbers, and find out if you should call the test a success or perhaps try again with greater volume.

Is the Test Actionable?
We tested a photo of a child wearing a blue shirt against a photo of a child wearing a red shirt, and the blue shirt won!

You could theoretically test most any element of a direct response package or digital campaign, but if the learnings won’t help you make a future decision or improve next year’s campaign, it’s not worth the investment.

A well-strategized direct response program will test strategies to discover what works, and discard what doesn’t; the goal always being to improve. Digital platforms can be utilized to leverage low-cost, lower risk, and faster results, which in turn can inform messaging and imagery choices on direct mail packages.


The Challenge

An organization that traditionally had a “meals” offer was interested in finding out if their donors would respond to other services they provide.

The Solution

A Facebook ad campaign was set up to test three offers with each ad going to the same audience; with the same budget, the same image, and at the same time. As most direct response fundraisers know a valid test has only one key element being tested at a time.

  • Meals
  • Meals and More
  • Job Training


Testing, when done right, will be measurable, valid, and actionable, providing your organization with insights into what resonates best with your donors.

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