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What Does Optimization Really Mean in Digital Fundraising?

by George Konetes | Sep 23, 2022 | Digital

Optimization is a buzzword these days across many fields. The dictionary broadly defines it as making the best of a situation or circumstance. This overgeneralized definition inspires little more than yawns and complacency. But the digital era has packed a lot more into the term “optimization” and made it a critical part of fundraising success.

Say you are working to acquire new first-time donors. You would develop a communication—an email, an ad, or whatever the creative may be—and you test it. One of three things generally happens next. The creative performs well, and its use is expanded, it performs poorly and is cut, or it is optimized.

The process of optimization in digital fundraising is not just making the best of a creative or campaign. It is a data-driven scientific process of analyzing what is and what is not working to make systematic changes to improve performance. Not all campaigns perform well out of the gate. Very few perform excellently. But most campaigns can be effective if enough is invested in optimization. And yes, successful campaigns can be optimized to become better still.

So, what are the specific details of what that means and how it is done? It is going to be different in every situation based on what the data says. First you need to run the campaign in order to get enough data to learn from.

As an example, optimizing an acquisition campaign may involve:

  • Improving the targeting to reach better and more responsive audience segments for this message

  • Editing the text of the ad to be more compelling, informative, or perhaps shorter

  • Changing imagery to better grab attention and evoke emotion

  • Refining the use of buttons or calls to action to improve click rates

  • Adjusting the ask or donation page to be more descriptive, concise, or emotive

  • Changing colors, image placements, or flow of a page

  • Testing different channels to look for more responsive methods to deliver the message

  • Diagnosing and addressing bigger conceptual barriers within the message

  • Or completely rebuilding any one or more parts of the campaign from scratch

This is an active, scientific, and persistent process that is bent on getting results. Now, despite this process, not every campaign succeeds. There comes a point when it is a better use of resources to abandon a campaign and start another.

But even when a campaign fails, what was learned can transfer and be used to create success in future campaigns. Optimization is the process of learning, improving, and obtaining success.

Could you use some help optimizing your efforts? We would be happy to chat!

George Konetes