9 Guidelines for Effective A/B Testing in Nonprofit Marketing

Running A/B tests in your nonprofit marketing campaigns to optimize email, website landing pages and calls-to-action, is a great way to learn how to drive more traffic to your website and generate more donor leads.

Such increases in generating new donors, can provide a huge advantage for your nonprofit in the race to attract and retain new donors. 

Just a few small tweaks to a landing page, an email or a call-to-action can significantly affect the number of donor leads your nonprofit can attract.

A/B testing is all about optimizing your variables, finding significant results and tracking those results over time to improve your conversion rates.

 If you’re not A/B testing, you’re missing out on opportunities to increase your conversion rates and glean learnings to improve your content over time.

Split testing, commonly referred to as A/B testing is a method of testing through which marketing variables such as copy, layout and images are compared to each other to identify the one element that brings a better conversion rate.

The element that is being tested is called the “control” and the element that is argued to give a better result is called the “treatment.”

When you’re starting out, you probably have a number of questions about what to do with A/B tests. For example, what variable should you test? How long should the test last? What makes a test significant?

 Things can get confusing. 

With the remainder of this post, I’ll cover some guidelines for your nonprofit marketing that will make A/B testing easier. Both to measure your results and to find out which variation performed better. 

This knowledge will guide you in figuring out how best to optimize your nonprofit marketing elements such as landing pages, calls-to-action and email.

  • 1
    Conduct one test on one asset at a time; for example, let’s say that you have a new donor offer that’s promoted via an email that links to a landing page. You may be tempted to test two things here, one is the audience you’re sending the offer to and the second is the image on the landing page. But if you conducted both tests simultaneously you’d be muddling the results. Maybe it was the audience or maybe it was the image or maybe it was both. If you test one hypothesis at a time, you’ll have results that lead to stronger conclusions.
  • 2
    Test one variable at a time; to evaluate how effective an element is on your landing page or call-to-action or email, you need to isolate that variable in you’re A/B test. For example, don’t test the landing page image and the copy on the page at the same time. Isolate one element such as the copy or the image and run your test.
  • 3
    Test minor changes too; small changes are often just as important as big sweeping changes. Like switching the color of your call-to-action button.
  • 4
    You can A/B test the entire asset; while you can test a button color, or a background shade consider making your entire landing page, email, or call-to-action one variable. Instead of testing single design elements on a landing page such as headlines and images, design two completely different landing pages and test them against each other. This type of testing will yield the biggest improvements.
  • 5
    Measure as far down the marketing funnel as possible; you’re A/B test might have a positive impact on your landing page conversion rate, but how about your donations? You may see that a landing page converted fewer donor prospects but produced more donations. As you create you’re A/B test, consider how it affects metrics such as visits, click through rates, donor leads, and traffic-to-donor lead conversion rates.
  • 6
    Set up control and treatment; in your experiments you need to keep a version of the original element you’re testing. Set up your unaltered version as your “control.” The landing page, call-to-action, or email you would normally use. From there build variations or “treatments” you’ll test against your control. For example, if you’re wondering if including a testimonial on a landing page would make a difference, set up your control page with no testimonial, then create your variation(s).
  • 7
    Test a multitude of elements; as you optimize your landing pages, calls-to-action, and email, don’t limit yourself to testing only one background color or type font and size. Look at all of your nonprofit marketing elements and include them in you’re A/B test such as layout, design, copy, color, timing of events, different target audiences and alignment between an email and a landing page.
  • 8
    Test your campaigns at the same time; timing plays a significant role in your nonprofit marketing campaign. Whether it’s the time of day, day of the week or month of the year. If you were to run test A for one month and test B one month later, you wouldn’t know whether the changed response rate was due to a different time frame or a different template. A/B testing requires you to run two or more variations at the same time. Without simultaneous testing you may be left second guessing your results.
  • 9
    Decide on necessary significance before testing; prior to launching your campaign test, think about how significant your results should be for you to decide that the change should be made to your email campaign or website. For a deep dive on statistical significance read this article by our friends at kissmetrics.


A/B testing gives you the opportunity to maximize conversion rates, solve problems and challenge your assumptions.

 More importantly, A/B testing will increase the knowledge base of your nonprofit by allowing you to determine a set of optimized practices to boost your overall nonprofit marketing ROI. 

According to a 2014 study released by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, 12.9% of nonprofit funding comes from private contributions.

That’s why it’s important to have strategic processes in place to identify potential donors and communicate with them effectively.

In the increasingly competitive environment of nonprofit fundraising, nonprofits need to implement an effective marketing strategy.

Download our eGuide entitled 10 Questions to Ask Your Marketing Team About Donor Acquisition to learn more about developing your own strategy.

You can download it here.