8 Pillars of Conversion Optimization

White ancient marble pillars in a row

Our Abila experts have researched and crafted Key Fundraising Predictions for 2015 to help you gain a clear understanding of the challenges facing your sector in the coming year, and how you can turn them into real advantages for your organization.

Below is a deep dive into Fundraising Prediction #1 – Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

And, because CRO is so important to nonprofits’ success, we’re rolling out a series of four blogs on this topic. Last week we defined CRO. This second blog, below, is a very high-level discussion of the dos and don’ts. Next week we’ll delve deeper into the nitty-gritty of CRO strategies.

 Pillar 1: Don’t Freak Out!

CRO can be complex; the learning curve, steep and long. Plus, “new” can be scary. Don’t let this overwhelm you. As with any new skill you start with the basics and build upon them over time.

 Pillar 2: You Must Test

Testing, retesting, then testing again is the cornerstone of CRO. You may think you know what’s working and what’s not. You may have a strong opinion on the subject. But you really don’t know until you test. Even professionals who make a living testing CRO are continually surprised at what drives conversion rates.

Pillar 3: Don’t Assume If It Works for One Nonprofit, It’ll Work for You

A best practice is only a best practice if it works for your organization. Certainly, borrowing best practices from others is a great place to start. Then prove them right or wrong through testing.

Pillar 4: Only Test One Thing at a Time

We tend to be overzealous when we launch a new initiative, wanting to make sweeping changes as swiftly as humanly possible. Don’t take this approach with CRO. Test one thing at a time, for example your homepage headline. Because if you test multiple elements – like headline, donate button, and image – you won’t be able to pinpoint exactly what boosted or busted your conversion rate, and therefore. will be unable to replicate the results in other areas.

Pillar 5: Test the Big Stuff First

Test the big elements, such as headline, buttons, calls to action, copy, and images, first. These will make the biggest difference in your donations. Sweat the small stuff, like colors, fonts, and page placement, second.

Pillar 6: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

I’ve seen terror in the eyes of clients when the subject of failure arises. Many professionals –including those in the nonprofit sector – are afraid to fail. This is one of those times when failure is the only option, because it’s integral to testing. Every time you fail you get closer to the mark. Imagine you’re an archer taking shots at a target. When you’re off a little to the left, you adjust, then shoot again. Adjust, then shoot again. With each attempt, you’re getting closer to that desired bulls-eye.

Pillar 7: Never Stop Testing

You’re never “done” with CRO. If you want to be successful, you have to keep trying and testing new things. This will continually increase your online fundraising dollars as well.

Pillar 8: See Pillar 1 … Don’t Freak Out!


What impact are your volunteers making?

hand raised up on white isolated backgroundSoftware Advice recently released their 2014 Volunteer Impact Report that provides insight into how nonprofits are measuring the impact that volunteers have on their organization’s mission and goal.

Here were some of the key findings that stood out to us:

  • 45 percent of organizations do not currently measure volunteer impact.
  • A lack of resources and tools hinders 34 percent of organizations from measuring volunteer impact.
  • For organizations that do measure volunteer impact, the most effective metrics (according to 98 percent of respondents) were project outputs—i.e. the number of meals served, books distributed, etc.


The ability to report on impact is a must.  Increasingly,  younger generations expect greater transparency and accountability from the organizations they support. A 2014 Software Advice survey found that 60 percent of individual donors want proof that a nonprofit is making a positive impact before making a second donation.

We outlined the importance of non-financial reporting in our Key Nonprofit Accounting Predictions for 2015. Nonprofits need to show the journey of a dollar toward supporting a mission—from reporting on a project that is happening, to tracking activity related to the project, to how the dollar donated had an impact on the project. Because volunteer work factors into the ultimate impact equation, showing how volunteers contribute to mission advancement can influence donation decisions.

The changing demographics of the supporter base, and greater scrutiny from supporters and board members will give organizations an opportunity to showcase the great work they, with the help of volunteers, are doing to make a difference in the world.

You can see the full Software Advice report here: http://www.softwareadvice.com/nonprofit/industryview/volunteer-impact-report-2014

What the Heck is CRO, and Why Should You Care?

1421289384_Conversion_Rate_Optimization-512Our Abila experts have researched and crafted Key Fundraising Predictions for 2015 to help you gain a clear understanding of the challenges facing your sector in the coming year, and how you can turn them into real advantages for your organization.

Below is a deep dive into Fundraising Prediction #1 – Conversion Optimization.

And, because conversion optimization is so important to nonprofits’ success, we’ll roll out a series of four blogs on this topic. This is first in the series.

What if you could convert a higher percentage of website visitors to donors, without actually increasing your number of visitors?

You’d want in, right? Well, welcome to the party!

Conversion optimization, sometimes called conversion rate optimization (CRO), is a technique that has swept the small business sector over the last few years. Small business professionals have done the hard work of pioneering and perfecting CRO, and now is the ideal time for nonprofits to take advantage of this clearly paved way.

CRO is the scientific process of evaluating your website’s features and functionality to identify ways to improve visitors’ experiences. The end goal is getting a higher percentage of visitors to do what you want them to do – whether that’s donate dollars, watch a video, volunteer for an event, or sign up for a service.

Making strategic online decisions based on “a wing and a prayer” should be a thing of the past. Because CRO dictates you collect, analyze, and use visitor data to inform your decisions.

Why should you care about CRO? Here are three main reasons:

  1. Making very slight tweaks to your site – for example, changing the color of your “Donate Now” button or repositioning an image on your homepage – can dramatically improve your conversion rate. Let’s say you typically host 100 visitors on your site each day and two of them donate. If you could convince four to donate the same amount of money, you’ve just doubled your online fundraising.
  1. With CRO, you don’t have to increase traffic, you just need to convert more of your existing visitors. This has a huge impact on your expense column, because it eliminates the need to buy Facebook ads or pay for search engine optimization (SEO) services.
  1. Here’s the Big Why: You simply need to KNOW what works and what doesn’t. Otherwise you’re basing your entire online strategy on hunches, guesses, and wishes. CRO provides a very structured and organized way to know what works, so you can do more of it.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we continue our series on CRO. We’ll go in-depth into the rules and winning strategies of conversion optimization, and how to create and implement an effective CRO plan.

With the Bang of a Gavel, It’s Time to Get to Work

Wooden justice gavel and block with brassOur Abila experts have researched and crafted Key Association Predictions for 2015 to help you gain a clear understanding of the challenges facing your sector in the coming year, and how you can turn them into real advantages for your organization.

Below is a deep dive into Association Prediction #5 – New Congress and Advocacy.

Now that the pomp and pageantry of last week’s swearing-in ceremonies are over, it’s time for our Republican-led, 114th Congress to get to work. And you know what that means? It’s time for you to get to work, too.

This year, probably more so than ever, it’s extremely important for you and your association members to get out there and make an impression on the many new, as well as returning legislators.

With leadership from your lobbyists and government relations experts, your advocacy team should have its marching orders. In other words, it should have a clear understanding of industry-related bills up for vote, and what your official stance is on proposed laws.

Your advocacy team should use all communication tools at its disposal to rally member support, including:

  • Notices on your association website
  • Emails to members
  • Direct mail to members
  • Articles in industry periodicals and member publications
  • Targeted communication with interest groups within your association

Ask your members to:

  • Write a letter to Congress (offer a template for them to use, so they don’t have to start from a blank piece of paper)
  • Email their representative (easily identify representatives on sites like http://whoismyrepresentative.com/)
  • Make phone calls
  • Arrange a meeting at the Capitol or local district office
  • Write letters to local newspapers
  • Attend town hall meetings

What you really want, though, is for your message to go viral. Expand your reach via association members’ individual networks. Encourage them to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, to get your message out.

Because, at the end of the day, there are representatives who are going to vote “yes” and those who will vote “no” regardless of how persuasive you are. So, you’re really targeting the “fence sitters,” who rely heavily on numbers. For example, if 3,800 of a representative’s constituents are “for” a bill and 15,230 are “against,” he or she will vote “yea” with the clear majority. And since this often boils down to a numbers game, you need to do everything you can to tip the scale in your favor.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to encourage your membership to reach out to their representatives, even when they don’t have a specific “ask.” Urge members to use social media as a platform to educate and inform, on an ongoing basis.

Abila’s Director of Product Management, Darryl Hopkins, is a former legislative assistant on Capitol Hill.

Partnering For Extraordinary Customer Experiences

“It’s against our policy.”

This has to be among the Top 10 show-stopping lines of all times. It kills customer service, employee spirit, and partnerships.

I was working near Washington, D.C. recently, and stayed one night at a new hotel. Arriving late and tired, I accidentally left the inside dome light on in my rental car. The following morning I paid for my late-night error with a dead battery.

I walked from the hotel parking lot back to the lobby. Warmly greeting the front-desk clerk with my very best “I need your help” voice, I explained my need for jumper cables plus someone with an auto to give the car battery a jump.

“Let me call engineering,” he cheerfully responded. I was feeling relieved I would still make my breakfast meeting three miles away. But, I watched as he hung up the phone. “Engineering informed me we have a policy against assisting guests with dead batteries. You’ll have to call a tow truck.” His words ended with the punctuation of a slamming door.

“Let me see if I have jumper cables,” another guest quickly said after overhearing my exchange. The front-desk clerk remained motionless, as if the engineer’s pronouncement had turned him to salt. Minutes later, with my car running, I returned to the lobby.

“What’s the reason for the no-jumper-cable rule?” I asked, working hard to keep my anger in check. The clerk barely looked at me as he delivered the facts. “The engineer said an employee in another property assisted a guest several years ago and the guest sued the hotel for damaging the motor. The hotel won the case, but management put in the no-help rule.” Somehow the “bear trap” policy had captured his spirit just as it had my rescue.

I was still not finished. “What do you think?” I asked. “Me? I just work here,” he mumbled. I persisted. “What would you have done if I had been your neighbor instead of your guest?” I asked, still trying to find some humanity in a person who now seemed like a robot. Almost as if snapping out of a stupor, he stated the obvious: “Neighbors don’t have policies!”

Serving as a partner means service processes are based on the customer’s critical success factors. And, since customer expectations are constantly changing, it means perpetually updating service standards and performance. It includes customer intelligence gathering with a focus on depth of understanding, not just data gathering.

Serving as a partner includes eliminating detractors in the customer’s path. Usability is hardwired into the culture creating a continuous pursuit of customer ease and predictability. It entails discovering potholes and blind alleys in processes that might sidetrack customers from getting their needs met.

Serving as a partner involves getting customers to help invent and refresh service processes. Customers lack the blinders service providers tend to have. Since customers don’t understand the reasons you can’t, they can better see ways you could. It requires trusting customers as well as trusting the frontline to do the right thing.

How would you treat customers if they were neighbors you’d likely see at a PTA meeting or a Little League ballgame? Serving as a partner is all about making experiences calm, secure, effortless, and accessible. Remember: Neighbors don’t have policies.

We’re thrilled to have the author of this blog, Chip R. Bell, as a keynote speaker at the 2015 Abila Users & Developers Conference (AUDC), February 22-24 in Austin, Texas. Considered a world-renowned authority on customer loyalty and service innovation, Bell is founder and senior partner with The Chip Bell Group, a popular keynote speaker, and author of several best-selling books, including “The 9½ Principle of Innovative Service.”

Join us, along with more than 1,000 nonprofit and association professionals and our partners for three days of learning, sharing, and collaboration. Register here to attend AUDC!

The Time is NOW to Prepare for Affordable Care Act Reporting

Affordable Care Act SignOur Abila experts have researched and crafted Key Nonprofit Accounting Predictions for 2015to help you gain a clear understanding of the challenges facing your sector in the coming year, and how you can turn them into real advantages for your organization.

 Below is a deep dive into Nonprofit Accounting Prediction #5 –Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Compliance.

You have some big hurdles ahead when it comes to complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Perhaps the biggest is the filing of impending IRS form 1095-C. Similar to the W-2 form, 1095-Cs will need to be prepared for each full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, at organizations with 50 or more full-timers. And, though the first filing deadline for 1095-C forms isn’t until February, 28, 2016, you’ll want to get a running start to successfully make this leap.

Here’s a little background from PricewaterhouseCoopers: “Employees working on January 1, 2015 with or without healthcare coverage will create reporting requirements for their common law employers. These reporting requirements will likely be complex and burdensome. Because the required information may not be readily available, advance preparation by employers is necessary.”

A little terrifying, right? It doesn’t have to be, particularly if you start the wheels in motion now.

First, know what your reporting obligations will be. Often, organizations are already tracking the required data for internal purposes. You’ll need to report:

  • The offer of health care coverage to your employees (along with proof it was extended to 95 percent of your FTEs)
  • Employee enrollment numbers
  • The affordability of your plan
  • Whether or not it is a “qualifying offer” (an offer is qualifying if it meets the Federal Affordability Standards and the minimum federal requirements of coverage)

Second, know what changes need to be made to meet these obligations. I suggest conducting a thorough evaluation of your systems. To effectively track and report the information required on 1095-Cs, you may need a new HR system or, at the least, updates to your existing technology. Additionally, investigate whether changes to your organizational structure could mitigate excise tax exposure and/or reporting obligations.

Insights and ideas on best practices, trends, and issues for associations, nonprofit organizations, and government entities.

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