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!