Test, Treat, Track.

Chances are, you hadn't heard this phrase before the coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization called it "T3" when they introduced the global effort back in 2012, on World Malaria Day. (It's April 25th, if you're curious.)

Back then, T3 was an effort to curb and control the spread of malaria.

Countries that adopted this same approach had an early edge in the fight against coronavirus.

I share this bit of science because there are some valuable lessons there for fundraisers.

You can apply the same three concepts to raise more money. Test. Treat. Track.

Shall we?


Have you heard this expression? "The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result."

If you're not getting the fundraising results you want from your letters and newsletters, it's probably time to try something new.

And, there's so much behavioral science that can put you on track towards better results.

For instance, did you know...?

Longer letters raise more money. (Some professionals write 4+ page letters!)

"Bad news" fundraising messages almost always outperform positive "good news" ones.

Writing at (or below) a 6th grade level raises more money.

Now, before you sit down to write a long, sad, simple letter, know that there's more to know, if you want to raise more money. A lot more.

Think about it this way. A doctor goes to med school (for years!) before "practicing" medicine.

Similarly, you want to be sure you understand fundraising writing fundamentals.

In his book How to Turn Your Words into Money, Jeff Brooks says this: "Be obsessive about what works. Learn everything you can. Test as often as possible. Fundraising results are the ultimate reality check."

(If your looking to learn the basics, start with anything by Tom Ahern, Jeff Brooks or Mal Warwick.)


There's a brand new book called Donor CARE. "CARE" is an acronym. It stands for Connect, Appreciate, Reply, Encourage.

The author, John Haydon, explains that CARE-full communications are the key to donor retention. (And keeping your donors is key to raising more money.)

In the book, John wrote "You cannot treat the relationship like a transaction."

Your donors are VIPs - not ATMs. You must give them the special treatment they deserve, if you want them to give again (and again).

Early on, John lists 10 things that most nonprofits don't do - at least, not very well.

For instance, you should start with a memorable thank you note. You want to make your donor feel like she's the star of the show, not just a supporting cast member (or, worse, an uncredited extra!).

Your thank you letter is just the beginning. You want to heap on lots and lots of #donorlove. Here are 3 easy ways to do it.

You cannot overdo this.

Each and every donor communication is a chance to show her how very much you care.


CARE-less communications, according to John Haydon are the ultimate cause of poor donor loyalty.

To measure your true fundraising success, you don't just look at your bottom line. John recommends tracking several numbers, including

  • first-time donor retention
  • returning donor retention

Industry-wide, these aren't very good numbers. Only about 20% of first-time donors ever make a second gift to the same organization. And around 50% of donors, who've given two or more gifts, will give to your organization again.

If you're losing donors, you're losing money.

As John explains in Donor CARE, "Tracking donor retention indicates that an organization is serious about donor care."

John offers this simple reason why so many donors stop giving:

"They simply aren't having experiences with your organization that make them feel appreciated and that make them feel like they matter. They don't feel cared for."

That's a relatively easy problem to solve: CARE.

C = Connect your vision and mission with your donor's passion and interest.

A = Appreciate, not just the donation, but your donor.

R = Reply, respond, and report back so your donor knows she's making a difference.

E = Encourage each donor's growing commitment.

In other words, CARE.


The science is clear.

There are tried-and-tested writing techniques in fundraising communications. Take time to learn the fundamentals.

Try these techniques. TEST them for yourself. You'll find that, when you follow the best practices, you'll get more donors (and more dollars).

Once you get a donation, TREAT your donors well.

In his last book, John Haydon cites one study about why donors stop giving. It found that more than 84% of the reasons why donors leave can be fixed with better communications. The good news: you can fix your donor communications.

Finally, nothing is more telling than your donors' own behavior. So, TRACK their giving.

Are more of your donors giving again? Are they giving more? More frequently? For longer periods of time? Chances are good that they will - when you improve your donor communications.

Bottom line: when you improve your donor communications, you'll keep more of your donors. And when you keep more of your donors, you'll raise more money.

And all you have to do is show you care.

Photo credit(s): Pixabay

Want to learn the fundamentals of fundraising writing? Or need help writing or editing your donor communications? Laura Rhodes can help.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.

You may also be interested in upcoming training events.