Fall Appeal 2nd Drop (And a Few Thoughts on A/B Testing)

Fall Appeal 2nd Drop (And a Few Thoughts on A/B Testing)

Most of my clients this year are planning to do two drops of their fall appeal letters. If you are also planning two drops, you should be getting the second drop ready this week for mailing next Tuesday. (See Fall Appeal Planning)

One client, who reacted skeptically to my suggestion that he consider trusting the science and mailing a four-page appeal letter, is organizing a classic A/B test. He will write a letter that fits on a single page. I will write a letter that carries on for four pages. Both letters will ask for “$50 or $100” as an extra gift this holiday season. Both letters will be accompanied by a response card and a return envelope. Both letters will be sent to statistically equivalent portions of the mailing list.

And I promise to use this blog to let you know what happens – regardless of the outcome.


Fundraiser’s Almanac – November

Fundraiser’s Almanac – December

  • Fall Appeal 2nd Drop and a Few Thoughts on A/B Testing
  • Good News
  • Planning for Year-End
  • Filing/Data Entry
  • Lapsed Member Letters


OK so here’s the interesting part. How do you get the mailing list divided into two “statistically equivalent portions”?

Here’s one answer, but I’d love to hear yours, if you come up with something different.

  1. Start by exporting your mailing list into an Excel file with each ROW representing a different member and each COLUMN representing different parts of the data (name, street, city, and so on).
  2. Now sort the rows by the address column. (Actually, we’re going to sort by address within zipcode, but I think it will work either way.)
  3. Next, use an empty column to assign a number 1 or 2 to each row. I will do this using a simple IF/THEN formula which means if the number above is 1 then 2 and if the number above is 2 then 1. Let’s say that we’re using the column “z” and that we populate the cell “z1” with the number 1. Then the Excel formula for “z2” is “=if(z1=1,2,1)”. What this literally does is check to see if the number in z1 is 1. If it is, the formula makes z2 a 2. If not, it makes z2 a 1.
  4. Now if you copy this formula for each row all the way down the column, it will alternate the numbers 1 and 2 for every row in the spreadsheet.
  5. Before you can re-sort, you will need to eliminate the formulas in column “z” by copying the column and pasting it back in the same place using the “paste values” option.
  6. The last step is to sort all the rows again by the 1-2 column (column “z” in the example).
  7. All the 1s will be together as one mailing list and all the 2s will be together as a second mailing list.

Are you doing an A/B test this year? If so, I’d like to hear about it. Send me an email at David at DevelopmentForConoservation dot com or simply comment on the blog. I’ll share everything I get.


Happy Holidays!

David Allen


Photo credit: Snowshoeing courtesy of Walt Kaesler.


Find out how David can help you with your fundraising systems here.

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