Let ‘Em Know You Know?

Do your version appeals recognize a constituent’s prior involvement?

Past donors know they’ve given money. Volunteers know they’ve given time. Event attendees may think of themselves as having given both. To what extent should you recognize that involvement?

We recently had the opportunity to test this for a client that typically mails appeals to both active donors and non-donors (to help defray the cost of acquisition).

Among the active donors, a small group of really loyal constituents – major and mid-level donors – represent about 6% of the donor base but typically account for 40% to 50% of the revenue generated by each mailing. 

Any increase in response from this key segment could make a significant difference in the overall performance of the mailing.

We tested a personalized letter in a closed-face envelope on an earlier mailing; the increase in revenue more than offset higher production costs. (We had tested deeper in active donors and found this wasn’t the case among lower dollar supporters.)

Now we wondered if versioning letter copy to acknowledge these donors’ past support would further increase response.


The results were mixed in terms of response rates: up slightly among major donors and down slightly among mid-level donors. However, our a/b segments were small and the overall variance wasn't enough to be statistically significant. 

There were nearly four times more mid-level than major donors, which skews the overall response rate. However, major donors on average give nearly three times as much.


In both major and mid-level segments, donors receiving the letter acknowledging past support tended to give more. The higher average gift amplified the higher response rate among major donors and offset the lower rate among the mid-level group.

Overall, the increase in return-per-piece-mailed would have more than justified the additional production expense of versioning the letter. As it was, since we were already personalizing the salutation there was actually very little increase involved.

So, when and how should you version? 

When it pays for itself, is the simple answer. I'd typically expect a higher return on a versioned letter; but you won't know until you measure it. 

What are the differences that matter to your donors?

Is your site marked “not secure”?

Google has been chatting about the importance of secure websites for a few months. With a market share of 86.28% among leading search engines*, when Google speaks, we should pay attention.

And, as promised by Google, their message is no longer background chatter. Since the start of summer, it’s being broadcasted loud and clear with an ⓘ. HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) sites are now flagged as “not secure” in Google Chrome search results.

The consequences

A nonprofit seeking donations, members and volunteers may see a hit in their online activity when their website is flagged with this warning:


You should not enter any sensitive information on this site (for example, passwords or credit cards), because it could be stolen by attackers.

That’s scary language. I know I’m going to back away from the keyboard and making an online donation when I see that warning. Will your informed donors react the same? Charity Watch lists 9 pointers to look for in making certain online donations are safe. Number four on their list, highlighted in red, is “give safely” and advises potential donors to look for an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) URL.

SSL certificate

Your web hosting company or website developer can help you with the steps of obtaining an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, along with activating and installing it. This digital certificate provides authentication for your website and encrypts data while it is being transmitted. Expect an annual fee for the certificate. When the ⓘ becomes a green padlock next to the URL, you will know the website has been deemed secure by Google.

Beyond the padlock, additional security tips


Don’t let the padlock lull you into a false sense of security. It’s only covering data as it is transmitted. You will still need to have a firewall in place to prevent unauthorized access to your web server. Also, make it standard practice to create secure passwords. Use a service to monitor for malware to protect data from online threats. Update software when notified as the updates often include security patches. And, don’t allow visitors to your site to upload files as that can open the door for problems. If necessary, use a SFTP or SSH method instead.

Finally, one more tip… As external websites are certain to update their security, double check that this doesn’t result in any broken links on your site when referencing resources outside your organization.

These are just a few tips for protecting your business and donor data from the bad guys. What tips do you have to share?

Susan Mertz is a Content Specialist at M&C. She specializes in website development, search engine optimization and enhancing user experience.