It’s you, not me

Published by Rebecca Davies on

Today’s post is a morsel.

Short and sweet, it’s a petit four or, if you’re more of a savoury person, a piece ofbleu benedictinto finish a sumptuous year of blogging on101fundraising.org, our crowdblog.

A year ago next weekthe very first blog postwas published on this site. Since then, many more fundraisers have written, shared, and debated on many aspects of our profession: the theoretical, technical, and ideological. I have no agency to speak on behalf of anyone but myself, and so I thank you personally, Reinier and Jeroen, the Men in Black, for your genius and hard hard hard work bringing fundraisers of the world together in this space. And of course a multitude of thanks to my fellow crowdbloggers: your content has enriched my professional practice.


On the subject of thank you’s, today’s blog post subject: a quick case study on email subject lines.

Within two months of the Haiti earthquake of 2010, MSF Canada received over 50,000 new donors. 34,000 of them came online and designated a gift to the emergency.

After a series of stewardship emails, we set the groundwork to test an ask for conversion of our 34,000 new Haiti online donors to become monthly donors.

We prepared three email solicitations with distinct messages and subject lines, and sent them on March 4, 2010. The file was randomly split, and each of the three messages was sent to about 7,700 first-time online donors.

The email with highest open and click-through rates would inform the telemarketing script. The test, of course, was three variable messages regarding the case for unrestricted support:

Subject test line #1:From Haiti to Somalia, taking action together to save lives(highly institutional andMISSION focused):

  • Open rate – 31.4%
  • Clickthrough – 1.5%

Subject test line #2:Together, our swift response has made a difference in Haiti(would anEMERGENCYmessage appeal to first-time Haiti donors?):

  • Open rate – 35.1%
  • Clickthrough – 1.9%

Subject test line #3:You’ve had a life-saving impact(this last variable copy was, of course,DONOR-centred: we even introduced a donor in the copy):

  • Open rate –42.3% (WOW!)
  • Clickthrough – 2.3% (YIPPEE!)

(From Convio’s Nonprofit Email Benchmark 2010 – average fundraising appeal open rate: 18%; average fundraising appeal clickthrough rate: 1.76%).

No doubt about it, Youwas subject-line winner for both open and click-through rates, and beat industry averages quite handily. Our telemarketing script would take the donor-centred approach, not an MSF mission-based or emergency theme. The donors had responded.

Gratifying, isn’t it, when the data bears out on what we know to be true: donor-centred messaging works. Whether you are thanking donors or your crowdblogging colleagues or the Men in Black, put the recognition squarely on the individual – not organization or situation – because PEOPLE make great things happen.

I hope this little sorbet of mine cleanses your palate for another year of rich crowdblogging.


Rebecca Davies

Rebecca Davies

Rebecca Davies is incoming Chief Development Officer of Save the Children Canada. As past director of fundraising for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Canada, from 2007-2014 she lead a team that in seven years increased private revenue from $19 million to over $50 million. Prior to joining MSF, she held senior fundraising positions in some of Canada’s top hospitals and the University of Toronto. Her current volunteer passion is the Ripple Refugee Project, where she and a group of concerned Torontonians are sponsoring and settling five Syrian families over the new few years. Rebecca’s an active musician (French horn), plays hockey and golf, and very proudly is on the executive for and was the inaugural blog post contributor to 101fundraising.org.


Stephen Pidgeon · February 3, 2012 at 17:14

Rebecca this is really interesting and thank you for sharing it. In one sense it’s not surprising – it’s what we all believe before we get corporate and boring – but having evidence like this is a real treat. Brilliant, thanks.

Reinier · February 4, 2012 at 22:26

Also on behalf of Jeroen, thank you for the compliments Rebecca! May we use the opportunity to thank you as well, being one of the inaugural crowdbloggers and an active contributor to our mission to spread fundraising knowledge! Thank you!

Claire Axelrad · February 10, 2012 at 10:17

Congrats on your one-year anniversary. I’m looking forward to mine! I truly appreciate the blogging on the issue of donor-centered fundraising. There’s nothing more important IMHO. And it’s always nice when data supports our intuition. YOU is so much better than WE. Indeed.
(and I’d be happy to be an active contributor to your mission to spread fundraising knowledge — just ask and ye shall receive).

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