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Increasing donation revenue by 94.6% for IRC

A/B testing during the holiday season for a not-for-profit organization

Last updated: September 9, 2014

International Rescue Committee

Business International Rescue Committee
Sector Not-for-Profit
Optimized Conversion Donations
Solution Marketing Optimization System

IRC learns how the power of a positive message can boost donations by 94.6%

When International Rescue Committee (IRC) wanted to lift donations during the critical holiday season, they focused on their search marketing effectiveness and brought in WiderFunnel to deliver a full service conversion optimization strategy.

The A/B/n test of many alternative variations resulted in a new page design and content that lifted the donation conversion rate by 30% and nearly doubled donation dollars! Through some quick tactical moves during a real life natural disaster, IRC also learned how donation psychology affects landing page design.

Here’s how we did it.

The organizational need

As a non-profit, the IRC is always seeking to improve the conversion rate of donations from their important donation landing pages. Of every $1 the IRC spends, more than 90¢ goes to programs and services that directly benefit refugees and communities affected by crisis. They recognize the value of conversion optimization testing, and the impact even a modest improvement to their donation conversion rate would have to their overall funding efforts – and in the work they do around the world.

IRC knew they didn’t have the internal expertise to get the best conversion optimization results on their own. To get the best results fast, they brought in WiderFunnel’s expert team of Conversion Strategists to develop and execute a conversion optimization strategy.

Challenges faced

The IRC’s donation landing pages are central to its fundraising efforts. They have to clearly make the case for why someone should donate. But they are also – at the core –transactional pages that need to let visitors donate easily, with minimum distraction.

Given the complexity of the situations the IRC works in, a landing page needs to remove anxiety people may have about their donation, the IRC itself, or the benefit their donation will have. That’s a tall order for any single page.

Plus, the page has to perform double duty: Visitors to the IRC site would end up there after clicking on a “Donate Now” call-to-action on the site and, during times of breaking crisis, the page serves as a landing page from external campaigns.

The solution

WiderFunnel first evaluated all customer touchpoints to prioritize where testing should focus. They identified critical landing pages that had high revenue importance and opportunity for improvement.

WiderFunnel’s Conversion Strategists then dove into a thorough heuristic analysis of the donations page to identify barriers to donations. Our analysis using WiderFunnel’s LIFT Model™ identified dozens of copy and design elements that could increase relevance, clarity and urgency while decreasing anxiety and distraction – and reinforcing the IRC’s compelling work.


Among other issues the team noted, the two-column layout of the form create anxiety, appearing more difficult than it actually was. The form also lay below the page’s “fold” and disrupted eyeflow. On the copy side, there was a lack of clarity around the programs the donation would support, and no positive messaging supporting the decision to donate.

Once the roadblocks to conversion were identified, our team of analysts created an A/B/n strategy with a combination of dramatic redesign (or “variable cluster”) tests with pinpoint single variable (or “isolation”) variations. The tests were designed to generate the greatest amount of lift and learning for IRC.

WiderFunnel quickly developed a series of test sprints that would deliver fast results and maximize the holiday time that the winning variations could be in market. Due to the holiday season timing, they avoided complex multivariate testing and in-depth user testing. WiderFunnel strategists had to narrow down their ideas to only the best performing possibilities to test by digging into their test results database.

Early tests showed, surprisingly, that much longer persuasive copywriting and content increased donations.

The result: higher conversion rates – and even higher donations – plus a valuable lesson!

Here are two of the hypotheses the team tested in the first round of experiments:

  1. Variation A – Long Copy: The theory driving this variation is that long copy would do a better job of explaining the good work IRC does and persuade visitors to donate. Long copy can often be a powerful to make an emotional appeal. In this variation, the long copy introduced the page, pushing the form down.
  2. Variation B – Form-Focused: This variation was based on the hypothesis that bringing the form up to the top of the page, alongside the copy, would give it a higher prominence that would lead to higher conversions.

The team designed, wrote, developed, and launched the experiment in time for the important holiday season, when donations are often at their highest.

The second round of experiments built on the winning page boosted the donation conversion rates by an additional 30%. And the best part? Not only did the number of donors jump, but they were also more generous: Revenue shot up by 94.6% –extending the work the IRC could do around the world!

During one of the testing sprints, a humanitarian crisis hit: A typhoon in Southeast Asia meant the IRC had to mobilize an emergency response, launching a campaign to support the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. WiderFunnel understood the opportunity and quickly responded to the news by time-stamping the test and monitoring daily to allow segment analysis. This provided a rare opportunity to learn how their donors’ response changed in times of crisis compared to other times.

Before the typhoon, variation A – with the longer copy that helped tell the IRC story – was ahead, converting at more than 12% higher than the control version. But after typhoon hit, the results changed: Suddenly, the conversion rate of the long copy version actually dropped compared to the control. The lesson? While the long copy format worked well under normal circumstances, in the time of crisis, people landed on the site with a higher intent to give. In that case, the long copy actually got in the way!

In another test sprint, Donations Rescue.org the team discovered that more personalized, positive call-to-action had a big impact. Adding messages in just the right places, like, “Yes I will donate a tax deductible gift” and “Every gift counts. Thank you!” lifted donations.

Insights like that led to even greater improvement.

By the end of the short holiday donation season, the donation conversion rate had increased by 30% in controlled tests and donation revenue was up an incredible 94% – nearly double!

Not only does that have a huge impact on the IRC’s funding, but the results also gave the IRC marketing team real, actionable insight into how their potential donors react to messaging. That’s a lesson they can now apply to all fundraising channels, and their overall communications and marketing strategy.

Conversion rate optimization tip

Copy Matters: Often the copy on an order form is overlooked for its ability to have a significant impact on your conversion rate. But this is when the visitor has their credit card out and is ready to commit – so the messaging you choose for the order form is a crucial element to test.

The client: The International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The International Rescue Committee is a non-profit organization that responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, helping people survive and then rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee war or disaster. At work today in over 40 countries and in 22 U.S. cities, the IRC restores safety, dignity and hope to millions who are uprooted and struggling to endure.

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