By Kyla Winchester

It’s happened to all of us: you had a great idea for .... your campaign, mailing, email series, anything really! Unfortunately, it’s not doing as well as you thought it would. What went wrong? Usually, things go askew for one of a handful of reasons (or a combination of two or three), so consider the following areas when figuring out how to re-tool and see if you can boost results, or factor them into your planning next time.

It’s probably the data

There’s a reason we bang the figurative data drum a lot—it’s the foundation for everything charities do. If you send an email, develop a mailing, or call your monthly donors to renew, you need to have the right info in place to make it possible, and to make it painless. Among other things, look for these signs that your data could be the culprit.

  • It takes too long to pull the data
  • You’re getting email bounce-backs
  • People are complaining about duplicates
  • Someone got the wrong version
  • You sent to someone you shouldn’t, or didn’t to someone you should have

Check the tech (and the text)

It’s embarrassing but it happens—a link is broken, you spelled the custom url wrong, the auto-forward isn’t working, the page takes too long to load. Double-check the links and go through every step as a donor to make sure there’s isn’t something small but vital affecting your results.

Do you know your donors?

You may have the perfect story and the perfect ask, but if you don’t know the people you’re talking to, it might not inspire them to act. You need to understand your audience to speak to them properly. If you haven’t reviewed who your donors are and why they give, you’ll have trouble getting them to renew and finding new donors to speak to.

What are you measuring, and what are your goals?

Is your goal to get people to see your ad, sign a petition, give you their email, or make a donation? How are you measuring success? Is it only a success if you raise more than the last campaign, or is it a success if you raise more than you spent to acquire the new donors? You may have only received $500, but if it was 50 new donors, you have a lot of potential in terms of stewarding, upgrading and lifetime value. Figure out your goals ahead of time, and how you’re measuring them, to make sure you’re looking for and tracking the right things.

Look at the ask

If you’ve written something, you know what it’s supposed to mean, so you often forget what it says. Sometimes the ask isn’t as clear as we’d like, or it’s muddled. Review it to make sure there is no doubt—we want you to donate, or to RSVP, or sign our petition. Generally, you should only ask for one thing, or you’re making it harder for people to follow-through and/or asking too much of them (“Sign our petition and come to our protest!”). If it doesn’t say one thing clearly, and clearly tell them how, people won’t know.

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In an ideal world, everything we do would work as well as we thought–but when it doesn’t, it’s good to have some idea where to start figuring out where it took a turn. With these common areas to review, hopefully you can turn the ship around or start fresh next time with an eye to improvement.