If you’ve been on Wikipedia recently, you may have noticed the banner ads featuring a fundraising appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Since August, the Wikimedia Foundation has been running a fundraising test each Thursday afternoon for one hour. These tests are designed to show which messages will best motivate donors this year. From this data set, we’ve put together some highlights of what the Foundation has learned about online fundraising from listening to their data.

Text versus Image Ads

  • While display networks are more expensive than text ad networks, full-image ads perform substantially better
  • Full image ads showed click-through rate increases of 53-140% and donation rate increases between 100-209%

Do’s and Don’ts

  • A headline that stands out like “Please Read: etc.” gets a lot of attention and performs especially well with regard to clicks and volume of donations
  • Wikipedia’s “Please Read: A Personal Appeal from Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales” outperformed 8 other ads by a minimum of 1372% in one test in click-through rate
  • Average donations for this kind of Headline were slightly lower than others
  • Short, interesting headline ads are good, especially if they are intriguing to viewers
  • Ads that are too vague, however, don’t perform well 
  • Also, while short, intriguing headlines will get you clicks, they don’t have a substantial effect either way on increased donations
  • Call-to-actions such as “Donate today” shouldn’t be used in Headlines

Message Body Structure and Wording

  • Potential donors respond well to numbers, statistics, and visual quantifiers that help them fully understand the proposition
  • A call-to-action can be a powerful tool to use in the body of a message, though it has to be used tactfully
  • Call-to-actions are usually best placed after your initial message
  • Wording should be in the present tense
  • Past-tense and passive messages don’t garner as much attention

Payment Area Best Practices

  • The word “support” outperformed the word “donate” in getting clicks and donations
  • Placing payment buttons and links below your message will result in more clicks and higher average donations
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