Just Launched your Great Canadian Giving Challenge Fundraiser? Help Drive Results Through Test & Iteration

June 8, 2022

How to make your fundraiser successful - it’s one of the most common questions charities love to ask throughout the Great Canadian Giving Challenge. 

As a charity ourselves, we know that every resource allocated and dollar donated throughout a fundraiser are valuable. And, with donor participation expected to decline in 2022,  it's even more imperative that charities begin to test and iterate to help ensure their fundraisers are successful.

And it all starts with metrics. It’s how charities quantify the performance of their fundraisers. By analyzing these results, charities then iterate by updating existing strategies or developing new ones to test again.

Marketers call this cycle of testing, evaluating, and iterating a feedback loop. In fact, it’s the cornerstone of almost every one of CanadaHelps’ campaigns, and it’s how we identify and create content that we think is beneficial to you, the charities!

So before you start testing and iterating, do you know your success metrics?

Revisit your success metrics

Immediately, many charities will point toward donation totals as the end-all-be-all indicator of success. 

However, experienced charities understand that, especially in this digital age, where their supporters are more informed than ever, it takes time to build trust and steward supporters into becoming new or repeat donors.

Charities that are serious about stewarding donors will track additional fundraising, giving, donor engagement, and communication metrics alongside donation totals.

The charity may define success as meeting a specific percentage of email opens, link clicks, new donor acquisitions, and other ways to identify if its mission, cause, or content resonates with its donors.

The better charities understand their donors, the more successful charities are at stewarding them, and the more likely donors will support the charity’s cause.

Look at your hypotheses or make brand new ones

What may seem like a term reserved for folks in a lab coat, knowingly or not, all of us use hypotheses daily.

Many of us have probably been in this situation before. As a student, we’ve probably asked ourselves, “How do I improve my grades?” After seeking the sage advice from friends and teachers, the consensus is to study more - to no one's surprise. We then hypothesize that if we study five times a week, we aim to score 80 percent or better on the next exam. 

So a hypothesis is a prediction based on knowledge, insights and research. 

It’s how charities of all sizes can quickly pivot and change tactics, even during the middle of their campaign.

Rather than guessing what’s working during your Giving Challenge campaign, charities can use hypothesis testing to make better-informed decisions and maximize their chances of success while minimizing risk to the charity and conserving funds.

There are five major parts charities should consider when formulating a hypothesis:

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Using a Donor Management System, spreadsheets, or other tools, measure the current effectiveness of your fundraising tactics.

Develop a question based on your success metrics

  • Based on your early results, what do you want to know about your donors or campaigns? Your question could be as simple as, “How do I get my email subscribers more engaged in the Great Canadian Giving Challenge?”

Research to help determine what action to take

  • Determine these actions on existing insights about your supporters using a Donor Management System, through a survey of your donors, or even information gathered from industry experts, blogs, and other resources.

Develop an if-then statement

  • Start with an if statement that specifies the action you will take to achieve success.
  • End with a then statement that specifies the desired outcome that is measurable and must be achieved within a set period of time.
  • For example, if we email a weekly reminder during the Great Canadian Giving Challenge, then 10 percent of our email subscribers will donate in June.


  • Successful charities use their results from hypothesis testing to continually improve their donor stewardship process.
  • Continuing the example above, even if the charity meets or exceeds its 10 percent donation objective, the question for the charity now is how can it better engage the remaining 90 percent?

Now that you understand what a hypothesis is and how to create one, we’re now going to apply these steps to examples of real metrics that successful charities track early during the Great Canadian Giving Challenge to improve their fundraising results.

Fundraising metrics

These metrics are used to track donation trends in terms of dollar amounts. Below we’ll cover two types of fundraising metrics. The first is the average fundraising amount, the average of the total donations received in each of your campaigns, and the second is the cost per dollar raised, how much you need to spend to raise one dollar.

Average fundraising amount

This is the average total amount that a charity raises for each fundraising campaign. You may want to use this average as a performance benchmark from one campaign to the next. 

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Measure if your Great Canadian Giving Challenge is on track to meet the average total giving amount based on past performance. Charities could calculate how much they’re raising week by week to see if they’re trending to meet the average total fundraising amount. 

What do you want to know based on your early results?

  • “How do we increase the average fundraising amount?”

Research what action to take

  • Review the call-to-action (CTA)  and the content in your emails and identify opportunities that will help drive engagement during the Great Canadian Giving Challenge. For example, is there an opportunity to make your emails more concise to improve the reading experience? Or perhaps you can create a sense of urgency in your emails to communicate to your donors that their generosity will make a difference.

If-then statement example

  • If we create a sense of urgency in our emails, then we will exceed the total average fundraising amount by two percent by the end of the Great Canadian Giving Challenge.

How to iterate

  • Create a sense of urgency by concisely stating that the Great Canadian Canadian Challenge ends in June. Charities can achieve this in their subject lines of emails, for example, “We’re only one week away from the end of the Great Canadian Giving Challenge!” Feel free to get creative here! 
  • Shorten the copy and encourage your readers to read through the entire email. That way, you can effectively communicate the urgency for donations. Take this a step further by reviewing what types of content worked in the past and only include salient elements to your target supporters.

Cost per dollar raised (CPDR)

This is the amount of money it takes to raise one dollar. For example, if a fundraiser costs $5,000 to run and the charity raised $10,000, the CPDR is $0.50 - it costs 50 cents to raise one dollar. This metric is essential because charities often need to stretch every dollar to serve their communities better.

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Does it cost more than a dollar to raise a dollar? Considering how charities calculate this metric, charities may want to measure the CPDR closer to the mid-point of the Great Canadian Giving Challenge campaign to see if they’re trending in the right direction.

What do you want to know?

  • “How can we reduce our CPDR?”

Research potential actions to take

  • Charities can get creative to optimize fundraising activities to yield improved results. For example, suppose targeted emails result in more donations than mass emails. In that case, there may be an opportunity to reallocate funds to increase the cadence of these targeted communications to reduce the CPDR.

If-then statement example

  • If we reallocate funding to increase the cadence of targeted Great Canadian Giving Challenge emails, then we will reduce the CPDR from $0.25 to $0.20 in June. 

How to iterate

  • Start by segmenting your audience to determine who to target. You could segment by major donors, one-time donors and monthly donors.
  • In addition, charities could examine how other internal teams or departments allocate their funds to identify ways to reduce expenses, thereby reducing the CPDR.
  • Charities may also want to appeal to their donor’s generosity by inviting donors to help cover the donation processing fees.

Giving metrics

Charities use giving metrics to track donor giving trends. In this section, we’ll talk about giving channels, the online and offline mediums donors use to donate to your organization, and the average gift size, the average amount your donors give per donation.

Giving channel

Giving has become more accessible than ever. From online donations to over-the-phone gifts to cryptocurrencies, it’s easier than ever for donors to donate to charities in ways that are most convenient to them. But it’s the charity’s responsibility to ensure that the giving experience, whatever the channel, is seamless and rewarding. 

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Determine if donors are more likely through specific donation channels.

What do you want to know?

  • “What donation channels do our donors prefer?”

Research what action to take

  • Perhaps most of your donations are made over the phone. This is an opportunity for your charity to personalize each call with a donor management system. Pull up critical information such as their donation history, pet names, stories and other donor-specific notes to build stronger relationships with each donor.

If-then statement example

  • If we spend an extra three-to-five minutes personalizing calls with each donor, then we will increase the average gift amount by nine percent by the end of the year.

How to iterate

  • Based on donor feedback and tone in these calls, segment your donors further by identifying who enjoys the chit-chat and those who prefer a more brief and efficient experience.
  • Don’t forget to save your segments for future communications and fundraising efforts and next year’s Great Canadian Giving Challenge too!

Average gift size

How much are your donors giving on average? When tracking this metric, charities may want to omit outliers, such as uncharacteristically large donation amounts, to help ensure their results are accurate.

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Measure if your Great Canadian Giving Challenge campaign is on track to meet the average gift size compared to your previous campaigns.

What do you want to know?

  • “How can I increase the average gift size?”

Research what action to take

  • Identify donors who give once every few months as they are great candidates to convert into monthly donors. Another strategy you can use is to suggest giving amounts by setting preset dollar amounts on your online custom donation form. Charities can make this even more effective by sharing how those preset amounts will directly impact the communities you operate. For example, explicitly state that a $50 donation will provide fresh drinking water for a family of four, while a $100 donation provides enough food for a month. 

If-then statement example

  • If we increase each of the suggested giving amounts by five dollars on our Great Canadian Giving Challenge custom donation form, then the average gift size will increase by three dollars in June.

How to iterate

  • Calculate the average gift size from previous Great Canadian Giving Challenge campaigns. Then optimize your online custom donation form by adding five dollars to the preset recommended amounts displayed on the form.
  • If you’ve never run a Giving Challenge campaign before, try to benchmark against other campaigns you’ve run in the past that are similar in scope in terms of effort and duration.
  • Charities could take this a step further by updating their custom donation form settings by automatically selecting a recommended donation amount for the donor. Do your best to provide a more effortless donating experience for your supporters.

Donor engagement metrics

When charities want to measure how well they’re attracting and retaining donors, they use donor engagement metrics. Two common metrics charities trust is the donor growth rate, which measures the rate that your donor base has increased or decreased, and donor retention, which measures how many and how often a donor has given two or more times. Both are covered below.

Donor growth rate

This metric is to measure the increase or decrease of your donor base. Even with a few dips here and there, you ideally want to have a steady rise in donors monthly and annually.

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Analyze if your campaign is helping grow your donor base.

What do you want to know?

  • How can our charity increase the number of new donors acquired during the Great Canadian Giving Challenge?

Research what action to take

  • Determine the source of your new donors come. If they primarily come from online sources, maybe our charity needs a donation form on our website to provide supporters with a seamless giving experience.

If-then statement example

  • If we put a custom Great Canadian Giving Challenge donation form on our homepage, then we will acquire 100 new donors.

How to iterate

  • Optimize the custom donation form on the homepage. Try to tailor the look and messaging of the donation form with a Great Canadian Giving Challenge angle. That way, charities can effectively communicate the need for donations and how they can make a massive impact with the $20,000 prize.
  • Charities can also use Google’s $10,000 online advertising grant to advertise their charity for free.

Donor retention

Charities typically measure how many and how often donors provide repeat gifts with this metric. Identifying these types of donors is an opportunity to segment your supporters to target potential monthly donors.

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Analyze how many repeat donors have participated in the Great Canadian Giving Challenge thus far.

What do you want to know?

  • “How do we encourage one-time donors to donate during the Great Canadian Giving Challenge?”

Research what action to take

  • Segment your supporters into two distinct groups. One is for repeat donors, and the other is for one-time donors.

If-then statement example

  • If we target one-time donors with a ‘We missed you!’ email campaign, then we will see an increase in the number of repeat donors by three percent in June.

How to iterate

  • In the ‘We missed you!’ campaign, be sure to remind donors why they first donated in the first place. Identify trends such as the popularity of certain funds, specific causes, or messaging that resonated with your one-time donors.

Tracking communication metrics

Lastly, these metrics are great for understanding if your content and emails resonate with your donors. Below we’ll cover the email open rate, the percentage of your recipients that open one of your emails, and the email click-through rate, the percentage of your recipients that clicked a CTA.

Email open rate

This metric measures the percentage of email opens. Remember, every great piece of content starts with a great hook in the subject line.

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Do your email subject lines appeal to your audience?

What do you want to know?

  • “How do I get more supporters to open my email?

Research what action to take

  • Look into strategies that may grab the attention of your subscribers throughout the Great Canadian Giving Challenge. You could test different subject lines by exciting your donors with promotional hooks or showing appreciation for your donor’s time or gift like in these end-of-year email examples.

If-then statement

  • If we add an emotional element to our Great Canadian Giving Challenge subject lines, then we will increase open email rates by 20 percent throughout June.

How to iterate

  • Add an emotional element to your email subject lines by sharing who or what the donation is for and why it’s necessary. For example, “One in five people in your community are without clean drinking water, here’s how you can help.” 
  • The critical thing to remember is to keep your subject lines concise. There’s a limit to how many words will appear on the email client, mainly because every email client functions differently. There’s even a shorter word limit when viewing email subject lines on mobile devices. 
  • Charities can also consider the timing of your emails. For example, your supporters may receive other Great Canadian Giving Challenge emails during June. To help your emails stand out, you may want to try subject lines that pique the curiosity of your supporters, such as, “Challenge accepted: Help us win $20,000 and make a MASSIVE difference in your community.”

Email click-through rate (CTR)

Once one of your supporters opens an email, the next step is to encourage them to click one or more links in your email to take them to your website, a donation form, or a blog. When you measure the percentage of supporters who click at least one link in your email, you measure the CTR. It’s a powerful metric to discover what content resonates with your audience.

Evaluate your early fundraising results

  • Once a supporter opens an email, are they scrolling through it and clicking a CTA?

What do you want to know?

  • Why did only one percent of my email subscribers open a link in our Great Canadian Giving Challenge emails? 

Research what action to take

  • Read up on email best practices to optimize your email's format, content, and length.

If-then statement example

  • If we reduce the email copy to two-three lines per section, then three percent or more of our subscribers will click a link in our emails.

How to iterate

  • Don’t just reduce content to shorten the email, do it with purpose. Focus on just the information that will be salient to your reader. For example, if your Great Canadian Giving Challenge email has a CTA that leads the reader to a custom donation form, keep the CTA short and compelling such as, “Help us win $20,000!*”  Preface the CTA with a short, two-to-three-line paragraph stating how easy it is for your supporters to help you win the prize and what your charity will do if you win the $20,000 prize.
  • In addition, you could use a button in your emails to create a more compelling and attractive CTA.
  • One last thing to consider when you’re reworking emails. Whether you’re using a Donor Management System or an email marketing tool like Mailchimp (which integrates with the CanadaHelps DMS), there are plenty of click-and-use email templates designed to convert supporters into donors!

Phew! Congratulations, you made it to the end! And as a charity ourselves, we can’t stress enough how important it is to test and iterate hypotheses regularly. Like for so many other successful charities, testing and iteration are how they can quickly pivot and react to changing circumstances or accurately predict fundraising outcomes. 

CanadaHelps simplified the testing and iteration process even further by providing FREE Great Canadian Giving Challenge resources to take your campaigns to the next level. Click the link to download free buttons and graphics to amplify your CTAs! You’ll also find a fundraising course that will cover anything you may have missed when planning your Great Canadian Giving Challenge campaign. Don’t miss your chance to accomplish your most successful Great Canadian Giving Challenge yet! 

*Donations must be made via canadahelps.org. Minimum $3 donation required. Contest runs from June 1, 2022 at midnight Newfoundland Daylight Time (NDT) to June 30, 2022 at 11:59:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). See full rules at: www.canadahelps.org/en/givingchallenge-rules.

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