Why FreeWill is building a culture of experimentation

Brianne Thompson-Martin
September 1, 2021
min read
Why FreeWill is building a culture of experimentation

Every new employee at FreeWill reads Carol Dweck’s foundational theory of growth mindsets. This is the idea that we thrive on challenges and see failure as a path to growth — not as a disappointment or lack of ability.

Dweck’s theory is behind the way we approach our work with our partners, too. The tools and strategies we create to help your organization unlock transformational gifts are the result of hundreds of experiments that challenge the status quo, test new ideas, and find more effective paths.

And with a growth mindset, this experimentation is never over. When we experiment together, we’ll help you figure out the most effective strategies and messaging to secure gifts that drive fundraising growth.

Nonprofits should always be experimenting

Experimentation is defined as testing and measuring new ideas, strategies, and methods. And while the smartest for-profit companies in the world constantly experiment to stay innovative, the nonprofit sector often lags behind. This isn’t surprising as nonprofit leaders usually have budget constraints and need to justify where each dollar goes, making them feel like they have less leeway to try new things.

However, your organization can and should be just as experiment-oriented as for-profit companies. In any industry, the ways an organization currently operates will only get them so far. Audiences, messaging, channels, and more change over time. Consumers and donors aren’t static. To be successful, you need to keep learning and improving, adjusting how you operate to best meet your audience’s needs.

Working with FreeWill makes this simple. We remove the time and financial constraints, helping your organization level up, reach its innovative potential, and implement learnings that work across your sector.

What we want to help you learn

Every year, we implement dozens of experiments with nonprofits as a key part of our partnerships. We believe that no matter what our current best practices are, there are always ways to improve and make smarter decisions — and to help you adopt our learnings.

We test marketing language, product development, gift generation strategy, effectiveness of education and resources, and more.

When we experiment, we want to:

  • Determine what strategies work best for your organization
  • Determine what messaging resonates the most with your donors
  • Find the best channels and methods for securing gifts that catapult your development operations
  • Identify size, sector, and mission-specific best practices to uplift the nonprofit space as a whole

What we learn becomes our starting points for working with new partners, and best practices you can adopt into your development strategy.

The experimentation process

Our goal isn’t to conduct perfect experiments. Instead, it is to gather as much data as possible in order to make smarter decisions.

With over 600 nonprofit partners, we’re able to run experiments across a wide range of organization sizes, sectors, missions (e.g. whether you have a membership, volunteer-based, or traditional organization), and team structures. This means your partnership not only helps you generate more gifts, but also uncovers new and innovative strategies to improve fundraising across your sector.

We follow a multi-step process to get the best results:

  1. Identify a need by collecting feedback, running surveys, and analyzing trends across partners.
  2. Form a hypothesis based on industry and marketing best practices, research, and our own proprietary data. As we design our experiments, we look for ways to minimize the work your organization would need to do.
  3. Present the opportunity to partners to get a diverse experiment group and help you pave the way for better fundraising practices at your organization and in your sector.
  4. Run the test and collect data by tracking gifts through our tools and reporting from participating partners.
  5. Draft new best practices based on the results, or implement our learnings within existing strategies

Experimentation is how we find success, together

Our best practices don’t exist in a vacuum — they’re developed by organizations who are willing to try new things and are excited about innovation in the nonprofit space. As FreeWill partners, you help design the future strategies that will empower fundraisers across the nation.