MPR

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Insights and Trends - Public Media Fundraising

Three trends within public radio fundraising are the significant growth in the number of donors, the increasing percentage of donors who become sustainers, and major gift donors who are accounting for an increasing percentage of revenue. The information about and supporting data for those trends within public radio fundraising is included below.

THREE TRENDS WITHIN PUBLIC RADIO FUNDRAISING

1. SIGNIFICANT GROWTH IN NUMBER OF DONORS

One trend within public radio fundraising is the significant increase in the total number of annual donors. From 2013 to 2016, the number of annual donors differed by a maximum of 1,000 donors. However, in 2017 the number of donors rose by 3,500. Furthermore, 81% of public radio stations experienced an increase in the number of donors in 2017. Of that 81% of public radio stations, approximately 50% have incurred double-digit increases in the number of donors.

2. PERCENTAGE OF DONORS WHO BECOME SUSTAINERS

A second trend within public radio fundraising is the percentage of donors who become sustaining donors of public radio stations. Data shows that the percentage of donors who are sustainers of public radio stations ranges between 27% and 82% across such stations. In fact, that 82% figure marked the peak record for such and was the second consecutive year that such peak value was achieved. This is an important trend because at the 24-month mark following their acquisition as radio station donors, sustainers' value is 26% greater than "single-gift donors."

3. MAJOR-GIFT DONORS ACCOUNT FOR INCREASING PERCENTAGE REVENUE

A third trend within public radio fundraising is that major-gift donors are accounting for an increasing percentage of "revenue from single-gift donors." In 2017, "revenue from major-gift sourced donations accounted for 18 percent of all revenue from single-gift donors." That percentage has increased six percent since 2013 when its value was 12%. Furthermore, the percentage of total public radio station donors in 2017 who contributed at least $1,000 annually was 1.5%.

Additionally, in both 2017 and 2018, there has been a record-setting donation to a public radio station. In 2017, a $10 million donation was made by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation to New York Public Radio. In 2018, "a $10 million donation . . . [was made by] an anonymous donor known as 'Suzanne' to Seattle's KEXP" public radio station. Both of those massive donations were made within a six-month time frame. To put the size of that Seattle public radio station donation into perspective, the station's operating budget over a two-year period is $8 million.
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Challenges - Public Media Fundraising

The top current challenges within public media fundraising include challenges reaching a younger audience, converting online audience to donors, and the decreasing effectiveness of direct mail campaigns. Below, you will find more details.

METHODOLOGY

To find the top current challenges within public media fundraising, we studied over a dozen related recent reports on challenges and issues public media radio outlets are facing and are trying to improve on or overcome. We examined reports from sources such as Current, Membership Puzzle, Inside Philanthropy, Forbes, Greater Public, MK Creative Media, PBS, among others. We then selected the issues or themes that appeared the most in the various reports we analyzed as the top challenges facing the industry.

Reaching New, Younger Audience

One of the biggest challenges within public media fundraising is reaching new and younger audience and turning them into donors. Public media radio stations are increasingly seeing that methods that were effective in the past in targeting older generations and turning them into members and donors are no longer as effective. While listeners used to be primarily hooked to the radio stations, today listeners use multiple platforms including on-demand radio on podcasts and online. So public radios that had extensive knowledge of their local listeners do not have as much data about their online audience that are in diverse locations and that are not bound by geography. Understanding the path such listeners will take to become a donor is more challenging for public media outlets. And even when they have become donors, understanding how to retain them is an even bigger challenge. In fact, new donor retention dropped by 15.3% for public media despite the fact other nonprofits improved on their new donor rates.

There are also online listeners that may never use the radio and many do not even know they have an actual terrestrial radio station, so fundraising drives done only on-air may be ineffective in reaching all the various audience. Hence, public media outlets continue to find the best way to reach these audiences, including setting up a donation page online and on social media. Although some public media companies are doing it effectively, most are still learning the ropes and trying to adapt to the new challenge.

Why it is top: This challenge was discussed by various sources including Current, Membership Puzzle, Inside Philanthropy, Forbes, and PBS.

Embracing and Using New Technologies Effectively

Public media outlets understand that to reach and increase their diverse audiences effectively, they have to embrace new mediums such as social media, online streaming, podcasts, among others. This is a challenge for them as well as an opportunity. Public radios understand that many of their listeners and potential listeners are on social media and on other online platforms and the best way to reach them when raising funds is by reaching them where they reside - online. Many have embraced these mediums and others continue to do so, however, many are still finding it challenging to raise funds from these mediums.

While public media outlets are doing well in terms of raising money using email and social media campaigns, their efforts to raise money from social media is still below the industry average. For instance, nonprofits in general raise about 28% of their online fundraising from email, while public media only raises about 10% from email. While some outlets such as Austin’s KLRU have started seeing results from using such mediums, others are still learning the ropes or conducting tests to improve the effectiveness of their campaign.

Why it is top: The challenge was discussed by Greater Public, Current, Membership Puzzle, PBS, MK Creative Media, and Forbes.

Direct Mail not being as Effective

While direct mail still remains the biggest fundraising revenue driver, it is just not as effective as in the past and most of the donors donating through direct mail are the older generation. People just don't use mail as they used to and many direct mail campaigns for fundraising don't even reach the intended target. Yet, since the largest donations still come through direct mail from older donors with more disposable income and who are accustomed to using direct mail for donations, public media outlets can't abandon direct mail and have to keep spending on the medium despite the fact that the return on investment is not as good as it used to be. Many public media outlets have started exploring digital fundraising as a way to respond to the challenge.

Why it is top: The challenge was discussed by Current, MK Creative Media, Forbes, and Fundraising Authority.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Case Studies - Public Media Fundraising

Public radio stations still rely on both traditional and digital direct marketing strategies to increase donations. The usage of both direct mail and digital mail is exemplified by “Southern California classical music station KUSC” and KJZZ Radio Station, which both stations claim to be effective in reaching out to donors for fundraising. Each case is detailed below, including the research strategies leading to the findings.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

In finding 2-3 case studies showcasing direct mail fundraising support that also provide insights for the strategy, any creative data, as well as data management for public media, we started by searching for examples of case studies, specifically in the public media domain that use direct mail for fundraising. We explored different yet relevant sources such as public media awards reports like the NEDMA Annual Awards, public media stations fundraising reports such as the Wisconsin Public Radio, and fundraising marketing organizations like MobileCause. Luckily, we managed to discover various examples of public media stations, but none of them featured details into the strategies deployed, insights into data management, and the results obtained.

Next, we searched for solutions providers for public media fundraising and found Allegiance Fundraising, which focuses on various sectors, including public media. It features multiple case studies of public TV and radio stations on its website. We proceeded to explore each of the cases presented to select those that only focus on public radio stations using direct mail. Overall, we managed to uncover two case studies, Southern California classical music station KUSC and KJZZ Radio Station, which showcase direct mail fundraising support that also provides insights for the strategy, any creative data, as well as data management for public media. The two radio stations are elaborated below.

1. KUSC CALENDAR YEAR END

In 2017, following the lack of a membership campaign to raise funds for “Southern California classical music station KUSC,” it embarked on a mission to increase its revenue at Calendar-Year-End (CYE) through a series of emails. The radio station relies on traditional marketing channels for its fundraising efforts. It leverages direct mail and email through membership drives conducted on specific months — January, April, and September.
With KUSC focusing mainly on increasing revenue, it maximized its efforts to develop a creative strategy that took advantage of the high average gift and retention rate of its primary audience — classical music donors. It collaborated with Agency Services to create an email series that were sent to both active and lapsed, donors. The emails acted as a notification that there was less time remaining to make a tax-deductible donation. KUSC branding remained consistent throughout the campaign. Each email featured a countdown headline showing the number of days remaining to make a tax-deductible donation and a warm ‘thank you’ message. Overall, KUSC adopted this strategy since it was not pushy, and they presented is as supportive and encouraging.
In the long-run, the CYE emails proved successful overall. The average donation for the series rose to $112. The overall revenue stemming from the campaign was 30 times the cost of the initiative. KUSC also won a bronze in “NEDMA’s 37th Annual Awards for Creative Excellence” under direct mailing (digital email category) facilitated by DMW Worldwide now — Allegiance Fundraising. The station was also impressed by the results and investments into the project, which inspired it to pursue the campaigns again in 2018.

Unfortunately, we could not uncover in-depth information regarding the campaign data management; however, we suspect that since KUSC works with DMW Fundraising, it is possible that the agency handles and analyzes most of its data since it offers marketing analytics services including "data scoring and modeling, campaign analysis and reporting, profiling and segmentation," and so on. Historical data also shows that DMW Worldwide in 2001 added four public station accounts to its portfolio. The four stations are WBUR, KUSC/Los Angeles, WMFE TV-FM/Orlando, and KCTS/Seattle.

2. KJZZ/KBAQ RADIO STATION

Famed for setting the tone for excellent donor engagement and customer service, KJZZ’s quest for an expanding its donor membership was insatiable. It lacked the tools to facilitate the same; hence, it sought the services of a donor management platform — Allegiance Fundraising, which offers end-to-end fundraising tools such as agency services, consulting, loyalty programs, software, and strategy.

The donor portal helped KJZZ manage donors’ data, such as “current addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and credit card expiration dates.” It also helped KJZZ solve numerous donor issues and increase donor engagement with the station. Donors could now create accounts with the radio station, make payments, update credit card information, and make pledges, etc. making the process run seamlessly. Unfortunately, KJZZ did not incentivize the sign-up process; hence, not many listeners signed up. On that line, it adopted multiple direct mails and email strategies to incentivize the E-membership program.

First, whenever KJZZ sent the credit card information to its donors, it embedded an e-membership offer, for instance, encouraging them to sign-up for an e-membership account. Next, KJZZ stopped mailing tax receipts for gifts valued below $500; instead, it mailed its donors how to go online and sign-up for an e-membership account to print out the tax letter.

Third, KJZZ created an exclusive pledge-free streaming service to donors donating over $15 a month. Before each pledge drive, KJZZ could send an email to qualifying donors with an e-membership user name and details regarding the pledge-free streaming service. Fourth, an email was also sent to donors giving less than $15 a month to encourage them to increase their donations to gain access to the pledge-free service. Fifth, the donor platform also frequently sent e-acknowledgment messages it generated automatically to encourage all donors to create an e-membership account.

In the end, the strategy proved more successful than expected. In 2010, KJZZ had only 1,114 e-members, but by the end of 2016, the numbers had increased to 14,249, thanks to Allegiance Fundraising Portal. Moreover, KJZZ’s Major Gifts Officer Brian Fergus noted that the donor portal, which drives their E-Membership campaigns, has streamlined how the radio station operates now. Every year, KJZZ approves over 1,000 member-initiated account updates via the portal, which saves the radio station staff countless hours. During the 2014-15 period, 17% of existing KJZZ donors upgraded to the $15 per month — KJZZ Plus pledge-free streaming service. In closing, in 2015, 18% of KJZZ donors $15 or more, an increase of 6% from 9% in 2014.
Sources
Sources

From Part 03
Quotes
  • "Southern California classical music station KUSC had always focused its fundraising efforts around traditional channels, leveraging direct mail and email around on-air membership drives in January, April, and September. "
  • "Though these campaigns had always been successful in their own right, KUSC wanted to increase revenue at Calendar-Year-End (CYE), when there was no membership campaign to fundraise around."
Quotes
  • "Using the most accurate modeling and forecasting possible, our in-house team will locate the most profitable customer segments, identify trends, and provide you with real-time results. • CAMPAIGN ANALYSIS & REPORTING • MEDIA MIX OPTIMIZATION • A/B TESTING • DATA SCORING & MODELING • PROFILING & SEGMENTATION"
Quotes
  • "DMW Worldwide has added four public broadcast stations as clients.The accounts are WBUR, a National Public Radio news station owned by Boston University; KUSC/Los Angeles, a primarily classical radio station owned by the University of Southern California; WMFE TV-FM/Orlando, a radio and television service for central and eastern Florida; and KCTS/Seattle, a TV station serving northwest Washington and British Columbia."
Quotes
  • "Prior to each pledge drive we send an email to $15+ sustainers providing them with an e-membership user name and information about the pledge-free streaming service."
  • "We no longer mail tax receipts for gifts under $500. Donors receive an email encouraging them to go online, create an e-membership account, and print out the tax letter which is attached to their account."
Quotes
  • "KJZZ partners with Classical K‑BACH to connect with a highly educated, influential, cultural and community-minded audience totaling 900,000+ different people each month"
  • "Multiple touchpoints for your messaging leads to deeper engagement with your best potential customers. Digital media presents outstanding opportunities for organizations to Interact with current and potential customers, Reach and grow audience, and Create and distribute content."
Quotes
  • "Seventy-one cents of every dollar in our operating budget goes toward programming (creating and buying programs, and broadcasting them)."
  • "Yes, state and federal tax dollars do support Wisconsin Public Radio (see Federal (CPB) and Direct State/Univ on the revenue graph). However, without the significant portion of our budget that comes from listeners - the largest source of revenue - we would not be able to continue operations."
Quotes
  • "50% Of donors are more likely to respond to direct mail when they receive multiple messages across fundraising channels reinforcing the call-to- action"
  • "Return on Investment (ROI) is profit divided by cost of the campaign and is a key indicator of a fundraising campaign’s success; after all, you need to bring in much more than you spend in order to support your cause."