Just Updated: Sustainer Best Practices Checklist

Sustainer image

Have you checked out the CDP best practices checklists lately? These lists are possible because of you. Producing the quarterly ROAR (benchmarking) reports makes tracking high performing stations in any given fundraising segment easy to do, and we are always updating and refining these lists as the fundraising landscape evolves.

Today we’ve added some tweaks to our Sustainers checklist: in it you’ll find

  • Updated metrics and stats at the top of the checklist.
  • Updated recommendation in the Building File section of the checklist.

Sustaining Members, Houston Public Media’s TV spot has been uploaded as a video on YouTube and we have a sample script to create and run an on-air spot of your own linked through the checklist itself.

All CDP fundraising checklists can be found under the Station Resources header/dropdown menu. If you’re prompted for a password and need help, contact Jennifer Psallidas.

Noteworthy: The Fundraising Effectiveness Project Report


Public broadcasting is not the focus of the 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your radar. A blog post on npEngage last month reviews key findings from the report and links out to other features on the site with actionable steps.

The report is quite detailed, but a cursory look over the Executive Summary on pages 3-5 will highlight the key takeaways, which include:

  • Gains of $3.611 billion in gifts from new, upgraded current, and previously lapsed donors were offset by losses of $3.438 billion through reduced gifts and lapsed donors. This means that, while there was a positive $173 million net growth-in-giving, every $100 gained in 2014 was offset by $95 in losses through gift attrition. That is, 95% of gains in giving were offset by losses in giving for a net gain in gifts of 5%.
  • Gains of $3.615 million in new and previously lapsed donors were offset by losses of $3.713 million in lapsed donors. This means that there was a negative (97,649) growth-in-donors and every 100 donors gained in 2014 was offset by 103 in lost donors through attrition. That is, 103% of the donors gained were offset by lapsed donors for a net loss in donors of -3%.

Again, this report is not specific to public broadcasting, but it does summarize results from 8,025 survey respondents from organizations raising under $100K, over $500K and everything in between revenue-wise.

For Blackbaud author Mark Montenero’s take on the findings, click here to read Key Findings From the Fundraising Effectiveness Survey: Where Do We Go From Here?

In the News: CDP and CPTV in the Chronicle of Philanthropy

Traffic LightBeep beep! (That’s the sound of us tooting our own horn here at CDP.) Check out the recent Chronicle of Philanthropy write up on ROAR (Revenue Opportunity and Action Report). How PBS Stations Used Data Sharing to Set and Meet Fundraising Goals is available if you have full subscriber access to Chronicle of Philanthropy, or by clicking here.

Pledge-Drives: Core Series vs. Specialized Programming


The oft-repeated concern at TV stations about running specialized programs during pledge is that the features on advice spanning from financial to health (and even quasi-spiritual) alienate the core PBS audience, which is an arts and culturally-oriented intellectual. Yet there are donors who call in and say the pledge programs are the “best” the station is airing. What’s happening here is fueling not just conversation but actual change at some stations and even PBS itself.

“We’re not just serving one audience; we’re serving many audiences,” is how Michal Heiplik aptly described it to Current for the article Rolling Back Transactional Pledge Requires Focus on Off-Air Strategies.  The donors who come in through pledge drives have very low retention, especially when compared to direct mail which is at 70-80%. But the gift amount is much higher than what is typical, making the pledge donor worth 2-3 years of giving via direct mail.

Switching to core programming in order to keep the ethos of the PBS brand alive brings along with it the concern that although the retention of the donors acquired might be higher, it won’t be as successful at bringing in the high donations that specialized programming delivers, resulting in a NET loss overall for the station.

Late last year PBS rallied 17 stations from various markets and began testing to determine whether pledge could work building around core series rather than specialized programming. The programs included some compilation-style efforts from Antiques Roadshow and Nature, while American Masters and Nova created special debut programs. Joseph A. Campbell, PBS vice-president for fundraising programming, recently told Current that the programming was designed to be fluid and in alignment with the regular programming schedule. Messaging within the breaks helped maintain consistency throughout the 90 minutes which followed the standard pledge format of 60 minutes of content and 30 minutes of preproduced breaks.

Measuring the success of this test is a matter of some patience, of course, because assessing retention of donors acquired will not happen until 15 months out. CDP is currently partnered with PBS to analyze the data collected from this test and final results will take a while to ascertain as the analysis is ongoing. PBS’s intent is to dig deeper into what works and how to best formulate future drives.

KLRU switched to a core programming format back in 2011 and so far it is working for them; their audience has responded positively. Susannah Winslow tells Current that although the fundraising around core programs doesn’t raise as much money, KLRU has “found ways to supplement the dollars we don’t get on air around core shows through online campaigns, challenge matches and other fundraising strategies.” Winslow recently spoke at NETA about KLRU’s practices in a session entitled “Wash, Rinse, Repeat. How To Fail and Succeed With Experimenting and Improving.”

If you want to read more about PBS’s initial test lineup, there is an article from November 2014 in Current linked here. In-house PBS ombudsman (say that three times fast) Michael Getler also posted audience critiques online in August of 2014, which you can check out here.

Listening to the hilarious radio pledge promos created by WNYC with Alec Baldwin back in 2010 certainly illustrates that a unique approach that is both modern and matches public media ethos can be achieved.

Get Ready to ROAR: CDP Webinar at 2pm ET Today


ROAR_sampleWant to learn the methodology behind the quarterly ROAR report? Today is your chance. We will be breaking down the ROAR (Revenue Opportunity and Action Report – but you knew that) in layman’s terms. And we won’t stop at bland definitions – as indicated in the name, this is an action report, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out specific measures to boost performance that correlate to each metric. Join us today at 2pm to learn how you can make the most of this valuable fundraising tool with your development team.

CDP sent an invite out to this session via email and also posted the link within our September newsletter.  If you can’t make the webinar, we will post the recording under Station Resources, where all our past webinars are stored. Contact someone on our team if you need log in credentials for either the website or the actual live webinar today.

Meet Hunter Sears: CDP Project Manager


Tell us a little about your professional history.
After college, I spent a few years traveling abroad before moving to Denver, CO during the height of the recession. With limited job prospects, I took an entry-level position as a door-to-door canvasser with a newly established community organizing firm called Rocky Mountain Voter Outreach. The company grew rapidly and within a few years, I was excelling in leadership positions, directing political field campaigns and managing entire teams of canvassers and field managers. In 2011, I joined Donor Development Strategies.

The success of DDS’s initial project at RMPBS lead to their eventual partnership with WGBH, and I jumped on the opportunity to be one of the founding directors of the WGBH’s new canvass project. Over the past 3.5 years, I oversaw the continued development of the project and have aided in launching and managing several other successful canvass programs as DDS expanded its canvass operations to over 13 affiliates nationwide. Having seen the development of the canvass program from the very beginning and having an intimate understanding of how it works on an operational level, I’m thrilled to continue to further develop the project on a national scale on behalf of the CDP.

So is it safe to assume that Canvassing is your favorite CDP project?
Having been a part of canvassing project from its inception, I’d have to say it’s my favorite CDP project at this point. I’m particularly excited about maximizing the potential value of the canvass program by modeling demographic and historical data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the program on the operational level for individual markets.

Now for some hard-hitting questions: what’s your favorite PBS show?
Like many in my generation, much of childhood and early education was shaped through PBS kids programming, particularly Reading Rainbow and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. I have fond memories of watching those shows during class in elementary school. A self-professed ‘news junkie’, I’m a huge fan of Frontline.

Frontline is amazing; we agree there. Tell this investigative reporter one fun fact about the real Hunter Sears.
My family’s New England roots run deep, particularly on Cape Cod (my ancestral ‘homeland’…Sears have lived in the town of Dennis since the 1600s). An ‘activist’ since an early age, I founded my high school’s first LGBT-rights club and was voted “Most Political” as my senior superlative.

That’s three fun facts but they were good ones! I have one final question for you: do you know what “gooder” means and can you use it in a sentence?
I don’t think ‘gooder’ is a word – I’d google it but wouldn’t want cheat.

I think Michal Heiplik would disagree with you. “Gooder” is a Czech(ish) word and when Michal says it you know you’ve gotten something right. We’ll have to get you up-to-speed on some inner-circle CDP lingo, stat. Welcome aboard Hunter – we are glad to have you on our team!

If you’d like to join us in welcoming Hunter to the team, feel free to contact him and say hello.

New Facebook Feature: “Donate Now” Button


Facebook, with its audience of 1.2 billion worldwide and 128 million daily users in America, has long been touted as a great way to help nonprofits find supporters. Many fundraisers in the past have been less-than-impressed with Facebook’s partnership for a variety of reasons, and their concerns may have just been answered with the “Donate Now” button, which allows users to stay on the site and give to a nonprofit organization.

Currently, only 1% of all online fundraising can be attributed to social media, including Facebook, according to Blackbaud’s research. “Only 2 percent of nonprofits in the United States raised $10,000 to $25,000 through Facebook in a 12-month period, and 1 percent raised $25,000 to $100,000, according to a report released last year by [Blackbaud].” It will be interesting to see if this changes with the new “Donate Now” feature.

In May 2015 Facebook raised more than $15 million in response to the deadly earthquake in Nepal from 754,000 people after inserting a request for donations into its users’ feeds. The money went to International Medical Corps, which was providing emergency services in the country.

An earlier test conducted in 2013 had problems, the main one being that the donate button did not appear in the Facebook mobile app, which is how roughly 78% of daily users access the platform. Another issue with that pilot? The 19 chosen nonprofits participating did not get the names or e-mail addresses of people who used the donate button. Developing relationships with donors depends on the ability to contact them, and the nonprofits were not happy with this feature. The previous test also did not allow people to stay on the site and donate, and social media experts found the disclaimer telling users they were being directed to an external website may turn some people off.

Time will tell what this new feature will bear in terms of dollars and donors, but this is certainly a positive development for all nonprofits on Facebook. Here are links to the news pieces consulted to write this post:

Philanthropy today

Social Times