When to Lapse Your Lapsed Donor Reach-Out?

Does your station have any processes to get back your lapsed donors?

The answer is: “NOT ANYTIME SOON!” according to Erica Waasdorp in her recent article. She did her own study to observe how 20 organizations dealt with her expired credit card and the results were quite shocking.

A monthly gift was set up for all organizations just a month before her credit card expired leaving her in the lapsed zone. The next step was to wait and see how they tried to salvage their relationship.

Within the two following months, only two organizations called and the rest sent one email or automated emails. A couple had links to update card information online and some took a small step and sent a letter that was not inviting. Nothing was personal or motivated her to become a sustainer again.

With no reach out on her end, 9 months passed by. Her phone rings and it is the development associate from one of the organizations apologizing for not calling sooner since she was a new employee. Thanks were given for her previous gifts and updated information was then exchanged.

Why did she tell this story and why did CDP find it compelling enough to retell? Because you should not give up on lapsed sustainers. Use different modes of reach-out, don’t be afraid to contact multiple times, and you can negotiate lower monthly amounts. If they do not have a specific reason for stopping then you should be contacting them to get them back.

Barry Nelson wrote a post for CDP about how Sustainers Need TLC. Sustainers take a lot of time and effort from stations. Everyone will benefit if all steps are taken to maintain strong relationships.

He mentions a few important points from CDP’s existing sustainer checklist:

  • Run monthly QC reports looking for donors marked as Sustainer, but do not have an active Sustainer pledge
  • Contact donor (mail/email/call) 2-3 times to recover/restart declined credit card or EFT payment
  • Call, mail & email donors 2 months in advance of credit card expiry dates

He also mentions that Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) could be used to reduce the number of lapsed donors due to expired credit cards. Please visit our resource page for more information on EFT.

Who Else to Thank?

Do you thank ALL your supporters?

At CDP we tend to focus so heavily on thanking your donors through all outlets.  We have previously written about meeting your donor’s needs using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This model reinforces that we as organizations needs to support our donor’s basic, psychological, and self-fulfillment needs in order for them to be motivated to give and build mutually beneficial relationships.

We also have a Thank You Call Program, dedicated to reaching out to those who donate to your station.

While these are all very important retention processes, we need to highlight the importance of thanking everyone in the donor relationship building process.

Internally, everyone involved with your station is working hard to create and maintain strong beneficial relationships with your donors to increase giving and retention. These people should be shown that their efforts are appreciated.

Who exactly are we talking about?

  • Volunteers
  • Community members
  • Community agency partners
  • All financial supporters
  • Your staff
  • Any other individuals or organizations who helped make events, pledge, and all services possible

We all know that a simple “Thank You” can go a very long way, so take a small amount of time to show gratitude to those who spend a lot of time helping you.

Volunteer and other supporter relationships and retention is just as important as donor relationships.

How does your station thank volunteers?

Idea Engine: Digital Prospecting

By Barry Nelson

With the growth of public media Local Journalism Centers (LJCs), Regional Journalism Centers (RJCs), audience-driven reporting models such as Hearken and the Finding America collaboration from Localore, audience development efforts have become high priorities for content teams in recent years.   Whether engagement efforts include on-air, email, social media or face to face contact, your station is gathering a good deal of data.

While the gathering of such “engagement data” has value to the content team, it may have even more value to the Membership program.  An audience member who takes steps toward deeper participation in the content is a decent prospect for membership.  However, that level of interest in the station may not catalyze the audience member to take the next step toward giving without a prompt from the station.  Enter CDP’s free Digital Prospecting project (the link requires a CDP password—if you do not have one, contact us).

Digital Prospecting takes advantage of the RedPoint Global platform to deploy automated, dynamic messaging, delivered under the station’s brand, and designed to lead to conversion.  All data and donations are returned back to stations.

CDP parlayed Downton Abbey fever to run a test campaign with more than 20 stations following the 2015 Downton Abbey Sweepstakes. The valuable content we provided to prospects on a monthly basis continues to show an above-average engagement level with open rates consistently above 27%.

Who Should Be Contacted?

  • A person who engages with the station multiple times and is not on the member file
  • Sweepstakes or drawings entrants (if applicable: CDP Masterpiece & Antique Road Show sweepstakes data)
  • Events attendees (ticket or free versus membership-driven)
  • Merchandise purchasers (DVDs, station swag, etc)
  • PBS Prosper/NPR contacts

Where is the Data?

  • Where is content-driven “engagement data” stored at your station? Do you have access to it?  Can you work with the content team to determine/export contacts?
  • Do you have prospect lists from various sources loaded into your CRM? Do they exist on Spreadsheet or in another format?

How Much Data Do You Have?

  • Email only?
  • Is there an effort to further append that data with name, address, zip, phone?

If you can devote staff time to drafting and sending communications to prospect lists, the CDP always encourages you to do so.  However, if resources are tight and time would be better spent on other membership & development matters locally, CDP can execute this effort for your station free.

A typical one-year prospect campaign may include:

  • Station Welcome Series: 3 successive email messages to prospects
  • Monthly e-News: Programming preview with links to station schedule
  • Quarterly Solicitation: Donations lead directly back to stations 100%

Audience development goes hand in hand with revenue development.  Listeners and viewers want to support organizations they believe in and engage with, and often the efforts to close the loop are hampered by constraints on local resources.

Let CDP take this off your plate!

Contact my colleague Mike Sharp to get started with CDPs free Digital Prospecting service.

Start a Conversation: Invest v. Donate


By: Barry Nelson

This is a blog post about linguistics.  It’s also about strategy and tactics.  Chiefly, it’s about how we execute Pledge, the goals of Pledge, and what we can achieve in the long-term if we move in the direction of changing from a tactical approach to a strategic one.

The history of pledge drives is to some degree an oral history, but there is a brief Wikipedia entry that provides some context:

Pledge drives have been controversial for most of their existence. While pledge drives are an effective method of raising money for stations, they usually annoy viewers and listeners, who find the regular interruption of what is ordinarily commercial-free content to be a nuisance. Audience numbers often decline during pledge drives; to compensate, most television stations air special television shows during these fundraising periods.

This practice [pledge] began in earnest in the mid-1970s due to CPB funding cutbacks that were the result of political pressures and the recessions of the time, as well as increasing inflation. As the proportions of government funding in stations’ budgets continued to decline over time, such programs became more elaborate in order to sway people who would otherwise watch public television only sporadically (or not at all) to tune in, and possibly donate money in response to appeals during program breaks.*

Note the immediate negative reference to the pledge drive as an annoyance.  Radio stations are attempting to mitigate discontent by shortening pledge drives, and many TV stations are increasingly pledging ‘core’ programs to keep regular PBS viewers happy.

Pledge: Tactic v Strategy

Pledge is a tactic that is part of an overall fundraising strategy.  For almost all of its existence, the goal of Pledge has been to raise money and acquire new members/reacquire lapsed donors.  Let’s be honest: it’s mainly about the money.

The fragmentation of media and proliferation of platforms will soon be an impediment to meeting fundraising expectations, which is going to adversely affect our overall strategy—unless we are prepared to change.  Many stations are responding by targeting Sustainers, in some cases to the exclusion of one-time donors who require more effort and expense to renew, but who are nevertheless valuable from a cultivation point of view.

To address that challenge, I suggest we drop the term “pledge” and replace it with “invest.”  The switch is a strategic one: “invest” speaks to the organization’s plans and the donor’s dreams, while “pledge” is a remnant of the ‘tin cup’ fundraising approach, which originated out of necessity in the 1970s.  A “pledge” is a promise, which was relevant when we used to invoice respondents, but given the proliferation of credit card and EFT transactions, the term is an anachronism.  “Invest” is a term successfully used by non-profits to appeal to donors who have personal goals for their discretionary giving, and the time is right to switch to this term as we appeal to Boomers, GenX & Millennials, who seek deeper relationships with the recipients of their largesse.  My hope is that this message will get out to producers of TV and radio pledge drive programs, who still use the term “pledge” and “pledge drive” in their pitches.

Goals As a Strategy

As for the goals of an on-air campaign, we often focus on the short-term, which is why dollars often trump donors.  Strategically, it makes more sense to me to reverse the priorities to donors over dollars, especially given the sophistication of the tools and techniques stations are employing to cultivate newly acquired donors.   Of course, resource-strapped stations that rely on broadcast campaigns to raise cash will find it difficult to make the shift.  CDP has a number of off-air fundraising solutions that can help alleviate risks to cash flow when taking steps toward shifting focus of on-air campaigns.

WRTI (Philadelphia) recently completed a campaign whose goal was to both reduce the number of days by half and reach a participation goal of 3000 donors.  They achieved the first goal and exceeded the second, with 3040 donors providing 3127 donations.  The goal for first-time members was 800.  Ultimately, 580 new members (19% of the total) supported the classical/jazz station.  WRTI Membership Manager Porsche Blakey said that among the sentiments expressed by staff regarding pitching donors instead of dollars was, “It felt more humanistic and personal.”  People invest in people, so that seemed like an appropriate response.

What are your thoughts?  Concerns?  Stories?  Ideas?  


*source: Wikipedia

Idea Engine: Joint Licensees – Using Passport on Radio

By: Barry Nelson

Now that PBS Passport is going to have wider adoption by TV & Joint Licensees, it’s a good idea to look at how we can best use the new benefit to attract first-time members, increase re-joins and spark Sustainer adoption.

The first question is whether to offer Passport to radio listeners.  Given that there is an overlap between public radio listeners and public TV viewers (radio listeners being more likely to view PBS than PBS viewers are likely to listen to public radio), the Passport benefit not only has value, but it has power.

By that I mean that the value associated with the rich content available to members has a level of magnetism that draws those with innate curiosity and worldliness, ie, your radio listener.

At stations where I have worked, occasionally the myth will float around that public radio listeners “don’t watch TV.”   That might be the result of anecdotal evidence gathered from volunteers or event attendees, plus the fact that we have the most highly-educated audience in broadcasting.

But of course it isn’t true that our listeners eschew TV, as we know from sources such as the Jacobs Media Tech Survey.   Excuse me while I editorialize for a moment:

  • Educated people watch TV and consume digital content
  • There’s lots of good stuff to watch
  • There are many places to get good content
  • One of which is public television

The cool thing about offering PBS Passport to your radio audience is that you already know there is an alignment in terms of values; now you can make the relationship even stronger by providing the donor with even more quality content, delivered in a way that suits their lifestyles.  Recently the data suggested stations acquire younger members through Passport as well.

But how to market the concept?  PBS has guidelines available at the myPBS.org site.  There are rules –Do’s and Don’ts—one of which is that stations should not liken Passport to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.  That’s a valid point, because Passport is not a subscription service.  It is among the benefits of membership.  However, it is an on-demand product, much in the way those services are, and allows for binge-watching and access via mobile devices.

The challenge for those of us who market Passport is how to explain the concept so that Passport will fit the “digital on-demand” frame listeners already have in their brains without using the aforementioned shorthand.  I’ve written scripts to help your station convert listeners to donors in pledge drives using language that generally fits the frame.  You can use them as part of a comprehensive Passport marketing plan to reinforce the concept, like these radio spots.

Once you have instituted your Passport benefit, I suggest you check out our archived webinar that introduces a new CDP project: Member Analytics Engine.   In it, we address the potential value of that data and how CDP can help your station use viewing behavior for targeted marketing and donor cultivation.


Want to Increase Sustainer Retention?

We all do, but do we all know some simple ways to do so?

Transforming credit card or check sustainers to using automatic bank withdrawals (EFT) is one actionable step you can take to increase retention.

This will take care of donors lapsing due to expired or declining credit cards; keeping their donations on a steady path. Your station no longer has to worry about this and your donors don’t have to be bothered with updating their information.

Also, the fees are lower than card payment fees. The option to give and receive more doesn’t sound bad to either of the parties involved.

When and how do you convert your donors? We found an article that outlines four appropriate times.

  1. When a donor’s card expires or declines: You can mention EFT and mention, since fees are lower, their donations give a bit more. Testimonials help. Messages within sustainer renewal pages should include converting to this option. Also if there is a credit card breach going on with major retailers, you can address this situation and mention EFT (Previous Blog Post Reference).
  1. During an upgrade request: Why not ask?
  2. With a special appeal aimed at existing credit/debit card monthly donors: Use the savings message here again to thank and encourage them to change methods.
  3. If you offer a monthly check reminder option: Some donors still use checks and get those monthly reminders. This is a good chance to get them to use EFT since this group’s retention rate is usually the lowest.

Give it a shot! Like the article said, you have nothing to lose from mentioning the new method. Before you reach out, check out our page on EFT processing information and government regulations.

Does your station have other retention tricks? Let us know.

For more information about ways to reach your sustainers, take a look at our Sustainer Checklist.

Learning from the Direct Mail Contribution Report

How is your station reaching out to donors?

Individual direct mail contributions have been on the decline for a few years now. Although it fell again in 2016 (less than one percent), it is better than the 4.5 and 5.5 percent declines in 2014 and 2015.

According to the article, Preliminary Report on Charitable Direct Mail Contribution Volume in 2016, this decline across the industry is due to many internal and external influences. Contributions vary month to month and year to year depending on many circumstances in the market. For example, it is not shocking that political direct mail contributions increased during the election year.

Some influences include:

  • More direct mail donors moving to online channels
  • Direct mail budgets being cut/remaining budgets being limited
  • Decline in response rates from donors
  • Active donor retention rates and overall frequency of giving overall was lower in 2016

The report gives some the impression that people are becoming less charitable year by year and others believe that donors are giving more, but to less charities. This is evident across more donation channels than just direct mail.

Whatever the case may be, it is our job to reach donors and understand the industry and its evolution every year. In “a future of uncertainty” we must maximize opportunity, understand the nuances of the market, and create a rewarding giving experience for our donors.

Has your station noticed any other trends in donation channels?

Many stations are hesitant to execute Acquisition mail for several reasons:

  • Too much upfront risk
  • Limited or no access to resources (creative, list sources, production)
  • Bandwidth/staffing issues

But, at CDP we have created a turn-key Acquisition Mail program that eliminates these barriers creating a “NO RISK” program for stations. We will manage the list sourcing, creative licensing, and production/mailing of a station-branded package on your behalf and you will only pay for acquired members at a cost of $55 per donor. There is no upfront cost and no risk.

To learn more, visit: cdpcommunity.org/acq.
For FY18, CDP will be mailing in August, November, January and March.

To get involved with our August mailing, we will need to hear from you by May 19th. To get a contract or more information, please contact Brooks Heckner