Dick McPherson

CEO of New Donor Strategies Inc.

Recent Posts

Station Results From the May 5 #GivingTuesdayNow Event

Membership, pledge drive, #GivingTuesday, COVID-19

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Facing a disrupted spring fundraising season, many public media stations around the country participated in the May 5 special international campaign organized by GivingTuesday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: #GivingTuesdayNow. In a survey of Greater Public member stations, we found that 86% of them participated in the event. Most of the 14% who did not participate didn’t believe the day fit their strategy.

The setting for the day was anything but promising: stations were shifting or cancelling on-air drives, personnel were scattered by work-from-home rules, and audience members were reeling from a relentless daily flow of news about the devastating health and economic consequences of a pandemic. But the special campaign was driven by three elements: 

  1. A near-universal sense of shared purpose
  2. A deep gratitude for the work of community groups including public media
  3. A desire to take some sort of action in response to the helplessness felt by so many stuck at home

The number of stations reporting strong results on May 5 far exceeded the number of those that did not, and a scan of some examples paints a picture of how to succeed in fundraising in the middle of the biggest disruption the nation has faced since the last world war.

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How Public Media Stations Can Participate in the May 5 #GivingTuesdayNow Event

Membership, #GivingTuesday, online giving, COVID-19

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GivingTuesday, the organization behind the annual #GivingTuesday event that follows Thanksgiving and Black Friday, recently announced plans to generate support for #GivingTuesdayNow, a “day of global action for giving and unity in response to COVID-19.” The event will happen on May 5, 2020. 

Representatives from GivingTuesday recently came together with more than 200 public media fundraising professionals to consider the unique ways in which our industry could engage audiences during #GivingTuesdayNow.

Here are examples of what some stations are planning during the May 5 event:

  1. Some stations will run giving campaigns that fall on or include May 5. On that day they’ll emphasize service-oriented match incentives, such as the donation of a meal to a local food bank for every contribution made.

  2. One news station will conduct their own short fundraising campaign to support news coverage from Sunday, May 3, World Press Freedom Day, through May 5. Their call to give will emphasize #GivingTuesdayNow’s call to take action. They will also urge audiences to share content from stations and NPR on this day.
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Fundraising Messaging During a Chaotic Time

Membership, Major Giving

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Our listeners are about to endure the spectacle of a presidential impeachment. Hearings are just beginning, which means a national trauma will be playing out during the holidays and during our traditional year-end fundraising. It’s a fair bet that our audiences will increase across broadcast and digital channels, affecting national programming and schedules. It’s also likely that the purveyors of fake or distorted news will unwittingly remind our listeners of the priceless value of public media.

What does this mean for the language we choose for fundraising as well as how we craft messaging across other channels like e-news services, podcasts, station apps or NPR One? When we give our audience a way to channel their dissatisfaction with the media circus, we allow them to reinforce their own values as well as those they share with public media.

First: Use language that stresses our values, not just the value of our service.

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Three Strategies to Strengthen Fundraising in an Unpredictable Economy

Membership, customer service, Social/Mobile, Audience Engagement, online giving

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Stations have grown used to raising money in the glow of a decade-long economic expansion and much-touted strong economy. Maybe economic news will remain glowing. But the chief economist at Freddie Mac recently said we are in a “mental recession,” explaining a palpable nationwide unease. If this persists, members, listeners, and viewers may do what donors always have done when facing uncertainty: delay giving decisions and avoid new commitments.

When planning for the next 12-18 months, stations can either hope for the best or get ready. But ready for what? If macro factors like gyrating stock markets, uncharted tax policy, and political upheaval begin scaring people away from giving, what can we do about it? In fact, there are three smart things stations can do, no matter what 2019 and 2020 hold:

  1. Reexamine member acquisition using ALL of your digital prospect channels.


    Stop neglecting NPR One subscribers, PBS.org website visitors or your social media followers. Probe your fundraising results from non-member digital constituents, fix weak performers, test neglected groups.

    Test new ways to recruit sustainers, like apps for rounding up spare change on credit card purchases.

    Get e-communications off snooze control. Pretend you don’t have an e-newsletter or e-anything and design them from scratch, asking what would motivate people to give.

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The Best Ways to Use Text Messaging in Your Fundraising

Membership, Social/Mobile

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Think about how many unanswered emails you have. Now think about how many unanswered texts you have. SMS messages have tremendous power to reach your membership. Many in your audience are eager to connect with your content via mobile; cultivating your audience - and donor - relationships via this channel should be part of your membership strategy. Here's how to do it in the right way:

Start with the list you have. 

If you don't have a list of mobile numbersthere’s no better time than now to get started. Many stations have had success building a mobile list by offering exclusive content or services, like news alerts for a general audience, specialty content for specific programs (book reviews, recipes, or music), or advance notice of event tickets.

Remember to make use of old lists.

Perhaps you have a list of mobile numbers from a past text-to-give campaign that you haven’t used in a while. In that case, you might explore a text re-engagement campaign where you ask your list to opt-in to content that might interest them.

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Get Great at Converting App Users into Members

Membership, Social/Mobile, digital revenue

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Recent estimates indicate that 60-80% of NPR One app users are not currently local station members. Many stations also have access to email leads generated from the users of their own station apps. Here are some proven techniques for engaging with these email leads to inspire app users to become station members.

Welcome users of your station app with an email reminding them of the many online services you offer, e.g., streaming, schedules, events, etc.

Even better, create a three-email “welcome series” that can be automated for new leads. The series should be service-oriented but contain a donate/join button. The last of the three messages should specifically ask for membership. (Don’t forget to add a challenge or match if you have one.)

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Four Ways to Improve the Conversion Rate of Donors Giving via Mobile

Membership, online giving

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Recommendations from Dick McPherson, CEO, newdonorstrategies.com

When a listener wants to make a gift to a station, one of the greatest tragedies (from a fundraising perspective) is if the gift never happens because it's just too hard to get the money from the donor to you.

Completing a gift should be an effortless experience. And it's up to us, of course, to remove as many barriers as we can to make it so. 

Giving on a phone or tablet can be especially fraught. The gift conversion rate (percent of givers who succeed in making a gift once they've visiting your giving form) on mobile devices is half what it is on laptops. 

Aim to achieve at least a 25% conversion rate for giving via mobile devices. 

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Five to Ways to Achieve Above-Average Online Giving From Your Website Visitors

Membership, Social/Mobile, digital revenue

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by Dick McPherson, CEO, newdonorstrategies.com

Thousands of visitors find your station’s website looking for content, information or occasionally a way to show support. The percent of visitors who contribute during their visit is a key benchmark of online fundraising success. For public radio stations, outside of a membership drive, this percentage tends to be very low. But there are some simple things we as fundraisers can do to increase the number of visitors who join or donate.

Goal: Your website should convert over 0.6% of your website visitors to complete a gift.


This benchmark comes from national studies of nonprofit sites, data from NPR and stations, and station interviews.

Many stations aren’t achieving this conversation rate. How is your station performing?

If you don’t know what your conversation rate is, use this formula:

Conversion of website visitors to donors = total number of gifts made using your online giving forms ÷ total unique visitors for a year.

If you’re converting less than 0.6% of your visitors, it may mean that not enough people are finding or visiting your online giving form. Or if they do find it, they may not find it persuasive or easy to use.

Here’s what to focus on to hit those above-average conversion rates:

1. Make sure your forms are mobile-responsive.

The majority of email is now read on mobile phones; many stations receive over half their web visits from mobile devices. When people find your online giving form on their mobile device, it’s vital that it be phone-friendly.

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