How Two Phone Calls a Day Could Make You Happier (and Raise More Money)

PMDMC, Membership, donor cultivation and stewardship, Major Giving

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Imagine if the first thing you did each day when you got to work was to make a genuine connection with your organization's mission -- with why your work matters

You wouldn't check email. You wouldn't look at your to-do list or even stop and chat with colleagues. Instead, you might pick up the phone and call just one donor. You would tell that donor how much his or her gift matters to your organization and its mission.

What if you made that same phone call to one more donor before you went home?

This is what renowned author, presenter, and fundraising futurist Penelope Burk suggested at the 2019 Public Media Development and Marketing Conference (PMDMC) during a session focused on donor-centered fundraising (her grand-finale PMDMC presentation before retirement!)

"Give yourself ten minutes to do it," suggests Burk, "Nine minutes to angst about it and one to actually do it. It will set up your day. It will change how you feel." 

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Online Fundraising: How Public Media Compares to Other Nonprofits in 2019

Membership, online giving

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If you felt like your organization’s online giving was unpredictable or lackluster in 2018 you are not alone. According to the recently released M+R Benchmarks report surveying 135 diverse nonprofits, online giving revenues grew a measly 1% last year.

After an incredible 2017 with revenue growth of 23%, the 1% increase in revenue in 2018 fell short of expectations. But the team at M+R highlights the good news: it’s still a 77% increase from 2014. According to the report, this flat growth is the market right-sizing itself after the outpouring of donations following the 2016 election. M+R suggests, “It’s that the growth happened a year early, showing up in 2017.”

There is no sugar coating some of the other data in the report, however: Email open and click-through rates fell to 14% and .44%, respectively; and membership growth slowed (after a big 21% increase in 2017 to a 5% increase in 2018).

But the data also gives us some guidelines for being successful despite growth slowing, such as improving donor retention and sustainer programs, increasing the effectiveness of other channels, and mobilizing your most passionate supporters.

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How Michigan Radio Uses Instagram to Cultivate Audience Engagement

instagram, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, General Management, Engagement

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When digital director Jodi Westrick was hired at Michigan Radio, she knew her new station was excellent at telling stories with audio and website content. Her goal was to expand the reach of those stories to new and different audiences.

Westrick and her team began synopsizing the station’s reporting on the Instagram platform using single images, slideshows, and video. These Instagram posts link back to the full stories using instructions to “visit the link in our bio.”

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Station Results From Our Calendar-Year-End Fundraising Survey

Membership, calendar year-end

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The last quarter of the calendar year (October-December) is a critical fundraising period for stations. With fall drives and year-end giving occurring in these months, the fundraising outcomes are important to the overall success of your program regardless of whether this period coincides with the end of a station’s fiscal year.

Last year, we began hearing a mix of optimism and concern from our members about quarter four of 2018. So we decided to survey stations to learn how 2018 came out, and preview plans for 2019.

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Case Study: How Social Ads and Kickstarter Allowed KPCC to Resurrect LAist

instagram, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, Facebook ads, digital marketing

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Back in 2012, a tiny radio show called 99% Invisible was desperate to continue production of what seemed to be a wildly popular podcast. With few options, host and creator Roman Mars popped up a page on the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter and asked his small-but-loyal fan base to keep his show in production. They answered. More than three times over.

The success of 99% Invisible’s Kickstarter campaigns captured a lot of attention in public media. Since then it’s become clear that crowdfunding isn’t ideally suited to support the overall health of a public media station. Rather, the best candidates for these campaigns are stand-alone projects over which an audience feels a sense of strong ownership, and projects that likely could not exist were they unable to meet their funding goal on Kickstarter.

KPCC (Southern California Public Radio)

In 2018, KPCC acquired a shuddered altweekly called LAist. The acquisition was part of a transformative digital strategy aimed at growing and diversifying their audience. Though they purchased the website, they needed funds and supporters to bring it back to life and incorporate the assets with existing KPCC assets: enter Kickstarter.

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Case Study: WBHM's Success Using Targeted Social Media Ads

Facebook advertising, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, digital marketing

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Last fall, WBHM 90.3 in Birmingham, Ala. ran their first paid social media ad campaign, and it led to very successful results.

The ads were direct solicitations for donations and offers to buy WBHM socks, t-shirts, and pint glasses in hopes of cultivating these individuals for membership later on. But the success lay in the use of targeting.

Targeting, as you probably know, is the magic (or creepiness) of digital ads that have been selected for people based on their past actions online. WBHM purchased targeted ads through Facebook, uploaded the email addresses of current and lapsed members, and then had Facebook target those users with ads, along with owners of email addresses they had from the NPR One database.

The owners of the ad-targeted email addresses made 279 donations totaling $32,441 during the station’s fall, 2017 membership drive. (Donations made up to one day after an ad was viewed by an individual and up to 28 days after an individual clicked through an ad were considered part of the fall, 2017 drive).

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Three Strategies to Strengthen Fundraising in an Unpredictable Economy

Membership, customer service, Social/Mobile, 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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Case Study: How KCUR Tripled its Newsletter Subscribers Using Paid Social Media Ads

Facebook advertising, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, digital marketing

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In 2017, my station, KCUR 89.3 in Kansas City, Mo., had a content-driven weekday email that highlighted important news of the day. The content was hand-curated and high-quality, and we knew it deserved a wider audience. My digital department allocated a small budget ($1,200) toward paid Facebook and Instagram ads aimed at generating email address leads. My colleagues in audience development also saw the newsletter as a major opportunity to get to know our audience as a result of the email addresses generated by their subscription to our list. Finally, we all believed we could convert many engaged readers into donors.

When the newsletter was a year old, it had 2,100 subscribers. We set this as our baseline; our goal was to grow the list by 100 percent. This felt ambitious but attainable for what was a first-time experiment. We didn’t have clear, in-house benchmarks, nor did we have easy access to paid-social metrics for our industry, so we referenced general Facebook benchmarks for success to help guide our goal. (At the time, internet research suggested $2/lead was phenomenal success for our industry.)

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Bust Your Organization's Internal Silos With an Audience-Centric Approach

PMDMC, Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, marketing, leadership, strategy

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This interactive session  was first presented by Atlantic 57 at PMDMC 2018. You can try three session exercises with your own team to explore how to put these principles into practice.

There's a division in many newsrooms today that has an impact on how well we serve our audiences. 

Most newsroom reporters and editors focus on creating content, while those in digital roles focus on distributing that content or analyzing audience analytics.

The challenge: Newsrooms are struggling to bridge the divide between old and new.

When these groups work as two teams instead of one, newsrooms struggle to bridge the divide between old ways of presenting content and the new ways in which audiences consume content. It's a gap that has a significant impact on the audience experience:

The solution: Unite your teams to serve your audiences.

Put the needs of your audiences at the center of your work. This seems like a no-brainer. And yet, many organizations are falling short of this goal. There are three key barriers that stand in the way. We'll outline what those barriers are, and how to bridge them. 

BARRIER 1: Media organizations try to be everything to everyone, everywhere.

Sound familiar? Audiences are moving across platforms at a rapid pace (think podcasting, social media, smart speakers...) Many organizations are scrambling to keep up with these platform shifts and can lose sight of the larger mission. 

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Case Study: How KWMU Generates Email Leads Using Paid Social Media

instagram, Facebook advertising, Membership, Social/Mobile, social media, digital marketing

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In 2017, St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU) Digital Media Specialist Brendan Williams made a connection that led to the station’s most successful social media experiment to date.

The station was paying an agency to, among other things, deliver brand content for their social media channels like image carousels and animated video aimed at listening options. But the investment yielded little ROI. KWMU's digital team realized they were making tons of content in-house that could be repurposed. They could easily take a portion of money they were paying the agency and divert it toward in-house experimentation in paid social media ads.

The station had an appropriate target in mind for the leads: a daily content-based email that they were looking to grow. Williams’ team had experimented enough with paid Facebook ads to know they did a pretty good job generating email leads.

So, KWMU decided to reappropriate some of its agency budget to pay for Facebook and Instagram ads promoting the station’s daily content email.

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