What We Learned From Making Secret Online Donations to Public Media Organizations

Membership, email, online giving

Leave a comment

The disruption in listening and giving habits during the pandemic have made public media online giving and engagement mission-critical.

We know that the online giving experience that we create for donors directly affects the number of completed donations, size of gift, and the decision to give again.

In order to help public media organizations raise more revenue online, our colleagues at NextAfter Institute for Online Fundraising made online donations to 69 public media stations of different sizes across the country, and then observed online interactions for the 45 days that followed. 

There were many interesting findings and stats. We organized them into a “scorecard” that also offers concrete and essential ways every public media organization can improve the online giving process in order to raise more money online.

Here are the most important findings that all stations can act upon:

All stations, regardless of size, can improve their online giving experience and communications. The average public radio station online giving score was 41% which was lower than PBS peers (47%) and quite a bit lower than other nonprofits (55%).

Almost all stations can do better at communicating during the giving experience why a donation is needed and what impact it will have. Just one out of 10 stations (12%) had a “strong” value proposition or reason to give on their donation page. 

The mobile giving experience, while functional, has a lot of room to improve. While almost all stations had a mobile-friendly experience (94%), only 57% were fully mobile-responsive compared to 75% of PBS stations and 94% of other nonprofits.

Not many stations are using their thank-you or confirmation page after a donation in an intentional way. Just one in four public radio stations (28%) expanded on the impact and use of a donation on their thank-you page and almost half (45%) offered no additional action for the donor to take.

Other than a few stations, public radio stations aren’t sending a lot of post-donation email, even though their email volume has increased during COVID-19.
The average public radio station sent us three emails in 45 days. This average includes a doubling of the average number of emails after March 12th, 2020.

Public radio stations had a higher ratio of cultivation email relative to solicitation email compared to other nonprofits. But not all stations were sending cultivation-specific emails. We received 2.5 cultivation emails for every one solicitation email, which is higher than other nonprofits (1.5) but almost half (42%) of stations sent us no cultivation-focused emails within 45 days of our donation.

[Continued below...]

New call-to-action

The majority of emails sent did not look or read like they were from a person.
Nine out of 10 (89%) of the emails sent by public radio stations were sent from the organization only (as opposed to from a person at the station, or containing a person and the station in the sender line). This is much higher than other nonprofits (74%).

As a result of these findings, the best ways public media organizations can improve the overall online giving experience and email communications that follow are: 

1. Put yourselves in the shoes of a donor once a quarter.

Make a test donation to your own page and, as best as you can,  to look for things that are broken or could be improved.

2. Share why a donation is needed today.

Use more copy on a donation page to demonstrate why a donation is needed and how it will be put to use.

3. Optimize for mobile.

Update giving pages to eliminate radio buttons, add better form spacing and padding, and eliminate steps and decisions wherever possible.

4. Make good use of your thank-you page.

Make sure the thank-you page reinforces the impact of the donation and provide a clear next step/action.

5. Reduce the length of follow-up emails.

Try sending more emails that talk about one thing as opposed to fewer emails that talk about multiple things.

6. Follow donations with more cultivation-only emails.

Deliver more news, stories, and updates on the impact of gifts in emails where that’s the main goal and focus.

7. Improve email tone.

Try sending emails from a person, not from the organization, and consider being more human and personal in tone and copy.

New call-to-action

← Previous PostThree Ways to Stop Sabotaging Your Own Growth Next Post →Leadership for the Now Generation