Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best of Public Radio 2008 Update

The Best of 2008 fundraising special aired on more than 70 stations today. The overall response was good.

As of 6p (et), the special, hosted by Wait Wait Don't Tell Me's Peter Sagal and Performance Today's Fred Child, has generated 1,597 contributions and $130,006 for stations through a special website,

Many stations reported increased contributions at their local websites and some stations were receiving pledges over the phone. We do not yet know how much came in through other sources in response to the special, though it appears to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The special was part of a larger end of year campaign that included direct mail, eblasts, and on-air spots promoting web giving. Some stations reported increases in YTD end of year giving of up to $10,000 through these channels.

We didn't know what to expect from this experiment. The on-air fundraising special was very different from most pledge drives.
  • All but 6 minutes of each hour was national content, with Peter and Fred doing most of the asking.
  • The special preempted regular programming with "best of" moments from 2008.
  • It's a holiday weekend.
  • It was a web-based fundraiser, promoting on-line giving. On-line giving represents about 1/3 of revenues received during regular fund drives.
  • The website was new to listeners.
  • All gifts had to be made with a credit card. No invoice pledges were accepted. Today's totals represent money in the bank.
  • There were no premiums, challenge grants, hourly goals, or sweepstakes.

Some stations did exceptionally well. Others received very little response at all from the same programming and fundraising messages.

The average gift, from the same on-air appeals, ranged from around $40 to $127. The overall average was just over $80, which is what we typically see at stations that don't use premiums.

Technically, the day went extremely well. There were very few glitches.

There's a lot to review and a lot to learn from today's special. We'll report back to you as we have more information.

I believe we can build on today's success to create better fundraising for stations in the future. Thanks to NPR, PRI, APM, Public Interactive, DEI, Peter Sagal, Fred Child, Ira Glass, the Car Guys, Matt Martinez (our producer), Jay Clayton, and Sonja Lee for their help.

And many thanks to the more than 70 stations willing to try something new.

Labels: , , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

$130,000 across 70 stations is $1,850 per station. The special was 3-hours long as I recall. That's roughly $600/hour per station on average, which is a pretty weak return for ditching format on a strong Saturday morning to run the special. Smaller stations would have seen an even weaker return. I don't know that I would call that response "good."

5:57 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Here's why the results are being characterized as "good."

On-air fundraising success can be evaluated in the context of the available audience.

The peak hours of the special were 10a-12n (et). That's when collectively; the participating stations had a Saturday AQH of about 600,000 listeners for each hour.

Using industry benchmarks, an average result for 600,000 AQH listeners would be between $120,000and $150,000.

Between 25% and 33% of that would come in over the web. That's $30,000 to $50,000 per hour.

These would have been the peak hours. When we projected results out over all the AQH audience that would hear the program over the course of the weekend, we thought the minimum results for the project should be between $225,000 and $250,000.

The totals in the first blog piece were given before all stations had finished fundraising. We learned throughout the day that tens of thousands of dollars had been donated directly to local station sites.

We thought the total would exceed $150,000 and we thought that was good given all the new approaches incorporated into the project.

There's a lot to build on, especially the idea that more than 1,000 hours of local fundraising effort were eliminated during the raising of this money. We are learning to raise money collaboratively with less effort. That's a good thing.

And the news continues to get better. As of 7:30p Monday, 2,079 listeners have donated $172,295 through the national website. As we hear more from stations about giving to their local sites, we expect the grand total to approach $220,000... within $5,000 of our minimum expectation, which were developed using benchmarks for traditional fundraising.

The project got close to average response without premiums, challenges, sweepstakes, and all credit card contributions. Every dollar reported is money already in the bank.

Now that we know more about potential response, we can look into a national call center to take telephone contributions with confidence that it can be staffed appropriately and at reasonable cost. That could triple the results.

There are conversations about incorporating text giving into the process. We’ve received very good, constructive feedback and criticism from participating stations.

So, yes, I would characterize the results of the special as “good.” Add to it the donors and money stations earned through the other fundraising materials they received (direct mail, eblasts, on-air spots) and I would characterize the overall experiment as a success.

Like just about anything, it worked great for some stations and not so well for others.

We’re getting ready to survey stations, donors, and listeners who did not donate to the program. Through their responses we will learn more about how to make future efforts great for everyone.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The figures you are posting are gross donations, correct? What were the costs of producing and distributing this fundraising special and how are they being paid?

1:25 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Glad you asked. The total revenue donated to the site is now just over $180,000. Based on emails from stations, we believe the total dollars donated because of the special will exceed $225,000. We will gather station results more formally in the coming week.

Direct production costs for the Best of Public Radio Special will come in at around $25,000, including setting up the website. That's 11-cents to raise a dollar, which is very good for a first-time effort. We would expect revenues to triple in future efforts by adding a toll-free number. That would drop the cost to somewhere between 4 and 5 cents to raise a dollar.

This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that the on-air special was part of a multi-media campaign. Stations were also provided with direct mail letters, on-air solicitation scripts, and eblasts as part of their EOY campaigns. We only have partial data on those results but we know several stations increased EOY revenues outside of the on-air special by $10,000 or more. Some stations report making several thousand dollars on their websites between 10p and 12m on 12/31.

We want to thank NPR, APM, and PRI for providing seed money for the project. Stations also paid between $250 and $2,000 to participate. The fees were set so stations would make at least 5 times their investment if they used at least two components of the service. Anecdotal information suggests that will be the case. A station survey is in the works and we will report out gross and net figures when we have them.

All vendors and consultants working on the project worked on flat fees. Surplus project revenues will be reinvested as seed money for future efforts.

9:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home