Online Giving: AOL-PBS Promotion

by Rachel Lim, PBS Station Products & Innovation

In a recent blog post, we discussed some of the national trends that signal online giving is on the rise. To highlight some of the initiatives taking place at PBS around online giving, we caught up with Keith Brengle, Director of Online Giving, who weighed in on a recent experiment and partnership between the PBS Interactive Prosper initiative and AOL Impact’s Charitable Causes program.

Last Tuesday, July 26th, the PBS online giving team ran a quick 24 hour AOL/PBS promotion on the homepage in the “Daily Impact” area. Users were asked to answer the question, “What Do You Love About PBS?” and were redirected to a landing page where they inputted their responses and included their names and email addresses.

According to Keith Brengle, this project functioned as an “experimental testing bed” allowing PBS to “ideally acquire prospects in the smartest way.”

 “We used this opportunity to do two things,” explained Keith. “We wanted to acquire content for upcoming PBS campaigns. And we wanted to start building the contact record database with qualified names.”

For example, user-generated answers obtained from the experiment could provide testimonial content for an upcoming campaign that would highlight PBS’s educational resources. Consider the impact potential of the following quote that a user submitted:

“I love the videos. Students have such a small world view and it is in the classroom that we are able to bring new concepts to them. PBS does a wonderful job of giving visuals of the concepts we are trying to teach. The concept comes to life and the student's understanding of what is being taught is multiplied.”

Not only is such feedback wonderfully uplifting, it also illustrates the lasting value of the PBS brand. Indeed, the experiment points toward ways we can use the interactive space to tease out the value of PBS, which is one of the goals for future partnerships with AOL: the Online Giving Team’s second promotion will revolve around a personality quiz that matches users’ personality with PBS shows.

"We are in the early stages of figuring out how to tap into the potential of the AOL relationship specifically for Prosper and reaching new audiences," said Keith. “We're also seeing new ways to diversify the online experiences we offer."

We agree with Keith. This promotion demonstrates the viability of the interactive space in building infrastructure around both local and national content. Although many users responded that they loved PBS staples like NOVA, NewsHour and Antiques Roadshow, many others gave shout outs to regional shows like California Gold as favorites.

Ultimately, as this project goes forward, we’ll be able to report back with more details on this upcoming promotion. Next week, we’ll catch up with Keith again to provide an update on the new Prosper platform that launched July 18th.

Has your station experimented with online interaction, or asked for user-generated feedback? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


  1. Why no statistics about how many names were gathered? While nice comments are appreciated, ultimately it's the number of names acquired and the rate of conversion to contributors that will determine if this is successful.

  2. Steve, thank you for your comments. Although AOL has loads of traffic to their portal, these placements don’t get many clicks (roughly 3K visits to the PBS page, just under 100 submissions). The point here is that we are starting to form relationships with some of the bigger players in the media space that will, over time, start to pay off for the overall PBS system. Simple banners aren’t the end goal here...but it’s a start to build on.

    Stations, please continue sharing your thoughts! We love to hear from you.