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Study: Where Do Pubmedia Stations Rank in Online Donations?



By Betsy Gerdeman | Sr. VP for PBS Development Services

Dunham + Company and Next After recently completed an in-depth study of nonprofit online fundraising practices, from email signup to donation landing pages. The study found that, overall, Public Broadcasting Stations scored a B-. We thought stations would greatly benefit from knowing and fully understanding these findings, so we broke the overall score down into its respective categories, with accompanied explanations below. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to reach out.


Email Registration: C
How easy/obvious is it for visitors to your site to sign up for email updates?

This measures how easy it is for users to sign up for emails on your website. There is a direct correlation between the number of email addresses an organization has and the amount of money they raise online. 

In short, more email addresses equal more money. It should take less than 10 seconds and fewer than two clicks for a visitor to figure out how to sign up for email updates on your website.


Email Communication: C
How often do you contact your newsletter subscribers after they sign up? 
Do your promotional emails have a clear call to action? 
Do you perform regular tests to improve the performance of your newsletters?

This measures the frequency and quality of email communications someone receives once they sign up for the organization’s newsletter. New subscribers should receive at least one email within the first 30 days after subscribing. Ideally, they should get a welcome series of 2-3 emails.

The emails themselves should have a recognizable From line (like the name of the organization) with a real reply-to email address (like your member services or audience services mailbox). Additionally, emails promoting pledge, an event, or an online fundraising campaign should have a single call to action that is clearly stated at the beginning of the email and with a call-to-action button.


Online Donation Experience
How many clicks does it take for users to donate on your website?
Does your donation page have one clear call to action?
Is your donation page mobile-friendly?

This section wasn’t broken down by industry, but overall, the study found that most donation landing pages require 3 or more clicks for donors to make a donation. The more a donor has to click, the more likely they are to leave the page and not make a donation.

Additionally, most donation pages are non-mobile-friendly, making it nearly impossible for subscribers to donate if they open your fundraising email on their smartphone.

On the plus side, most nonprofits have a single, clear call to action on their donation page as well as an indication that the donation page is secure, so donors feel comfortable putting in their credit card information.


Gift Acknowledgement
Do you send a thank-you email to your donors?
Do you provide your donors with a “next step” to deepen their engagement?

Overall, the vast majority of nonprofits send thank-you emails after an online donation is made. However, most organizations do not have a next step for a donor to take. 

One simple next step is to ask them to share the fact that they chose to support your organization on their social networks. This increases the donor’s relationship with you and promotes your organization within their network, which could lead to additional donations.


All in all, Public Broadcasting Stations are doing an adequate job with their online fundraising, but there is room for improvement. You can download the entire report here to see examples of best practices in newsletter sign ups, email communications, donation pages, and gift acknowledgement.


Would you like some help assessing the state of your station’s online fundraising program? Contact Michelle Chaplin at mlchaplin@pbs.org or 703-739-5260. Michelle Chaplin also contributed to this article.