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Case Study: Acquiring New Sustainers through Digital Marketing & Fundraising Strategies

PBS partnered with 11 stations to launch a targeted, four-week digital-only campaign to promote PBS core programming anywhere – anytime on any platform. Although the bulk of station donations still come from on-air pledge, these sources are becoming less reliable as audiences continue to make the transition from broadcast to digital streaming.

To help bridge this gap, PBS and stations found an opportunity to reach these audiences by acquiring new sustainers through a Roku pilot program that encouraged stations to test digital fundraising strategies that are often more cost-effective and targeted.

For the Digital Sustainer Acquisition Campaign, PBS provided stations Roku streaming sticks and marketing materials, allowing them to experiment with a digital fundraising channel with reduced risk to acquire and cultivate new sustainers. The results were encouraging

Highlights of the campaign include:
  • 467 new sustainers acquired with annualized value of more than $60k
  • 8% increase in total number of new sustainers acquired online
  • 3-to-1 annualized return on investment for the system 
In addition, the seven stations that cross-promoted the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and their websites experienced a 26% increase in new sustainers. Better still, the campaign experienced email open and conversion rates that were above public television benchmarks.


Building Momentum for New Digital Strategies
For a more in-depth analysis of the results, 
please visit the full case study here.


Based on the results, it’s no surprise the campaign was well-received by participating stations. In fact, stations encouraged the continued investment by PBS to provide the tools, resources, and premiums for stations to acquire new, online sustaining donors. 

The campaign was a unique opportunity to enable stations to experiment with the digital fundraising channel prior to pledge. By effectively removing the barrier to entry—the cost of Rokus— stations were able to test fundraising strategies they may not have otherwise undertaken, while also getting better acquainted with new digital strategies for future member-acquisition and retention.


Interested in the Next Roku Sustainer Cohort?
PBS is planning to launch the next Digital Sustainer Acquisition Campaign in early 2016. Exact dates have not been confirmed, but we are gauging interest by asking stations to submit an intake form. There are a limited number of Rokus to provide to stations for this campaign, so space is limited. Encouraged by the results we saw this past July, we hope to build on the great work from the first cohort and share results with the system.

Natasha Hilton | Senior Associate | Development Services 

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