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Jun 14, 2007
Case Study

How NPR Affiliate Raised $122K Online in One Day

SUMMARY: Many fundraisers still have a reputation for the wrong kind of green when it comes to online donations, which means opportunities are endless. The median rate of growth in funds raised online was 27% in 2006, according to a Convio study of the nonprofit industry.

See how a National Public Radio affiliate turned a four-day pledge drive into a streamlined one-day online promotion that blew their old donation record out of the water.
“We wanted an extra bump in fundraising to go along with our yearlong efforts,” says Melissa Sickles, Marketing Director, WPLN, National Public Radio, Nashville. “The station needed another channel to touch our audience after they had turned off their radios. That’s the major thing I went looking for.”

Indeed, six years ago, they were still using the pitch: “If you like our station’s brand of news and music and want it to continue, please fork over some cash.” To replace that, Sickles launched a four-day “ePledge” initiative, which consisted of four parts:
o Prize giveaway (ranging from electronics gadgets to vacation getaways)
o Pledge button on the homepage
o Web form
o On-air radio mentions

Although the drive was moderately successful, not much changed -- only a small percentage (in the low single digits) of the station’s listeners were actually donating. Sickles knew she needed to tighten the window and incorporate email and their Web site more to take it to the next level.

Sickles and her team kept the parts of the four-day campaign that they liked and began working on the rest. Here are the six key steps they followed:

-> Step #1. Turn pledge drive into 28-hour promotion

To create a sense of urgency, they made the ePledge into a one-day-only promotion that ran from 6 a.m. one day to 10 a.m. the following day. This way they had two consecutive rush-hour morning drives to promote it. “We didn’t want them to be able to put it off for too long.”

-> Step #2. Feature giveaway on the homepage

In mid-February, they added a picture button (160x93 pixels) on the homepage highlighting the vacation sweepstakes prize of six nights for two in Paris. Those who clicked on the button were taken to a donations page and told that they could contribute and be immediately entered into the sweepstakes.

“We weren’t sure how Paris would do because it was our first time trying that destination," she says. "We had seen [unsatisfactory] results in the past for different kinds of getaway sweeps."

They also created a “Pledge Now” button for email and sized it at 59x58 pixels.

-> Step #3. More on-air promotion blasts

Next, they had the DJs mention the ePledge on air (typically once an hour in the two weeks prior, then more as the date approached) and they played prerecorded spots. On the actual day, they encouraged listeners even more frequently to pledge online, although the on-air pitches were very short and did not interrupt programming in the way that many promotions can.

-> Step #4. Reminder email

On the morning of the drive, Sickle and her team sent an email reminder to subscribers and members. The email used imagery of Paris and was delivered at 11 a.m. to take advantage of potential lunch-hour office downtime.

“We wanted to fill the void between when they hear the pledge spot on the radio on their morning drive and when they actually have a chance to act on the idea."

-> Step #5. Link email to donations page

Along with a Pledge Now button in the campaign email, they included two links to the donations page to give recipients multiple opportunities while reading the 210-word offer letter.

To drive traffic, they hyperlinked all pages to the donations page:
o the “Thank You” gifts page
o the page that let people enter the sweepstakes without donating money
o the contest rules page

-> Step #6. Build email list

Sickles also sought to increase their house list by requiring an email address to enter the sweepstakes (those who donated and those who didn’t) and letting people opt in to receive their email newsletter.


Reducing the drive to a one-day promotion and integrating the rest of the campaign proved to be a smart move. The initial tests brought in around $65,000, but a few tries later they were up to $100,000, setting new one-day online records for the station. Sickles was thrilled and thought the full rollout might bring in about the same. She was wrong: they raised more than $122,000.

Needless to say, ePledge has become a permanent part of their fundraising. "Obviously, we need to continuously raise money all year, but it’s a great shot in the arm and an incredible success for being a one-day event,” Sickles says. “The ePledge buttons and email combination have really resonated with our demographic.”

The email sent on the day of the drive had a 25.2% open rate, 13.6% clickthrough rate and 6.79% conversion-to-donation rate. Now, about 10% of the station’s overall audience has donated, which Sickles says is “considerably” higher than before, while the number of people pledging online has more than doubled.

Other stats:
o 31.7% clicked to enter the sweepstakes. “A lot of those were people who were already donors. Many of the ones who weren’t opted into our email list.”
o 22.2% clicked on the first donations link (appearing as “make a contribution” in the copy).
o 13.4% clicked on the second donations link (“secure online pledge form”).
o 13.3% clicked on the ‘Pledge Now’ button.
o 5.9% clicked to simply read the contest rules.
o 3.4% clicked on the top banner, which featured images of Paris.
o 1.1% clicked on the ‘Thank You’ gifts link.

Putting those extra links to the donations page worked -- 48.9% of those who opened the email clicked on one of the links leading to that page. “I think putting it in front of their face three times made a huge difference,” Sickles says.

The ePledge emails drove traffic to their Web site as March was’s busiest month this year, and the campaign helped build Sickles’ email list in impressive fashion, doubling the number of names in their house list in two years.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples of WPLN’s ePledge drive:

Emma Inc. - their email services provider:


See Also:

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