The Situation

Like many nonprofit organizations, Nine Network, a public television station serving the St. Louis region, was looking for ways to increase the number of donors participating in its sustainer program. In past years, the station relied primarily upon on-air pledges to drive the growth of its monthly-giving program. However, more recently Nine Network had discontinued these on-air efforts and looked for alternative methods to grow and develop its sustainers.

The Test

DMW Fundraising recognized an opportunity to boost Nine Network’s sustainer program by testing a direct mail sustainer conversion appeal targeted to selected active donors — those who had given more than one gift in the last year, those who had renewed at least once in a given time period, and those flagged as wanting to receive “less mail.”

Nearly 4,000 members were mailed a package that featured a “make the switch” teaser and light switch graphic on the outer envelope. The enclosed letter thanked the donor for their current support and encouraged him or her to “make the switch” to a sustaining membership. Suggested monthly and quarterly installment amounts based on a donors’ giving history were included on both the letter and reply device, which allowed respondents to pay by credit card.

The Results

  • Nine Network was thrilled to find that all metrics exceeded projections.  Nearly 1.30% of donors converted to a sustaining membership, with an average gift of $135.60 (or $11.30 per month). As an added bonus, 44% of the total gross revenue came from donors who responded with a one-time additional gift. With an average gift of $100.58, these one-time donations more than covered the cost of the entire mailing.
  • As a result of this successful campaign, Nine Network has committed to regular, quarterly, sustainer conversion mailings for the balance of the fiscal year and beyond. Future testing plans include the incorporation of a follow-up email, which is projected to lift the overall response, and an EFT payment option.
average sustainer gift per month