If you have ever been on a ship in a storm at sea, you know how challenging it can be to maintain course while minimizing risk. 

For fundraisers, the past several years have pummeled non-profit programs with a series of storms: political chaos, economic uncertainty, emerging technology, changing donor behavior, supply chain issues, and a global pandemic. External factors can potentially capsize membership-based response and revenue on renewal mail programs. 

The Client

WHYY is the leading public media organization in the Philadelphia region, serving Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Audiences access WHYY programming on television, radio, at community events, and through digital channels. WHYY mails direct mail membership renewals on a monthly schedule to a segment of its television and radio audience, similar to a subscription model. 

The Challenge

WHYY’s membership base of 130,000 necessitates a great deal of automation to efficiently manage a cost-effective renewal campaign. At the same time, a “set it and forget it” approach could leave the station looking irrelevant, or worse: tone-deaf. Renewal messaging themes must be timely, relevant, and authentic while also ensuring production revisions don’t delay mailings.  

Additional factors:

  • WHYY’s rapid growth of Sustainers (nearly 60% of members give monthly) has led to a smaller quantity of non-sustainer members receiving direct mail each month. 
  • WHYY invested in digital properties and has seen strong response and exponential growth on digital properties. 

NextGen knew we needed to develop a strategy to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of WHYY’s renewal mail program. 

The Solution

To best tailor content to different audiences and prospect segments (TV/Radio/Both) we printed WHYY renewals digitally. This allows for added flexibility to respond to evolving messaging and the option to adapt WHYY’s messaging to resonate with external events.  

Constant and consistent performance analysis across the entire program and individual segments provides contextual insight for campaign reporting. While the data is critical, our ability to interpret results, optimize materials, and tactically pivot is essential.  

Our strategic approach included: 

  • Reduced ask strings during the height of the economic fallout from the pandemic.
  • Aggressively increased ask strings based on higher average gifts (even if fewer people were giving).

NextGen also incorporated QR codes to provide a frictionless path to online donation forms. We added a section to the reply slip—Four Easy Ways to Give—to provide a robust array of multichannel renewal options so donors could define their engagement experience. 

The Results

The WHYY renewal mail Gross Revenue per Thousand pieces mailed hit its highest point in six years. The renewal program is performing as well as ever despite declines in mail quantity and the overall WHYY fundraising program continues to grow. WHYY is outpacing many of its peers in public media and across the nonprofit sector. 

  • At $81, average gifts are also at their highest point over the past six years. 
  • Response rates have held steady, allaying concerns over a shrinking membership pool. 

NextGen’s attention to WHYY member preferences, program needs, and revenue performance is demonstrated by these strong results. In early 2024, NextGen took the next step and implemented an entire creative refresh across the program with the goal of improved response, relevance, and results. 

About NextGen Fundraising

NextGen is a thought leader and knowledge resource in the nonprofit industry. We advise clients at all levels of the organization and we know from experience that fundraising works best when it is aligned with mission, financial, and marketing strategies and goals.

For us, strategy drives the tactics—not the other way around. Our agency creates information-driven fundraising plans rooted in a culture of analysis. We embrace new technology and believe successful nonprofits transform through the coordination of media and a commitment to multichannel donor relationships.

The NextGen team is composed of strategists and specialists in fundraising, direct response, and digital marketing services. Most of us have worked and volunteered at nonprofits, giving us a distinct perspective on how organizations operate. 

Most importantly, we know that when we and our clients are successful, good things happen in the world.

To learn more about our work, check out our services or contact us today.