Executive Summary: Pledge and Google Search

  • Pledge drive response seems to be declining
  • Pledge drives function as a form of on-air advertising for the station. 
  • Since donors cannot give directly through the radio, they have to call or donate online to give. 
  • Our experience in fall 2019 suggests that potential donors are searching Google to find their local station’s website so they can donate. 
  • Conversion is high enough to produce impressive ROI results both initially and over 12-months.

Experiencing Shrinkage? 

Are you finding that your acquisition mail response rates are declining? If so, your program is not dissimilar to many doing DM acquisition across the system. But, if you have run a matchback against your DM acquisition file, you may have found that the response was better than you had thought.

For some stations, that delta is up to 35% of responses.

That’s because prospects are receiving your direct mail and are donating through your website. 

Yes, in 2020, people are giving through websites. Shocking, right? 

Our donors are no more one-dimensional than we are, but we typically count responses and attribute value by the channel through which the campaign was sent because it’s easier for us than running matchbacks across 60-90 days. As a result, we have been limiting the measurement of our direct mail efforts and allowing our colleagues in digital to claim the credit for revenue driven by direct mail.

Taken to its logical conclusion, matchbacks against all direct mail efforts across programs (acquisition, renewals, lapsed reactivation, add gift/appeal) are likely to show a similar pattern. And, I’d be prepared to bet that if done retrospectively for campaigns that ran over the past 5-10 years, the pattern is getting more pronounced as more people feel comfortable transacting online and nonprofit websites finally start becoming more mobile-friendly.

As I said, it’s only 2020 after all.

On-Air Drive Revenue Shrinking?

Which leads me to pledge (on-air drives) because we’re doing a similar thing there. We might be sophisticated enough to count donations via our websites made during the actual drive against the drive’s budgeted goal, but we’re still guilty of assuming our donors are one-dimensional.

Consider the case of a commercial marketer investing in on-air marketing, or better yet, one of your underwriters. These companies primarily use on-air for what it is good at: generating awareness of, and demand for their product or service. And secondarily for any direct response value.

Stations have been focused on the obvious direct response function of pledge drives, and missing the demand generation function. Realizing this, we recently ran a pair of paid Google search test in parallel to two of our radio clients’ October pledge drives.

The budgets were modest, but the results were very promising:

  • KJZZ 91.5 FM Phoenix spent $382.56 and raised $2,500 in initial revenue from 29 gifts.
  • Colorado Public Radio spent $1,360 and raised $7,717 in initial revenue from from 135 gifts.

Initially, KJZZ achieved a 5:1 ROI; and CPR achieved a 4:1, impressive enough for any digital campaign, but on an annualized basis, CPR’s revenue is forecast to be an even more impressive $15,384 – a whopping 10:1 ROI because of the number of monthly gifts.

The sample size remains small, so further testing is required in January/February (winter pledge) drives to gather more data.

In those tests, we plan to extend the paid search campaign to measure what demand pledge events generate beyond the end of the broadcast. Since we measure gifts against a direct mail campaign for 60-90 days, and for 48 hours after an email campaign is sent, it’s reasonable to assume that pledge also generates at least some form of tailwind.

Equally, we plan to re-test use of a “click to call” ad extension within the paid Google search ad unit (see image) for users on mobile phones, this time using a unique phone number to track conversions through. The thinking being that for radio pledge which is typically heavy morning and evening, many listeners are in traffic in their cars and Googling the station name and might find it easier to click a button to call than remember the dial-in number or struggle with their phone, a donation form and a credit card.

However, even if we discover there is no tailwind at all and no meaningful lift from click to call behavior, providing initial successes can be repeated, these results suggest that you may be leaving money on the table by not investing in paid search to capture the demand your on-air campaigns are generating.

NextGen is your strategic partner. Contact us anytime.

Reach out to NextGen VP of Business Strategy, Jay Janszen at jjanszen@nextgenfr.com to discuss how we can assist you with generating even more revenue from your next pledge/on-air drive.