By Jay Clayton, Individual Giving Coordinator, DEI
December is the biggest philanthropic month of the year in the United States, but the vast majority of public radio stations don’t take full advantage of the season. Although you’re probably in the thick of planning or conducting your fall fundraiser, now is the time to build your plan for year-end fundraising on-air and off.
Why step up your year-end giving efforts?
- Almost half of all charities (46%) receive between 30 and 60 percent of their annual contributions between October and December, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals 2009 Holiday Giving Survey
- Philanthropic giving peaks from October to December, according to figures tracked by Philantromax. Contributions made in October 2010 totaled more than $27.5 billion; by December the monthly total climbed to $28 billion. No other month in 2010 exceeded $27 billion although March and April reached that level.
Public radio stations tend to hold their big fundraising campaigns in the spring and fall. As the chart above shows, these are strong months for philanthropic giving. Stations that hold three fundraisers a year tend to schedule the third one in June because it coincides with the end of the fiscal year for the vast majority of licensees.
A June drive makes sense from the perspective of a station working to close its books in the black, but from a pure fundraising point of view the timing couldn’t be worse. June is the smallest Philanthropic month of the year with about $26.25 billion given away, according the numbers provided by Philanthromax.
The difference in the amount of money given away in June vs. December reflects a trend in philanthropy that public radio has largely overlooked.
This summer DEI and NPR surveyed more than 4,000 members of four public radio stations -- WBEZ Chicago, KEXP Seattle, WNYC New York and New Hampshire Public Radio -- to help fundraisers at all stations increase their understanding of listeners’ giving behavior and the impact of time of year on giving decisions.
The survey compares the responses of listeners who gave in December and those who gave earlier in the year.
Here are two key findings:
- When asked what factors most influenced WHEN they gave, December donors were more likely (39%) to give at the same time every year than donors who gave at other times (28%).
- Listeners who gave in December were more likely (27%) to give to their station when they were giving to other charities compared to donors who gave at other times (8%).
In other words, a significant number of donors only give in December. Fundraising 101 reminds us that people give only when asked.
Beyond generating short-term revenue for stations, an on-air fundraiser provides a foundation for a station to build its entire membership program as listeners who start out giving during the pledge drive continue their giving through off-air means. In this sense pledge drives create giving “seasons.” Public radio’s two biggest giving seasons are spring and fall.
Adding a third fundraising season in December or moving a June drive to December would enable public radio to capture its share of contributions from donors who give only at the end of the year. That population of donors is huge, according to Network for Good, an organization that tracks online giving in the U.S.
According to its 2010 survey:
- A third of all online donations last year were made in December
- 22 percent were made in the last two days of the year
- Online giving happens primarily at work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. local time
Consider these advantages to year-end fundraising vs. fiscal year-end fundraising:
- Fishing where the fish are
- More listener-focused campaign
- Stronger message
- More efficient conversion of listening to donors and dollars
- Improved station cash flow
- Station better positioned to meet annual fundraising goal
DEI’s Benchmarks for Public Radio Fundraising have shown consistently that top performing stations have three or more on-air fundraisers per year. More giving opportunities yield more givers and more givers translate to stations reaching their full fundraising potential.
Many stations build their year-end campaigns around only mail, email and on-air spots instead of following the approaches that work effectively in the fall and spring. Adding a pledge drive to the mix in December would take full advantage of the year-end giving season, raising money on par with what stations raise in the fall and spring and better positioning them to achieve their full fundraising potential.
For more information on year-end giving, please contact Jay Clayton at 781-598-8822.