In latest CDP analysis, radio stations continue to see fundraising declines

Median among public broadcasters tracked by CDP Membership Income for the three-month period from November to January is up 2.6% year-on-year. While the overall trend is down, there are signs of a sales recovery, including positive year-end results. It is important to note that the overall trend is driven by TV/joint licensee channels, up 3.2%. Radio stations recorded a slight decrease of 1.7%. Unlike other months, station size does not affect the performance of this index this month.

While these results are encouraging, it’s too early to tell if they point to a continued upward trend in channel revenues. Also, as noted above, these increases were primarily driven by positive results for TV/joint stations, while radio stations continue to post declines across all four indices. The hope is that coverage of these broader trends will provide channels with valuable insight and context as they adapt their fundraising strategies to market forces.

One of the most pressing issues facing public media fundraising programs systemwide, attracting new donors, continued its downward trend with a 5.1% decline New donors compared to the same three-month period in the previous year. While there is still cause for concern, it represents a significant improvement compared to the last reporting period when it was down 13%.

The continued decline in donor acquisition over the past 12+ months is a key indicator of member file size and revenue in the near future – any improvement in performance will have a significant positive impact on a station’s future. Declines in acquisitions have affected stations of all sizes and license types. However, channel size was a factor here, with large channels performing better (down 1.9%) than medium and small channels (down 8.1% and 10.1% respectively). This difference is likely due to continued investment by major broadcasters in a diverse, multi-faceted donor acquisition strategy.

While sustainer Giving is up 6.1% overall, with station licensee types separated by a significant gap. TV/co-licensing channels grew 9%, while radio stations were essentially flat (down 0.1%).

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For TV and joint licensees, passport continues to play a key role in donor acquisition and sustainer growth, with the Passport Index showing an 18.2% increase in users during the reporting period. As previously mentioned, viewing Passports correlates with member retention and engagement. Although double-digit gains show continued strength, the overall pace of growth has slowed. It’s worth noting that small stations add significantly more Passport donors compared to their larger counterparts.

The High dollar index reflecting the ongoing challenges and opportunities associated with raising large donations, showing a slight increase of 0.6% over the three-month period. Broken down by license type, TV/joint stations grew 3.2%, while pure radio stations saw a 3.6% decline – the opposite in terms of performance.

This monthly report on public media station fundraising performance is provided through an editorial collaboration between Current and Contributor Development Partnership (CDP). The collaboration relies on CDP’s National Reference File, which collects monthly membership and revenue data from more than 170 public media stations. (Read more about the methodology.)

Michal Heiplik is President and Co-Founder of the Contributor Development Partnership, a Boston-based nonprofit corporation that provides fundraising solutions, marketing strategy, technology innovation, and data and analytics services to more than 230 public radio and television stations. A 20-year veteran of public broadcaster development, he has extensive experience in database management, membership development and identifying effective fundraising practices.


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