Persistence Pays Off: APT’s growing e-renewal program helps the station reach new heights

Date Published
06/09/2020
Author
Leanne Barkley

Alabama Public Television (APT) has been a longtime client of AFG’s Agency Services team. Throughout the duration of our partnership, we have successfully managed APT’s monthly membership renewal program by providing strategy, creative, digital services, direct mail production, and results reporting.

Even today — when growing sustainer files and multi-channel communications make it convenient for donors to renew by several means — we have seen APT’s renewal program performance improve year-over-year for the past three years due to the thoughtful incorporation of a digital e-renewal series.

Program Scope

APT’s renewal program has developed over the course of many years, benefiting from the strategic learning gained from results analysis, as well as AFG’s collective experience working with public media stations across the country.

Like most mature, long-standing membership organizations, APT had successfully managed its renewals through traditional methods for many, many years. In fact, it was not until FY17 that APT first began incorporating a 3-part e-renewal series into its renewal strategy.

Today, the station’s current renewal program includes a series of 7 direct mail efforts and 7 corresponding email notices. Copy and creative are coordinated between the traditional and digital efforts. This consistency in messaging ensures that both channels work to support each other. The email series deploy on the 25th of each month, while the mail arrives in homes about 1 to 2 weeks thereafter depending on the speed of delivery.

Results

Initial Results: Years One & Two

When the e-renewal notices first launched in FY17 we saw strong results, with the series generating a 30% open rate, a 14% click-through rate, and a 6% conversion rate. These initial metrics were promising; therefore, we expanded upon our activity in the spring of 2018 by adding two more email efforts, for a total of 5 notices.
This seemingly simple action of adding 2 more e-renewal efforts resulted in an 81% increase in online renewal revenue compared to the 3-part series from the previous year. At the same time, we saw a correlation in the results, with the expanded e-renewal series having a halo effect on the direct mail performance — increasing gross income by 12% compared to the prior year.
All told, total gross for APT’s renewal program grew by 20% in FY18 compared to FY17 due to a better overall response. What’s more, APT’s renewal rate increased by more than 7% in FY18, helping to renew more than 1,000 additional members over the same period compared to the prior year.

Year Three Results: Simply Outstanding

Since the additional email communications did not cause any adverse effects on APT’s key performance indicators (such as open rates, click-through rates, the number of unsubscribes, response rates, etc.), we continued to round out the series in FY19 by adding 2 final notices so that every effort in the series included both a direct mail letter and an email notice.

What we saw in the results at the close of FY19 was simply outstanding.

Total gross revenue and the total number of renewing donors for the combined direct mail and email efforts was nearly flat compared to the prior year. Under normal circumstances, you might not find these types of results to be compelling. However, there are two important background factors at play that will sway your opinion in a big way.

First, as with most public television stations, APT has shown a surge in its number of sustaining donors since the introduction of Passport. The station experienced slower adoption rates as compared to others across the country and therefore we did not start to see the “sustainer effect” (a decrease in the number of donors who qualify for renewal due to more members making the switch to recurring giving) take hold in APT’s program until just recently. For FY19, there was a 14% decrease in the number of donors who were up for renewal compared to the previous year.

This meant that we had a significantly smaller pool of donors to send through the direct mail and email renewal series over the course of the year. Even with this smaller audience, donors still responded in earnest.

The APT renewals, crafted by Allegiance Fundraising in partnership with the station, worked to generate just as much gross revenue as in the prior year, despite a significant drop in mail volume, due to a 10% increase in response and a 5% increase in the average gift size!

The second factor that makes these results that much more impressive is that in FY19 we paused the e-renewal notices in the months of November and December so as not to over-solicit donors during a key fundraising time when we had other digital communications plans in place, including a Giving Tuesday email series as well as a robust calendar-year-end email series. The direct mail letters still mailed as planned during this time, but we forewent the e-renewals to avoid superfluity. Even so, when the results were tallied we found that e-renewal revenue was still up by 9% over the prior year. 

At the close of FY19, we saw the culmination of APT’s three-year e-renewal journey take hold.

With our comprehensive, multi-channel renewal program fully up and running, APT’s renewal rate for this program increased by 28% over the course of three years.

APT is now well on its way to improving overall file retention rates into the foreseeable future.

About the Author:
Leanne Barkley
Account Manager, Agency Services

My role is to work closely with our clients to create and execute successful fundraising campaigns. Some of my responsibilities include developing annual budgets, providing creative and strategic recommendations, analyzing campaign results reports, and ensuring that my clients have everything they need to maximize their program’s fundraising potential.

Years of experience in the industry

12+

What excites you about your work at AFG?

Our clients are the best! I feel incredibly lucky to work with several outstanding organizations across that country that have a very real and important impact in their local communities.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Spending time with my family outdoors – we love kayaking, going on hikes, doing yard work (admittedly, I might be the only one who likes the yard work), camping, etc. Just get me out in the fresh air and I’m happy.

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