Focus in Public Media: Can You Answer These 3 Questions About Your Membership Program?

These 3 Questions About Your Membership Program
Date Published
Kate Ryan

My name is Kate, and I was the Membership Director at a public media station. My colleagues and I had a running joke – we were down in it. (“How you doing this morning?” “I’m down in it.” “Want to come to lunch?” “Can’t, down in it!”) What was important to me when I was down in it?

1. Were we making the most of how we communicated with donors?

You might think that a public media fundraiser would have an easy time leveraging all of the channels and communication tactics available to her. I found the opposite to be true. Given the oftentimes strapped nature of fundraising resources, making the most of all the tools available was a huge undertaking at my station. A comprehensive Touch Plan was absolutely critical to our success.

My Touch Plan tracked the donor group, channel, and execution date for each communication. By creating a Touch Plan, I was able to identify new opportunities and highlight where tactics overlap so they could be combined for efficiency. It was my bible.

2. Were we devoting the right resources to the Sustainer program?

As the Membership Director, I knew we needed to make recurring donors feel special and engaged. Because I was intimately involved with the budgeting process, I also knew that growing the Sustainer Program was more important than ever, and that soon enough we’d be playing by “Sustainer majority rules.”

My team’s goal was to inform, engage, and nurture these high-value donors. We discovered through calls and surveys what programs interested our Sustainers most, and we kept them updated with an E-newsletter. We showed how their giving had an impact on our station’s ability to thrive. We sent invitations to special events just for them. We consistently showed our appreciation and communicated why their monthly gift mattered.

The monthly giving option should be easy for the donor, not necessarily for us membership folks. How is your team and the database doing with all these recurring gifts? Are there things you wish you had but don’t? If the answers to these questions aren’t “Super!” and “Nope!” then you might make a case to management for extra resources.

3. Do the database and the team work well separately? Together?

I began my fundraising career as a database manager. I knew that having a database that was versatile and responsive was vital to fundraising efforts. Later, as Membership Director, I wanted to ensure that staff were responsible for their integrity but also felt they had the authority to “break” rules to curry favor with donors.

A team member once received a call from an unhappy Sustainer. She was steamed that she’d been charged twice in a month (her previous month’s payment had been declined – a case of the database doing its job). She’d been on the file for 26 months, and this was the first hiccup. Because the team member had the authority to break the rules, she gave the donor 2 “free” months of membership, and simultaneously turned a potentially ugly exchange into gold – we retained a Sustainer, and produced a more engaged and happy donor.

It’s hard to be down in it all the time. Your team members already have the responsibility to provide excellent customer service, so give them the authority to make great things happen.

About the Author:
Kate Ryan
Account Director, Agency Services

Role at the Company

My role involves helping fundraisers find and keep loyal donors while making a positive impact in their communities. Every day, I apply whole-brain solutions to the work I do, using analytics, creativity, and a big dose of nerd to help our clients succeed.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love data! And having client-side experience with all three divisions of AFG allows me to rev that motor in a big way.

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

Running an apocalypse-themed bowling alley and bar. Probably goat yoga. Managing my kids’ Youtube careers.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Spending time with said children, acrylic fluid painting, traveling, bowling (really!), reading, and if there’s time after, a good zombie movie.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

The first time I was ever in a plane, I jumped out. That one time I skydived was pretty cool!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

As a kid, my family went to Tablerock Lake for our summer vacation. We had a small motorboat that was just big enough for the five of us, and my brother and I learned to waterski soon enough. One morning, dad threw out the ropes and off we went. We tooled around the lake for a long time, neither of us willing to take the first fall of the day. Dad kept circling the boat, forcing us to jump the wakes – still neither of us would take the dive. Finally ran the boat entirely out of gas just outside our cove. Dad got towed back. We had to swim.

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