Matching Gift yields twice the net revenue as longstanding control for Austin PBS.

Matching Gift yields twice the net revenue as longstanding control for Austin PBS.
Date Published
Kate Ryan

In fall 2019, Austin PBS, the public television station in Austin, TX, was the recipient of a generous matching gift from a couple of longtime viewers and supporters who believe in the power of public television and its ability to deliver the truth without bias. 

Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, the station tested a direct mail package specifically designed to promote this offer against its control package
to active donors.

The Matching Gift test segment yielded 78% more gross revenue than the control…
The Matching Gift package was a 2-page letter mailed in a white #10 envelope with a jumbo window through which the donor could see elements of a stylized matching gift voucher that functioned as the reply slip. The letter featured a headline personalized with the donor’s name, which prominently promoted the matching gift opportunity. A September 30 deadline added urgency to the offer.

The longtime control was also a #10 statement-type window envelope package. A pinkish reply slip with the headline Member Contribution Form showed through the window. The letter copy focused on the costs of programs that members enjoy and how much the donor’s support matters.

Both packages used the same variable ask string based on the donor’s prior giving, while the matching gift package highlighted how the donor’s gift would be matched dollar for dollar.

The Results:

The Matching Gift test segment yielded 78% more gross revenue than the
control — generating significant increases in both response rate and average
gift. For every 1,000 pieces mailed the control netted $1,718 while the test package generated $3,457 for every 1,000 pieces mailed.

Resp Rate  Avg. Gift  Net $/M
Control  3.75%  $60.01  $1,718
Test  4.99%  $80.08  $3,457


The Takeaway:

  • Generally, matching gift offers tend to yield a higher response rate. In this case, the 33% lift in the average gift was unexpected but seen in both the first and second hits of mail and was not a result of any unusually large gifts.
  • While the Matching Gift package/offer was a tremendous success to active donors, a similar test to acquisition and lapsed audiences did not yield the same results.
  • Matching Gifts can often be mailed multiple times throughout the year, and for public media audiences provide an opportunity to do fundraising outside of on-air drives due to the strength of the offer. If you’re looking to increase the number of gifts/donor, then you may want to try this “extra” mailing to your add gift audience.
  • An often-overlooked value of Matching Gifts is that it provides your Major Gift Officers an opportunity to bring a new, different offer to donors they’re working with. The Matching Gift could be from one — or a group of — existing major donors, your board, Advisory Committee, or maybe even a group of younger donors. These younger donors — perhaps with a history of giving smaller gifts — will see the power of their combined giving and how your traditional, older donors will rise to the challenge and respond. 
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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