New Take on Renewals Pays Off:
Year-Over-Year Growth for KCTS 9

Date Published
Kathy Giles

At the start of FY20, KCTS 9, Seattle’s PBS station, partnered with Allegiance Fundraising (AFG) for a new strategic approach to its direct mail program.

Part of our approach to onboarding a new client is to conduct a Strategic Growth Analysis (SGA) — a series of reports that show 5-year trending information. This analysis allows us to gain a clear understanding of what’s happening on the donor file and informs our strategic recommendations.

KCTS 9 has members in both the United States and Canada, with slight variations in the structure of each membership program. As we delved into the SGA, we saw differences in the retention rates based on geography. The US program was experiencing year-over-year increases, while the Canadian segment was plagued by declines. Had we not analyzed each program separately, it would have looked like the overall retention rate was flat. But this is really a “tale of two countries.”

The SGA armed us with the knowledge that we needed to focus on reversing the trend in the Canadian membership, while maintaining the growth in the US program.

To do this, we had a new take on the KCTS 9 renewals.


We started with a thorough review of the existing copy and creative, as well as results. What we found were missed opportunities.

The existing letters reminded the members of their favorite programs but were lacking a strong call to action. Additionally, the backs of the letters were blank — leaving this real estate unused. 

AFG responded to these unearthed opportunities by making strategic changes to the copy/creative and offer, while maintaining an eight-effort series for the US audience and seven efforts for Canadian members.

Because of Allegiance Fundraising’s work with many public media stations, we have a library of proven packages. Thanks to the advantages of referencing this library, each letter could be personalized for KCTS 9 and crafted to speak to the specifics of membership for both US and Canadian audiences.

The new letter copy for both US and Canadian audiences reminds members about the value of public television to the community and why KCTS 9 is important. Each renewal effort has a unique headline, letting members know where they are in the renewal cycle with the urgency increasing with each successive effort. The back of the forms outlines different ways to support KCTS 9 such as a legacy gift, vehicle donation, corporate matching gift, as well as ways to contact KCTS 9 for questions about membership. The creative utilizes KCTS 9’s branding and colors throughout the package along with its tag line — “Help inspire a smarter world”— to strengthen and build the connection between the members and the station, to reinforce why members need to renew their membership.

In addition to the creative changes, we also moved away from a static ask table that had been in effect to a new dynamic ask string. We found that the previous ask table was in fact downgrading some donors. The new dynamic ask string is based on the donor’s current giving and provides ample opportunities to upgrade.

Leveraging the new dynamic ask string, we included the personalized asks within the letter copy, directly asking the member to renew at specific gift amounts — creating clear offers for members to act upon.

AFG’s strategy also addressed audience segmentation. We broke out new members — or those renewing for the first time — and multi-year members to allow us to see performance in each segment and track any changes moving forward.

Within the first half of the fiscal year, the new take on renewals is paying off for KCTS 9.


For KCTS 9, the new renewal program is paying off!  The station is renewing more members, renewing them faster, and getting them back into the Add Gift cycle sooner.

Renewals Up 12%

AFG’s approach resulted in improvements in both the US and Canadian monthly renewal programs right away! Comparing results from FY20 (August – February) to the FY19 results for this same period, we saw a 12% increase in the overall renewal rate (determined by dividing the total number of responses by the total mail quantity of effort 1), US renewals rose 10% while Canadian renewals increased by 16%.

Response Rate Up 23%

The increase in the donor renewal rate was driven by a 23% increase in the response rate. With US members’ responses increasing by 25% and Canadian responses going up 16%. Breaking down the response rate by effort, while we saw gains in all efforts, the largest growth was in the first half of the series — allowing us to renew members faster and to get them back in the Add Gift program sooner.

Revenue per Piece Up 65%

Oftentimes an increase in response can come at the expense of a declining average gift. This was not the case. The average gift held steady, and as a result we saw gains in revenue. The revenue/piece mailed was up 18% overall, with the US growing by 26% and Canada again being up 16%.

Allegiance has the experience, expertise and tools necessary to enhance nonprofit campaigns and bolster support for worthy causes across the country. To learn more, get in touch with us today.

About the Author:
Kathy Giles
Director of Client Management, Agency Services

Role at the Company

As an Account Director with Agency Services I work with clients to develop their direct response, annual giving, and membership programs. I am responsible for the strategy, budget, creative oversight, planning, and results reporting for each campaign as well as ensuring we are meeting all client expectations. I also work to build the client relationship to not only retain the client, but to also look for opportunities to increase activities with clients, through any of our three business areas. And new business is always on the radar!

What excites you about your work at AFG?

With the three divisions, we have more opportunities to support our clients. We can extend the services offered to provide more full-service-oriented solutions to current and prospective clients, allowing AFG to become more involved with a client’s program. This also allows for more growth and learning, on a personal note.

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

To feed my love of stories and storytelling, I went to school for film production, with a concentration in documentary film. I have had the opportunity to work on a few documentaries including one for the United Nations on the history of interpretation where I was able to visit several embassies and spoke with the amazing people in the UN Interpretation Service.

Today, I get to tell the stories of the non-profit clients I work with.

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