SD&A ELEVATES THE EXPERIENCES OF LA PHIL PATRONS, CLIENT SAYS

Considering a telemarketing campaign for your organization? Wondering which vendor to choose? To help you decide, check out the glowing feedback our team of callers received from our client at the Los Angeles Philharmonic:

Dear SD&A Telemarketing Staff,

Over the last two weeks, I have spent over 20 hours listening to our ticket buyers in focus groups. A few trends regarding our telemarketing team continued to surface.

1. Our patrons described you as kind, knowledgeable, caring, and enthusiastic. They felt you were “not the average telemarketing call”.  Even those with some with mild annoyance in their tones still commented on the quality of the calls. Annoyance, frustration and the feeling of being “called too much” is part of the gig, but what makes you exceptional is your care for our patrons and the LA Phil.

2. You provide an invaluable service. Of the new subscribers we talked to, 80% of them subscribed because of a phone call or because they saw a table at their concert.  Subscriptions are vitally important to the LA Phil and you are successfully capturing those orders through every channel and interaction available to you.

3. You really know how to sell. We heard from many patrons who would have never considered subscribing if it weren’t for your phone calls.  You broke down all of their barriers (too expensive, too far to travel, too cumbersome, too inflexible, too much hassle, etc.) and gave them a new perspective on subscribing and how they could enjoy LA Phil concerts throughout the season, on their terms.

4. You bring tremendous joy and fulfillment to so many across all corners of Los Angeles. Many would not attend without your phone call and they are therefore grateful for it.  You encourage them to get off the couch, out of the house, and explore their city through attending LA Phil concerts.  There are thousands of people whose lives are enriched by the concerts you enable them to attend.

Our research firm who deals with nonprofits from around the country commented on how rare it is to receive so many positive compliments from patrons regarding our telemarketing staff.

Thank you for all that you do for the LA Phil.  You have elevated the experiences of our loyal patrons.

With gratitude and care,

Nora Brady

Director, Audience Strategies and Insights, Los Angeles Philharmonic

For more information on SD&A’s services, please contact Mary Jane Avans (Vice President, Business Development) at mjavans@sdatel.com or (678) 904-1583.

 

SD&A Q&A WITH ELIZABETH McCLAIN, DIRECTOR OF ARTS TELECENTER (ATC) OPERATIONS

With a new MBA and a fresh promotion under her belt, Elizabeth sat down with our senior staff writer to discuss the most important advice she gives clients, the things she loves most about her new job, and the reason SD&A’s boutique phone rooms are so vital to keeping the arts alive in America.

SD&A: Name one of the biggest challenges facing arts organizations and tell us how ATC campaigns are designed to help them overcome this challenge.

ELIZABETH: I have so much respect for the dedication of micro staffs at performing arts organizations and the amount of hard work they can handle. Some of the organizations we work with in the ATC have only 2-3 people in their marketing and development departments. They need the revenue streams that telemarketing generates, but the reality is that telemarketing campaigns are huge undertakings. If it weren’t for the ATC and the services we provide, tapping into these revenue streams might not be feasible for smaller organizations, either from a budgeting perspective or from a management perspective. ATC campaigns make it possible for us to offer onsite-size solutions and service to performing arts organizations in a call center scenario.

What do you enjoy most about your job as Director of ATC Operations?

Number one, the people. I work with a team of managers who have honed their craft and together bring over 100 years of managerial experience to the table.  Beyond that, they are just amazing human beings:  artists, advocates, life-long students and educators.  And that’s just the SD&A team.  One of the things I love most about our clients is that they work to bring beauty to the world through art. I get to spend my days speaking with leaders at world-renowned arts organizations, and when I travel to meet with them in person, I get to visit some of the most beautiful artistic venues in the world.

For clients, what are the advantages of choosing an ATC campaign?

We’re like that boutique winery that’s a best-kept secret. The setting is intimate, it feels like family, and the product is carefully crafted with attention to detail by a professional management team that has extensive experience in nonprofit sales and fundraising.  The wealth of knowledge in our ATC brain trust is pretty remarkable. Beyond that, we all just enjoy what we do and we love working together, so it makes for a great atmosphere for our callers and great relationships with our clients.

Before you joined the SD&A team, you worked for one of our competitors. What makes our company stand out from the rest?

The relationships.  When I first started working for SD&A, I remember sitting in on (Account Executive) Lucy Schroepfer’s weekly meetings and thinking, “Wow! The clients are enjoying this!” There are deep professional relationships that stem from the honesty and transparency that SD&A provides.  We build our relationships based on trust, and while it’s certainly a lot more fun to deliver great news, like surpassing a goal or bringing in a record-high gift, we always paint a full picture of the full campaign story, which increases the trust. Beyond that, it’s the credibility that the SD&A name has in the marketplace. We’re known for delivering creative and individual campaign design to every single client. That’s one of the reasons I’m so proud of the work our ATC staff accomplishes each day. They’re bringing the same level of service we provide to our largest onsite clients into a call center setting so smaller clients can succeed.  And to me that’s what makes SD&A so great. We love and care about the arts and bringing beauty to the world, and when our smallest clients win, that means we’re bringing that same beauty and joy to communities of all sizes, all across the country.

What is the most important piece of advice you give to new clients before they launch an ATC campaign?

As much as you can, treat us like your in-house staff.  We want to hear it all.  We want as much information as possible because it helps us shape the message and mirror your organization’s effort from a different state.  And I think that’s just good business practice in general.  I realize there is only so much time in the day, the week, but the more you talk with us and tell us what is going on in your department, your organization, your community, the better we get to know you and your patrons and your future patrons.

What’s the best business or leadership advice you’ve ever received?

Wow, so much. I’ve had some great leaders to look up to throughout the years, so it’s tough to pick just one.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Get your hands dirty.
  2. Humility, honesty and humor are the trinity of leadership.
  3. Never let yourself fall into the “because we always have” trap; always move forward and always be an agent of positive growth and change.
  4. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What do you do for enjoyment when you’re not working?

I’ve found some free time again now that I’m finished with my MBA program, so right now I’m really enjoying spending quality time with my husband — who also has a long history of working with nonprofit arts organizations — and our kids, Matthias and Mariana (5 years-old and 3 years-old respectively) and our cat Edward (11).  We love to be outside exploring or in the water. We cook a lot and love introducing our kids to new things: singing, plays, art museums and travel.  We also love attending live performances – we go to a lot of concerts, plays and ballets.

 

Public Radio Stations Improve Digital Fundraising but Still Face Challenges

As we head into the 2017 Public Media Development and Marketing Conference, I was asked to provide an overview of the state of digital fundraising based on the work I have been doing for Greater Public and the many observations and conversations I have had with front-line staff over the past two years.

As I prepared this, I kept in mind this accompanying overview piece about the financial and service strength of public radio. As it explains, revenues continue to expand, driven in large part by public radio’s growing role in news.

But as that analysis also suggests, the picture is much less certain when we instead look at public radio’s digital strategy, which will shape our fundraising results in the decade ahead.

In some of the more developed areas of digital fundraising, like email and online pledging, we can see advances in performance that reflect 10 to 20 years’ worth of collective experience. The newer channels, like mobile and social media, are far less developed, with only a few stations making headway through a combination of adequate staffing, sufficient investment, and internal station readiness to adapt to new tools.

Focusing on the full range of digital development practices, here is my view of the state of digital fundraising for public radio as we head to San Francisco:

1. Overall, we are improving.

The online fundraising forms and functions, including fundraising emails, used by public radio stations have improved over the past few years. These improvements include:

  • Online donation pages on station sites are better integrated into general online activity and are no longer placed off the beaten path.
  • “Donate” links are easier to find and are often visible on stations’ apps and content pages on their websites.
  • Secure giving forms are easier to use.
  • Forms are more likely to encourage sustainer giving.
  • Visitors often have more options to subscribe to newsletters, download apps and make a gift when they visit stations’ websites.

That said …

2. We have to develop a “culture of testing.”

This is where public broadcasting now falls short. Too many stations rely on “what we’ve always done” or “what we think works” without actually testing these ideas and practices.

Even some of the best-funded large-market stations do not test digital fundraising practices at an advanced level.

This systemic weakness showed up in last year’s mobile testing project organized by the Station Resource Group. In that project, eight stations worked together to sharpen their mobile fundraising practices. A few weeks into the project, the consultants were already noting in their feedback that stations “did not have a culture of testing,” and only a few stations had in-house staff experienced in the use of digital testing platforms.

What does that mean?

Advanced digital fundraising programs test everything. They test the effect of using the word “Donate” versus “Join.” They test the color of donate buttons and the use of layouts and fields in their forms. Everything is subjected to A/B testing, a standard practice in digital marketing that tests different versions of the same web page, email or app to determine what provides the best results.

That ethic of “test everything” doesn’t appear in most public broadcasting development (or digital service) shops. Even when a station has some interest in testing, workloads leave very little time for identifying and activating testing software. In mobile, the number of digital fundraising transactions is still too low to generate statistically reliable results.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Stations reporting the best digital fundraising performance are always looking for practices that have already been tried and tested in the larger nonprofit sector beyond broadcasting.

This willingness to borrow, or adapt, already proven practices has enabled us to advance many other aspects of public media fundraising practice. For example, successful fundraising techniques for direct mail, telemarketing and canvassing were first developed elsewhere and then “imported” by public radio stations. Encouraging sustainer giving was already a firmly established practice among nonprofits in Canada and Europe before we picked it up and applied it to public media in the United States.

We need to do the same thing with all aspects of digital fundraising.

4. We need to refine and share useful metrics and best practices.

For legacy membership to work, almost any station can subscribe to Target Analytics or the Contributor Development Partnership’s National Reference File to share and compare stations’ renewal rates, average revenue per donor, percent of sustainers, and other useful numbers.

At the moment, nothing comparable exists for public radio digital fundraising, though nationwide studies identify digital fundraising metrics for the nonprofit world in general, notably the Nonprofit Technology Network’s 2016 study done pro bono by digital agency M&R.

Across the NPR/PBS universe:

  • There are no established benchmarks for conversion rates of website visitors to members.
  • Few stations track their pledge page abandonment rate. Fewer still know if their rate is good, average or poor compared to the nonprofits that contributed to the NTEN study cited above.
  • There is no shared agreement on email fundraising best practices, such as optimal frequency and spacing for email renewal campaigns.
  • We don’t know the cost-benefit to be gained from public radio’s most basic form of segmentation, i.e., member versus nonmember status.

Why should we be sharing information about email? Because:

  • Email is the digital channel most preferred by older Americans, who are the traditional core of public media membership.
  • Many nonprofit fundraisers place an asset value of $10 to $14 for each valid email address they bring onto their file.
  • Last year, email fundraising grew 26 percent nationally, outpacing overall online giving.

5. Mobile is the next big challenge.

The next generation of e-commerce — and “e-giving” — will happen via mobile platforms.

As a system, we are making some progress in terms of mobile-based content delivery via station apps, NPR One, podcasts and Passport (on the PBS side), reflecting a digital world where on-demand content is customized to user interests.

But integrating membership fundraising into that process is a whole different story.

State-of-the-art mobile giving requires a combination of great design, easy payment processing and seamless integration with dozens of different phone carriers.

Large-scale mobile fundraising campaigns usually require an intermediary, usually a company that specializes in mobile campaigns and works out necessary systems and protocols with phone carriers, gift processors and end users. Convenient “one-click” mobile giving requires advanced systems that link phone numbers to the donor’s bank accounts or credit cards.

This is a level of technical sophistication that few stations are prepared to handle.

Some kind of collective service purchase might seem like a practical solution here. But anyone who has been through the process of making a systemwide decision about fundraising technology realizes how difficult that negotiation would be.

This raises a basic question for stations: If we’re not ready to commit to a shared mobile communication and fundraising system — and don’t even know what that would look like — then how can we prepare for the transaction opportunities that will no doubt arise from the world’s most popular technology?

Given the importance of mobile for content delivery, our ability to capture sustaining revenue for digital service will force us to connect the content and fundraising sides of our stations’ mobile communications efforts.

6. As we tackling mobile, we must also address “social.”

Social media continues to perplex and yet excite stations due to its massive reach and (allegedly) low cost. But when used as just another channel for broad fundraising appeals, nonprofits have largely been disappointed with the results, except when the appeals are connected to hot-button political issues.

Looking outside public media, we can see other nonprofits using Facebook as a donor-acquisition channel because it produces a higher ROI than direct mail or telemarketing. My sense is some stations will begin testing paid social media campaigns and, in fact, I have spoken with a number of stations already who intend to increase their spending on Facebook ads in the coming year.

Many nonprofits have begun testing the use of Facebook to increase participation at events, with messaging that treats followers as members of a fan club or “tribe.” For example, a recent peer-to-peer test of the “PBS Nerd” theme at 14 stations drew a high turnout at events advertised on Facebook. Just as importantly, all stations involved found that 70 to 90 percent of the event attendees were new “prospects” who were not previously part of their contact database.

In general, this suggests that ticketed events or appeals based on a focused, timely offer or activity do best in terms of fundraising via Facebook. In other words, a Facebook post about the importance of supporting classical music or journalism may not generate the same level of traction compared to an invitation to a performance or a round-table discussion of an important issue.

All of which is good news for public media fundraising and support. First, Facebook does more than get people to events in large numbers. It gets new people to events. Secondly, the PBS Nerd “tribe” of children and their parents who responded to a post specifically serving the fans’ interests is a promising sign for public media and its aging audience.

Of course, this is only one example of the untapped potential for fundraising and audience involvement represented by social media platforms. Much more testing and research needs to be done if public radio stations are to develop social media strategies that produce real results.

My hope is that during the PMDMC conference and beyond, stations will begin to approach digital fundraising with a single question in mind: By responding to user needs and interest at every point of a digital interaction, how can we convert our audience into fans, constituents and sustaining members, ensuring the future financial security of public media?

Having recently authored a PBS white paper, Dick McPherson has led efforts to help PBS and NPR stations build their membership programs and has coached online news organizations in the use of crowdfunding and content sharing for fundraising. Dick recently directed the creation of a digital fundraising self-assessment tool for Greater Public’s website. He currently advises Arizona PBS (Phoenix) on digital and mobile strategies and serves as the principal digital fundraising adviser to the Public Media Futures Forums.