WETA finds Passport members skew younger

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A closer look at donors to Washington, D.C.’s WETA-TV has found that one group in particular skews much younger.

When a snowstorm hit D.C. in January just as the sixth season of Downton Abbey premiered, WETA noticed an increase in new members to Passport, PBS’s on-demand video service for public TV station donors.

But not just any new members — younger new members. That prompted the station to examine its Passport members. After studying the more than 13,000 WETA donors who have activated Passport between December 15, 2015, and June 30, the station found that the average age of such donors is 61, and the average age of non-activated members is 69.

Meanwhile, Passport donors who made their first gift to the station online were 47 years old on average. That’s 11 years younger than activated Passport donors who gave in an on-air pledge drive, according to a post on PBS’s Development Services blog.

WETA has also seen Passport help to increase average gifts and responses from lapsed members. “We’re seeing people who’ve been lapsed and then come and activated [Passport],” said Brandon Hemel, WETA’s senior director of data strategy and management. “… Reactivation of lapsed members is key to ensuring a strong fundraising program.”

Since the storm, WETA has also increased activations of Passport by making it available on multiple media platforms, such as Roku, and promoting it in emails. With a variety of demographic groups interested in Passport, WETA is testing multichannel strategies and different ways of communicating to promote activations.