For the first time in over a year, the Membership Revenue Index is showing a marginal increase in giving. The median change in membership revenue for the three-month period from April through June is up 1.1%. These year-over-year increases for the April–June period were strongest among large stations, up 1.3%, followed by small stations up 1.1% and medium-sized stations up 0.8%.
For those stations whose fiscal year ends in June, it’s notable that the year-over-year change in membership revenue for the period July 2022 – June 2023 is relatively flat, decreasing just 0.6%. Given the tepid fundraising climate many stations have experienced in FY23, it could be argued that a flat year-over-year change is positive news, especially noting that the most recent three-month period results have returned positive for two consecutive periods.
This month’s results reflect the performance of 177 Public Media TV, Radio and Joint stations of varied size, providing a solid representative benchmark against which individual stations can compare their own performance. Median performance for the April–June period among the 66 Radio stations in the Index show a decrease of 1.7%, reflecting continued challenges in radio, while TV/Joint stations, 111 in total, showed a median increase of 1.8% and were clearly behind the return of the Membership Revenue Index to positive territory.
After three consecutive periods of modest growth, the New Donor Index has decreased, down 6.1% for the three-month period ending in June. The relative volatility in donor acquisition is apparent in the index results. Radio stations, up over 16%, are reporting strong new donor acquisition, but much of this can be attributed to the comparison period (April–June 2022), when radio stations were struggling mightily in their efforts to attract new donors. Compare this to TV/Joint stations, down 8.1%, and you begin to see how varied results have been as all stations attempt to attract new donors. We will continue to monitor the volatility in new donor acquisition as many stations begin a new fiscal year and refocus efforts on investments in acquisition.
Sustainer giving, up 5.9% for the April to June period, is particularly strong among TV and Joint stations, where an 8.2% median increase is reported. Donors with sustaining gifts at Radio stations have remained relatively flat, down 0.2% for the period. Sustainer growth for stations of varied size appears relatively consistent, with large stations up 4.5%, medium stations up 8.4% and small stations up 6.4%.
Passport viewing, measured as the count of unique viewers streaming at least once during the period, continues to show solid growth, up 10.1% for the period. However, looking at the 12-month trending data, we continue to see unique Passport viewership trending lower for the last 10 reporting periods. This is certain to present challenges for TV and Joint stations attempting to use Passport as a resource to attract new donors. Interestingly, small stations, up 12.7%, appear more successful in encouraging Passport consumption when compared to medium and large stations, up 11% and 8.8% respectively.
The High Dollar Index, up 4.6%, has returned to positive territory for two consecutive periods after four periods of decline and could be part of the reason behind the return to positive results in the broader Membership Revenue Index. The current results reflect positive increases in high-dollar gifts for both TV/Joint, up 5.3%, and Radio, up 3%. The ability of stations to attract donations of $500 or more varies significantly depending on the size of the station. For the April–June period, small stations show an increase of 13.3% in such donations, while medium stations report a decline of 1.3%. Meanwhile, large stations saw a 5.3% increase in donations of $500 or more.
This monthly report on the fundraising performance of public media stations is provided through an editorial collaboration between Current and Contributor Development Partnership (CDP). The collaboration draws from CDP’s National Reference File, which collects monthly membership and revenue data from more than 170 public media stations. (Read more about the methodology.)
Michal Heiplik is president and a co-founder of the Contributor Development Partnership, a Boston-based public benefit corporation that provides fundraising solutions, marketing strategies, technology innovations and data and analytics services to more than 230 public radio and television stations. As a 20-year veteran of public broadcasting development, he has extensive experience in database management, membership development and identifying effective fundraising practices.