The Index of Membership Revenue, the preeminent benchmark for public media fundraising, continues to show growth, with a 3.8% increase reported for the three-month period ending in September compared to the same three-month period in 2022. This marks the fifth consecutive period of growth that began in May. Year-over-year increases for the July–September period were strongest among large stations, up 5.3%, followed by medium stations up 2.3% and small-sized stations up 1.4%.
Data from 168 TV, Radio and Joint licensee stations over a 12-month comparison period shows a more modest 0.6% increase in revenue. However, the three-month period revenue gains we are seeing have been accelerating. Radio stations, up 2.8% in the July–September period, outperformed last month’s Index results of 1.7% growth. TV/Joint stations showed a median revenue increase of 4.4% in this most recent Index, compared with 3.5% growth in the last. These are very encouraging trends.
Another encouraging figure is growth in the New Donor Index, an area that has presented challenges throughout the year. Since this reporting period represents Q1 of FY24 for many stations, it’s encouraging to see that new donors increased. However, it was TV/Joint licensees that drove that positive year-over-year change. TV/Joint stations are up 5.1% for the three-month period. Similarly, all size groups in the New Donor Index report positive numbers, with large, medium and small stations showing increases of 4.2%, 2.2% and 6.7%, respectively. Radio stations, down 9.3%, continue to show variable results, albeit with a consistent and concerning downward trend.
Sustainer giving, up 5% for the July–September period, remains particularly strong among TV and Joint stations, up 8.2% compared to Radio stations, which reported a much smaller increase of 0.6%. Clearly, new donor acquisition is impacting sustainer growth for Radio stations, which are now just barely maintaining their sustainer volumes. Notably, growth is stronger among small and medium-sized stations, up 9.4% and 8.3%, compared to large stations, up 1.9%.
Passport viewing, measured as the count of unique viewers streaming at least once during the period, continues to grow, up 6.2% for the period. While positive, it should be noted that we have seen a negative trend in this growth that began earlier in the year. In this three-month period, there was very little difference in growth by station size, ranging from 5.8–6.9%.
The High Dollar Index, measuring year-over-year change for gifts of $500 or more, is up 7.7% and appears to be contributing to the return to positive results in the broader Membership Revenue Index. Much like the broader Index, the High Dollar Index is showing positive results for five consecutive periods. The current results reflect positive increases in high-dollar gifts for both TV/Joint, up 7%, and Radio, up 11.1%.
Results are more varied when we examine stations by size. Here we find large stations up 7.5% for the three-month period ending in September and medium-sized stations up by an impressive 12.1%. Small-station results are flat for the period, suggesting challenges in attracting higher gift amounts. If the broader Membership Revenue Index is to stay positive, it’s critical that stations continue to attract higher giving amounts as we near the end of the calendar year.
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.)
Deb Ashmore recently joined CDP as Analytics Strategist. With more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and public media fundraising, she is passionate about working to help clients understand their fundraising data to inform strategies for long-term file health and growth. Her previous public media experience includes 10 years as director of individual giving for WXPN in Philadelphia.