December CDP index: Membership revenue flattens after six months of growth

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After six consecutive periods of revenue growth, data from 171 TV, Radio and Joint licensee stations participating in the Public Media Index shows flat revenue growth for the first time since May. Membership revenue increased just 0.2% for the three-month period ending in November compared to the same three-month period in 2022. The year-over-year increase for the December–November period was also below 1% at 0.8%.

TV/Joint stations showed a median revenue increase of 0.7% in this most recent three-month period, but 1.5% growth in the 12-month comparison. Radio revenue performance had a steeper decline in the three-month comparison at -2.7% than the year-over-year decline of 1.4%. Year-over-year comparisons outperforming three-month comparisons is a reversal of trends that we have been seeing for several report periods. This indicates that this period, and likely November 2023 in particular, was especially challenging.

Unique to November fundraising is, of course, Giving Tuesday. National reporting on Giving Tuesday results highlighted flat revenue performance and a 10% decline in donors. Comparing gifts posted on Giving Tuesday in the Public Media National Reference File for 2022 and 2023 shows that revenue posted on that day increased by 8% with a 6% decline in the number of gifts posted. TV/Joint stations experienced modest growth in gifts (2%) with a 13% increase in revenue. Radio experienced declines in both donors (31%) and revenue (10%).

It seems, then, that high-dollar gifts, which had been a contributing factor for revenue growth for both TV/Joint stations and especially Radio for several report periods, are the driving factor for revenue flatness in this most recent period. The High Dollar Index, measuring year-over-year change for gifts of $500 or more, shows zero growth for the three-month period. Only TV/Joint stations saw a modest 1.2% increase, while Radio showed a decline in high-dollar giving of 3.8% for this three-month period. As gifts of $500 or more make up 25% of all revenue for stations on average, December high-dollar giving results will be a key factor in whether the Membership Revenue Index ends the year on a positive note.

For TV/Joint stations, an encouraging figure is growth in the New Donor Index, an area that has presented challenges throughout the year for Radio and the broader nonprofit sector. New donors increased by 1.8% in this most recent three-month period compared to the same three-month period in 2022. However, TV/Joint licensees drove that change, up by an impressive 11.4% for the three-month period and nearly 1% for the 12-month period. Radio stations are down 14.1% for the three-month period and 13.4% year-over-year in a consistent and concerning downward trend, in line with listening trends. By station size, small and medium-sized stations showed growth of 4.1% and 9.4% respectively, but large stations declined by 3.1%.

Passport viewing, measured as the count of unique viewers streaming at least once during the period, continues to show growth, up 3.9% for the period and 11.5% year-over-year. Across station groups by size, year-over-year giving is up by more than 10% for all groupings. As other CDP Insights reporting has shown, the share of new donors acquired through Passport was 42% in Q3 2023, up from 32% just two years ago. The impact of Passport on donor acquisition for TV/Joint licensees cannot be overstated.

Sustainer giving, up 5.6% for the September–November period, remains strong among TV and Joint stations, up 7.9% compared to Radio stations, which reported a very slight decline of 0.1%. While the decline for Radio sustainers is minor, this metric has been slowly moving downward for several report periods. New donor acquisition is clearly impacting sustainer growth for Radio stations, which are now just barely maintaining their sustainer volumes. In the face of acquisition challenges, focusing on retention of this vital group of supporters is key, as is conversion of one-time gift donors and expanding options for donors, including new payment methods and recurring cadences (annual sustainers).

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 joined CDP as Analytics Strategist in September 2023. 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.

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