April CDP Index: High-dollar giving boosts revenue in early 2024

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Mike Janssen, using DALL-E 3

The first quarter of 2024 finds the Membership Revenue Index with a year-over-year increase of 3.4% compared to the same period in 2023. As in the preceding year, revenue growth is being driven by high-dollar giving and supported by a stable sustainer population for Radio and a growing sustainer pool for TV/Joint Licensees. These areas of fundraising are doing some very heavy lifting, as the New Donor Index for the first quarter of 2024 is showing an 8.2% decline, with all station types and sizes feeling the pinch.

TV/Joint licensees had a new donor decline of 8.8% after periods of strong new donor growth since the launch of Passport. Though the Passport Users Index continues to show growth, with a 7% increase this quarter, that trend is slowing. Also, the comparison period of 2023 was one with some of the highest Passport engagement metrics to date. That was an exceedingly high bar against which the system fell short.

Looking across the range of results for all TV/Joint stations, about 60% had a decline in overall new donors in this first quarter, and the same share saw declines in donors acquired through Passport. Stations with strong new donor growth were mostly those investing in newer acquisition techniques, like canvassing, or increasing investment and resources for digital acquisition.

Canvassing, digital fundraising and Passport are all techniques stations can use to build their sustaining donor programs, which are showing ongoing, though slowing, growth in the Sustainer Index. In the most recent three-month period, sustainers increased by 5.6% due to a 7.3% increase for TV/Joint stations. At the median, 49% of all TV/Joint donors are sustainers. Over 60% of all new Passport donors make sustainer gifts.

For Radio, new donor acquisition challenges are clearly impacting overall sustaining donor growth, which has been largely flat for the last several months. With the close of the first quarter, Radio finds itself down 19% for new donors compared to the same quarter of 2023. Even when accounting for outliers, new donor declines exceeded 12%. Fortunately, Radio’s early embrace of sustainer fundraising has resulted in a solid base of support during this turbulent period, with 56% of all donors making sustainer gifts and an annual donor retention rate of 77%. 

Despite new donor challenges, Radio experienced an increase of 6.5% in revenue in the first quarter of 2024. That loyal sustaining donor base provided solid ground to build stronger mid-level and major gifts programs. Gifts of $500 or more increased 18.5% in this quarter compared to the same period last year. Note that the High-dollar Gifts Index does not have a gift cap. Large irregular gifts and timing of large annual gifts can lead to great swings in revenue. When outliers are excluded, high-dollar gifts increased by 4%. This will be an area to watch in the coming months. 

TV/Joint licensees experienced a more modest 2.8% increase in revenue, again despite new donor declines and likely driven by high-dollar gifts. TV/Joint licensees saw an increase in gifts of $500 or more that neared 10%. 

Of interest this quarter, small stations (stations with fewer than 15,000 donors) saw high-dollar gift growth equivalent to that of the largest stations, at just over 9%. In most review periods, smaller stations lagged their larger counterparts in high-dollar gift growth. This, too, will be an area to watch in the coming months to determine whether we are seeing a blip or a new trend.

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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