UNC-TV Triples Revenue Goal & Doubles Email Audience with Digital Campaign

UNC-TV, the University of North Carolina’s statewide public television network, recently experimented with a social media fundraiser built around My Home NC, a popular digital storytelling series. The show has a dedicated social media following.

“They typically perform the best [among other videos] on our Facebook page,” says Sarah Grieco, UNC-TV’s digital engagement manager. “We wanted to test this audience to see if they would be willing to give on a micro donation level.”

One of the most successful My Home NC videos had featured Raleigh Denim, a small local company that makes limited-edition jeans. The network reached out to the company’s founders and asked if they could stage a Facebook Live video tour of its warehouse for the fundraiser. Raleigh Denim took the request a step further, agreeing to give an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour to a winner chosen from new subscribers to the My Home NCnewsletter. The winner would also receive a UNC-TV tote bag. That shifted the focus of the promotion from being a My Home NC fundraiser to also building its base of newsletter subscribers.

Leveraging the exclusive tour, the network scheduled an entire day of Facebook Live videos on February 9. Starting at Raleigh Denim and announcing the winner there, UNC also streamed from a local chocolate factory, visited the home of a patternmaker associated with the denim company, and broadcast a conversation with Joe Kwon, cellist for North Carolina’s folk-rock band The Avett Brothers. “He did our final Facebook Live for the day,” Grieco says of the musician. “He gave a pitch about how public television had been so meaningful in his life. It was a really nice way to end the day with him driving that home for people.”

Leading up to the live videos, Grieco had delivered social media toolkits to subjects of previous My Home NC videos, asking them to help spread the word. “We got nothing but positive response,” she says. “The impact of their partnership was cool to see.”

Ultimately, the mini-campaign proved a success. UNC-TV had set a modest fundraising goal of $1,000 and more than tripled it with 53 donations totaling $3,480. A number of gifts came from emails announcing the event, with nine donations on the live day. A final email push on Valentine’s Day brought in another 35 gifts to the network. “It was a follow-up thank-you email,” Grieco explains. “We worked with our development team to create a My Home NC t-shirt for anyone who donated. That’s what got us a big chunk of the 35 donations.”

Prior to that, the opportunity to win a behind-the-scenes tour of Raleigh Denim and UNC-TV tote bag allowed My Home NC to double its email list. “It was just really cool to see people super-supportive of My Home NC,” Grieco says. She believes the fundraiser succeeded because her team bought into it. “I had a small team of people who were just really excited to try this. We’ve never done anything like this before.”

Lessons Learned

Looking back on the fundraiser and live event, Grieco identifies several lessons that will inform her and her team for future promotions.

Limit locations and factor in timing. “We were running around Raleigh all day doing these live videos and it was too much,” she says. “Next time we’d like to produce one high-quality video instead of four. That would make our lives easier.” Additionally, they want to pick a better time to broadcast the Facebook Live video, such as an evening or weekend.

Advertise. The most impactful video of the day was the one featuring Joe Kwon of the Avett Brothers. “With Facebook’s algorithm change, live videos can do well, but we also put some advertising behind [the Kwon video].”

Add swag. “Next time, we want to incorporate the swag earlier on, doing something where everyone who donates gets a tote bag,” she says. “One of the big lessons we learned is that people really like public media swag.” Grieco is also thinking of collaborating with a social media partner who could donate a gift card or experience.

Partner well. While Raleigh Denim attracted a great deal of audience interest by graciously providing a behind-the-scenes tour, Grieco wants a fundraising partner next time who will be more aggressive in promoting it on social media.

Identify your goal. Though UNC-TV exceeded its initial goal, Grieco thinks she should have been more aggressive in communicating the amount. “We did communicate it in email, but next time we’ll be more clear about it on social media,” she says.

Dedicate a webpage. “The final lesson we learned is we really needed a devoted webpage for this fundraiser. We were just testing it out and didn’t build one. We will next time,” says Grieco.