WETA Raises $100,000 for Giving Tuesday with Record-Breaking Email Series

While UNC-TV saw positive results from a multichannel Giving Tuesday campaign, WETA in the Washington, D.C. area primarily focused its efforts on email on this global day of giving. WETA views the period of time around Thanksgiving as a kick-off to the calendar year-end giving period, and for the last two years, Giving Tuesday has been a major component of that push.

“Giving Tuesday is something that is concocted,” admits Cameron Popp, WETA’s Director of Direct Response Fundraising. “But it has a lot of energy around it and a lot of visibility. The timing is really ideal for us in making a grand entrance into the year-end period. It’s about tapping into what, every year, appears to be more and more of a frenzy around year-end giving.” Though Giving Tuesday is arbitrarily created for nonprofit marketing purposes, it is a huge fundraising opportunity with much untapped potential for public media.

Setting the Stage

WETA set the stage for Giving Tuesday by sending a stewardship email prior to Thanksgiving. It said ‘Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for being a supporter, and as we enter into the holiday season, we’re thankful for you and looking for your support also,’” he says. “It wasn’t a hard ask.” But at the end of the email, it reminded recipients that Giving Tuesday was approaching—and if interested, they could make an early Giving Tuesday gift. “A lot of organizations have started extending the pre-Giving Tuesday period. We did it one week out as a reminder,” says Popp.

Then, early in the morning on Giving Tuesday, WETA launched the first of two Giving Tuesday lightboxes on its front page of the website to support the campaign. “It was focused on making sure people who visited the site were immediately greeted with the Giving Tuesday concept and brand, and know we were interested in their support,” he says.

Three Emails, All Successful

On Giving Tuesday itself, the station sent out three specific emails to its prospects, active and lapsed members—nearly 180,000 recipients. One launched early that morning, another in the middle of the afternoon, and a last email came at 7:30pm. The emails touted a match from the Carnegie Corporation that would triple every gift (a first-ever such match for WETA).

“There wasn’t a dog in the bunch,” says Popp about the emails. “Each [resulted in] $20,000 to $25,000 in direct giving, which was very encouraging. We segmented for prospects and active and lapsed files, and it worked better on each of those segments than anything else we do outside of the last day or two of the calendar year.” He says those three emails garnered some of the strongest responses in the history of the station. “They were three of the top six to eight emails we’ve ever sent, and they all happened on the same day.”

With the lightbox-fueled online giving totaling around $12,000, the entire Giving Tuesday campaign brought the station more than $100,000—a huge milestone for the station.

A separate email targeted credit card sustainers with a conversion pitch about Electronic Funds Transfer. “What if I told you there were something you could do this #GivingTuesday without costing you a thing?” touted the copy. It, too, found success. “We did one hit of that email to 15,000 sustainers and got 23 conversions from that. Six had an upgrade attached. That isn’t huge volume, but I was pretty encouraged by that.” Two sustainers contacted the station to let them know how much they appreciated learning about that unique way to support WETA.

Focused Messaging

While Popp believes it’s important to take advantage of the energy around Giving Tuesday, he also recognizes its challenges. “It’s hard to break through,” Popp says. “There’s one organization that sent me 20 emails between Monday and Wednesday. Some places take it to a ludicrous extreme, but everybody has to raise money and do their thing. We wanted to be successful—but not at all costs.” That’s why WETA only sent three , and structured them around the triple match. “We were able to talk about it as a rare opportunity for one day only, and a way to leverage your gift more than usual. We put it in those terms and made it straightforward: This is the day. You know what Giving Tuesday is and here’s why you should do it.”

A similar campaign in 2016 brought in $40,000, and didn’t feature that third, late-in-the-day email. The two year trend shows the quick growth potential for stations. Adding a third email for 2017 was no accident. “I think it’s important for Giving Tuesday to be represented in people’s mailboxes throughout the day,” Popp says. “There’s a lot of opportunity for people to make gifts to lots of different organizations, so you have to be top-of-mind throughout the day.”

Popp admits that Giving Tuesday has gained little traction with public broadcasting. Regardless, he believes its growing public awareness represents a huge marketing and fundraising opportunity for member stations. Year-end giving and Giving Tuesday, by extension, aren’t in the current fundraising mix for stations, but members are increasingly primed to give this way. “It’s bigger than anything we’d be able to do as a station. Giving Tuesday is a stewardship opportunity.”