The goal was one hundred switches. Ultimately, 198 supporters switched to EFT. This included 44 gift upgrades and even 53 new pledges. Those numbers represented a 164% increase in switches over the same period in 2017. The integrated campaign was a success!
For at least the past year, a number of PBS Member Stations have experimented with sustainer messaging about the benefits of switching from credit card payments to Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). In many cases—as with Nine Network last year—Direct Mail Campaign Results in Sustainer EFT Conversions! – these have been limited, low-effort test campaigns designed to address the plague of expired credit cards.
WETA in Washington D.C. was one of those stations. In late 2017, it used email campaigns in a concerted effort to get sustainers to switch. “We were happy with the results, but we weren’t seeing the numbers and the response rate that we see in other efforts,” says Isabel Shea, WETA’s Associate Director of Online Fundraising. For instance, those two email campaigns only brought in 23 conversions each. “We’d seen a trickling of positive conversions but nothing we could report as a successful, cohesive campaign.”
An Integrated Campaign
With that in mind, WETA decided to go a step further this summer, anticipating that a concerted EFT effort could bring an increase in conversions. Prior to the August drive, the station launched a two-week, multi-channel EFT conversion campaign. “We wanted to get all our channels together and do an integrated campaign,” explains Bill Dion, WETA’s Fundraising Producer. “We were just looking to see if there was some way to make EFT conversion ‘a thing.’”
That meant an intentional approach to branding the EFT switch and education about why it was so important to the station. The resulting campaign had its own messaging, logo design, and a direct call to action. It also came with a deadline incentive in the form of a matching contribution. “Make the switch,” it asked. “Switch your monthly gift to an automatic deduction from your checking account before August 15 and your contribution will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $100.
An initial email pitch to become an EFT sustainer was supported by two separate TV spots: a fun, clever one to build awareness and another that was more functional. WETA’s classical 90.9 FM radio station broadcast 20-second spots supporting the effort, and direct mail pieces included a buck slip promoting the switch. Finally, WETA.org placed a bold “Switch” ad on its homepage throughout the campaign. Link to Campaign Materials
“We were going to put it on a blimp, too, but the budget wouldn’t allow it,” Dion jokes. All campaign elements promoted a vanity URL directing donors to weta.org/switch.
Strategies for Success
The integrated campaign was a success. The goal was one hundred switches. Ultimately, 198 supporters switched to EFT. This included 44 gift upgrades and even 53 new pledges. Those numbers represented a 164 percent increase in switches over the same period in 2017.
Shea and Dion believe the multi-channel approach and consistent call to action were keys to spreading the message. “I’m a firm believer in the surround-sound concept and offering enough impressions that you’re actually going to break through the clutter with a non-email ask,” says Dion. “It was two weeks of beating the drum. The on-air [messaging] and buck slips and real estate on the homepage really adds to that surround sound. It was a cumulated effort with a very simple ask—to people who already have an affinity for us.”
Shea agrees. “I think it’s the fact that people were hearing and seeing the specific call to action to make the switch both when they tuned in and when they read an email from us or visited our website,” she says. The immediacy of the matching gift also had an impact. “The match was an incentive to do it within the specified timeframe,” Shea says. “You can’t discount that from the reason why we acquired so many new EFT sustainers.
The messaging itself brought plenty of internal discussions, specifically about what would motivate people to switch. WETA didn’t come to a particular decision, which is why the on-air spots offer a broad spectrum of supporting arguments. “We weren’t quite convinced that one would be better over the other,” Shea says. “It’s better for us because we’d save on processing fees. And there’s the idea that EFT is more secure, but we didn’t want to deter people from giving [via credit cards]. Then there was the idea that it was easier for the donor because they wouldn’t have to update their credit card information with us if that ever changed. We tried to use all of those concepts.”
Dion still isn’t sure what message resonated most. “Is it the convenience for them or is it because it’s good for WETA?” he asks. “I don’t know that we can learn anything in particular.” He does believe that the simplicity of the ask and the message that switching was an easy, good thing to do resulted in more action.
In the future, the success of this campaign will reach into other efforts. “We plan to use this as a follow-up to any large campaign where we acquire a high number of one-time donors or new sustainers,” says Shea. We’re looking to implement this again in January after our year-end appeals.”
The bottom line? It wasn’t any one element that made WETA’s EFT campaign successful. Like any good marketing strategy, it depended upon all the pieces working in tandem. “The multi-channel effort, the match opportunity with a clear deadline, the consistent branding with the graphic and call to action—those are the components that collectively made it a success,” Shea says.