Get Your Passport

Get Your Passport

Passport icon (compass)How to Implement Fundraising


While there is still much to learn about how to most effectively use PBS Passport as an incentive for viewers to donate there are some emerging best practices that stations can fold into giving plans.

  1. Think Digital First – The majority of donations for PBS Passport are being made online through digital products. Your stations asks online should be clear, concise and content driven to attract the most attention.
  2. Use Cross Platform Promotion – Potential donors need to hear and see messages about PBS Passport on many platforms – on-air, in email, social media, post-cards, member newsletters. Each time you show the value of PBS Passport as a way of supporting their local station and accessing great content you increase the odds they will take action and give.
  3. Show PBS Passport as a “thank you” gift on all giving forms, – Take care to not clutter the page or divert attention from completing the form. See the online section for more information.
  4. Use current events – From the launch of a new season of Masterpiece or the Royal Wedding use significant events to drive interest and sign-ups for PBS Passport.

KLRU Passport Activations by Month

chart showing KLRU's Passport activations by month
While Passport produces small but steady monthly new member activations, most growth occurs around major PBS programs or campaigns. All stations saw data similar to KLRU. Source PBS Passport Report 2018

Over time as more stations gather data and report that up to PBS on how PBS Passport influences fundraising a fuller picture will emerge. In the meantime, it is worth exploring ideas and testing concepts to see what works for your audience. While it may be tempting to decrease the budget for mail or phone programs because of the positive performance of PBS Passport acquisition, that is not a solid strategy for long-term stable growth.

In the Winning Stories section there are details on specific ways stations have been testing how viewers respond to PBS Passport solicitations.

Stewardship & Cultivation

Since all sustaining members are eligible for PBS Passport the work of thanking and engaging them can begin right away. For donors who contribute online, make sure they get an access code right away as a part of their thank you package. For donors who give via the phone or by mail, make sure they receive both an email and a mailed access code so they can start accessing content online as well as some suggestions on what to watch.

When your station is sending out a stewardship card add a line reminding them about PBS Passport:

“Don’t forget that your sustaining membership grants you anytime access to PBS PASSPORT, filled with a library of current and past series to enjoy.”

Other potential communication pieces to include PBS Passport promotion are your annual tax statement, sustainer e-news and your member magazine. The goal is to keep your sustaining members engaged by reminding them of a special benefit of giving which will hopefully translate into more time spent viewing and enjoying the quality programming on PBS.

Many stations see an increase in the number of calls and emails into their member services department around PBS Passport. Use your donor database to track these calls so you can accurately determine if there is a pattern to the questions or if the information on your website needs to be updated to answer some questions without donors reaching out. Also, as much as possible, think of these calls as one more opportunity to engage with your sustaining members in a positive way, address their questions or concerns professionally and promptly.

Passport Picks emails have been a popular way for stations to engage sustaining donors and drive more signups for PBS Passport as well as increase time spent watching. Visit the Resources section for examples.

It is important to remember that the majority of donors who activate PBS Passport are giving because of the core programming. That gives your station a way to see what programs they enjoy and to test attempts to cultivate donors based on the programs they watch.

Retention & Engagement

One of the most advantageous features of PBS Passport for fundraisers is that, because it gives sustaining members increased access to the core programming they enjoy most, these donors have a built-in reason to continue to support their local station.

Most stations do not yet have the ability to connect sustaining member viewing behavior inside their donor database, but as this begins to become standard practice, the opportunities to engage in a more directed way with what sustainers are viewing and enjoying should help stations be more specific about their engagement and fundraising tactics.

New donor growth from PBS Passport has been strong and is reversing a trend of lower new donor growth post-Great Recession. Care must be taken to create an annual plan for engagement towards these new donors who may have different motivations or interest than donors acquired from other channels. There are sample annual plans in the Resource section that can give you a start towards a full year communication plan for sustaining members.

Since PBS Passport is a new service there is not clear data on how members feel about the value of PBS Passport and how it fits into their giving budget. As more stations complete member surveys and user studies, the PBS system will learn more to more effectively engage users.