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Dick Jenkins “Increasing Revenue 18 Ways with Data-Driven Pledge Drives”

There are 18 ways that you can increase your pledge drive revenue.    This short article is a top-level overview of each element you can maximize to increase pledge drive revenue.   It also lists typical ranges for each pledge drive element.  Your optimal parameters will vary depending on your specific audience and the results of your own data analysis.

The fundamental method to increase pledge drive revenue is to ask for the right amount, in the right way, at the right time during each hour of each day of your pledge drive.  Determining what is specifically “right” for your station or network can be determined by the strategic application of Data Science tools and systems to your particular situation and opportunity.

This first element, the “ask amount, structure, and timing,” is the most critical element to consider in your pledge drive planning.  An example of this principle is shown in the hypothetical graph below.  The “average pledge amount” is indicated by the blue lettering on the blue axis at the bottom of the graph. The total “number of pledges received” is noted in red lettering on the red axis at the right side of the graph.

  1. Asking for too high of a gift amount results in lower revenue as the number of pledge dollars drops faster than average pledged dollars increase, as shown by the right side of the chart.
  2. Asking for too low of a gift amount results in lower revenue because the average individual pledge amount declines faster than the number of pledges increases, as detailed by the left side of the chart.
  3. Asking for the right combination of gift amounts maximizes pledge revenue, as noted in the middle of the graph.

In the example chart below, asking the right amount at the right time helps achieve the forecast goal of $900,000.


A data-driven pledge drive calculates the correct ask-amounts and ask-types for each hour or each day of the pledge drive.

Your pledge drive revenue should increase over time from improvements in Program Development, Pledge Development,  Gift Development, Signal Development, and Market Development.  For example, if you started with an average pledge of $250, it might increase to $400 or more over several years, therefore increasing your pledge drive revenue.

Analyzing past pledge drives to determine which hours had the best mix of ask amounts and ask types, and which hours performed the worst allows you to calculate your optimal combination of ask amounts for each hour and each day.

Implementing your data-driven pledge drive can be simple or complex.   A simple entry-level strategy could start with an existing employee using Excel as an analysis tool.    A more comprehensive data-driven strategy would be supported by a Data Science consultant or by hiring one or more data scientists as employees.

Data Scientists use sophisticated analysis tools and systems such as Tableau, Alteryx, WealthEngine, and V-Soft to increase donor revenue.  The largest radio networks employ teams of Data Scientists to provide critical data and information to network executives, helping improve signal coverage, listening audience, and donor revenue.

See HisAir.Net article on the five steps to Increasing Revenue using RadioMetrics at https://www.hisair.net/frank-e-kavenik-increasing-revenue-using-radiometrics-dss/

As a management consultant, I work with Christian radio stations and networks to quantify each of the 18 factors that increase pledge drive revenue.  Since 2001, I have used Data Science to increase pledge drive revenue for both teaching/talk and music-driven formats on both AM and FM stations and networks.

Using Data Science systems and tools, I recommend analyzing:

  1. your past pledge drives,
  2. donor giving by zip code,
  3. time on-air in each market/response,
  4. skills balance vs. performance of your on-air teams,
  5. pledge calls per hour and amount,
  6. audience ratings/streaming by the hour and day,
  7. a deep-dive analysis of the P1 Listener experience,
  8. auditorium testing if your budget allows.

P-1 Listeners are your primary giving audience during a pledge drive. Therefore, it is critical to optimize the P-1 listener experience, engaging them for additional quarter hours.

While it is good if your pledge drive revenue is growing, it is even better to know that your pledge drive revenue is growing at a maximum trajectory based on Data Science.

Every station and network is unique, but in general, there are 17 other ways to increase your pledge drive revenue:

  1. The number of days of the pledge drive: Range of 1 to 12 days (depends on the length/intensity of pledge breaks). You can determine the correct length by first analyzing the momentum curve for each of your past pledge drives. Typically a pledge drive will run 4-7 days, but this is specific to your format/station.
  2. Annual frequency: 2 to 5 (dependent on your approach and total pledge-drive days allocated per year).
  3. Dates of Pledge Drives: Holiday and school schedules and competition station pledge drives.
  4. Hourly Pledge Breaks: 3 to 8 breaks (considering intensity, length, and type of asks).
  5. The length of each pledge-drive break: 90 seconds to 6 minutes (multiple data factors are in play here).
  6. The number of pledge-drive announcers: 3 to 4 two-person teams (I recommend a rotation every two hours of a male/female pairing). A brief appearance of the CEO or GM for up to 45 minutes every few hours should also be considered.
  7. Types of monthly pledge asks: 3.
  8. Amount of monthly pledge asks – small, medium, large (analysis of your past pledge drive data will quantify).
  9. Types of 1x gift asks – 3 (analysis of your past pledge drives will quantify).
  10. The ratio of Monthly to 1x gift asks – 2/1 to 4/1 (quantified by analysis of success factors from past pledge drives).
  11. Total amount of the Pledge Drive Goal (quantified by analysis of success factors from past pledge drives).
  12. Daily amount of the Pledge Drive Goal (quantified by analysis of success factors from past pledge drives).
  13. Hourly Pledge Drive Goals (quantified by analysis of success factors from past pledge drives).
  14. For networks or multiple stations, pledge goals for each city or region (quantified by analysis of success factors from past pledge drives).
  15. Sharing with listeners percent-of-goal by the hour, day, and total (informed listeners are more likely to pledge).
  16. Sharing dollar-goal by the hour, day, and total (informed listeners are more likely to pledge).
  17. Further optimization during the pledge drive based on analyzing real-time incoming data and information.

Again, the most critical factors in increasing pledge drive revenue are the “ask amount, structure, timing, plus the expectations and perceptions of your P1 listeners.”

For example, with the help of Data Scientist Frank Kavenik (FrankK@data-sci.biz), increasing revenue for a 35 station talk network was accomplished primarily by increasing the number of listeners who stayed tuned in to the pledge drive (from 50% to 90%), raising the average gift per donor, inserting certain production elements, and coaching the pledge drive teams. These actions resulted in an overall increase in revenue from $4.1 million to $8.0 million.

While at EMF Broadcasting as CEO, revenue growth averaged 20% per year for over 18 years due to a great management team, Data Science, and solid expansion tactics.  One foundation for EMF’s success was combining decades of experience managing successful pledge drives with Data Science.

By combining your pledge drive management experience with Data Science, you too can increase your pledge drive revenue.


A HIS-AIR ZOOM webinar on this topic, scheduled for Thursday, April 29 at 1 pm ET, 10 am PT, is being offered FREE of charge, but you must pre-register. To receive an invitation, email your request to Dick Jenkins at dickjenkinsbiz@gmail.com

After a decade-long career in secular radio as an announcer and later as a program director, Dick Jenkins became the CEO of EMF Broadcasting and the K-LOVE Radio Network in 1986. K-LOVE grew from a single FM station in Santa Rosa, CA, to become the largest listener-supported Christian radio network in America. He was instrumental in growing annual revenue from $110,000 yearly to 90 million dollars by 2008, while financing the acquisition of 550 signals. Dick is now a management consultant helping listener-supported radio networks and stations grow and prosper. His email address is dickjenkinsbiz@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Dick Jenkins “Increasing Revenue 18 Ways with Data-Driven Pledge Drives”

  • This is excellent, Dick! Thank you for sharing this insightful information. I am certain it will be helpful to stations striving to reach the next level in listener-support.

  • Dick…. I hope you are well. Wisdom from experience is always the best! Thank you!!

  • Nicely done! Your years of unrelenting drive to see increased revenue for listener-supported stations is paying off.
    Love to see how this next level of Data Science is being used. Big score for Christian radio Dick!


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