Welcome to the Fit Fundraising Podcast, where we bring you game-changing fundraising topics, direct from our meetings with major donors and nonprofits nationwide. While most consultants are busy giving advice, Fit Fundraising stays on the front lines with non-profits and major donors. This podcast is a glimpse into our world of work with nonprofits, as we get on the field with them and successfully model fundraising. Get ready to get fit with the hottest show in fund development, Fit Fundraising.

Roy Jones: Hello, I’m Roy Jones and welcome to the Fit Fundraising Podcast. Today, we are very excited because we’re going to touch on a very unique topic. And that’s direct response TV and DR radio. How are people using this technology? And we’ve got one of the best in the business today with us, I am so excited. Alan Stininger is here, he’s executive director of development operations and programs at Shriners Children’s Hospitals. He’s responsible for strategic oversight and success of both the national and Hispanic DRTV programs. He oversees direct mail, the mid level program, mail processing centers, the call center, the processing staff. His focus is on increasing revenue, by acquiring, retaining, and reactivating donors. I’m telling you, Alan knows where it is and what’s happening in this marketplace. He has just an amazing amount of knowledge. And it can really, I think, help all of us think about how we can reduce operational cost and improve the overall donor experience. Alan, thank you for joining us today. We’re so excited to have you. 

Alan Stininger: Thank you Roy, appreciate it. 

Roy Jones: I just want to get things started. Take a few minutes again, maybe there’s somebody that’s been in a coma the last 20 years, or in a cave the last 15 years, or just like me half asleep the last 5 years, and they’ve never heard of Shriners Children’s hospitals, talk about Shriners Children’s and all you guys do. 

Alan Stininger: Yes, thank you Roy. Shriners Children’s formerly Shriners Hospitals for Children we rebranded here a few years ago has is a pediatric health care system nonprofit organization that’s been providing care to Children in need of burn cleft lip and palate orthopedics and spinal cord injury care for more than 100 years now, which is an incredible feat in 2022, we celebrated our 100 year anniversary as a pediatric health care system, which was a big milestone for the organization so we provide all of this wraparound care, regardless of the family’s ability to pay and like I said, we’ve been doing that for more than 100 years with over 20 locations in North America, one in Canada and Mexico, and then over 120 access points of care throughout the United States so we’ve been doing this for a very long time, we’ve helped over 1. 6 million children, since inception of the health care system so real excited about that. And real excited about the impact that the mission of the organization has had on so many patients in their family’s lives throughout this past 100 years so very excited to be here and talk with you today, Roy. 

Roy Jones: Wow. Shriners children’s 1. 6 million patients and 120 points of access, now talk to me about that in addition to the big hospitals we see. 

Alan Stininger: Yes, we have 20 different locations. And then we have, like I said, 120 different access points of care so that’s comprised of, telehealth sites, clinics that sometimes are year round or at different times of the year, we have a new prosthetics and orthopedic shop that was set up right here in Tampa, Florida it’s the 1st one in the healthcare system. So now, children and families can receive care for their prosthetics or orthotics there too, as well, a variety a lot more outpatient ambulatory type facilities now that we have and really try and remove the barriers of care, for our patients and their families and make access much more readily available to them. 

Roy Jones: Wow. Tell me about a little bit get into the technology some, talk to me about how much money it costs to run all these facilities and how do you go about building that support base to make that happen.

Alan Stininger: To run all of the different locations for, Shriners Children’s cost about a billion to 1. 2 billion dollars a year. So everything we do on the fundraising side, plays an extremely important part and offsetting those operational expenses to treat these kids again regardless of their families ability to pay, and that care and treatment is what we call wraparound care so families don’t have to worry about, travel costs, lodging costs, food, clothing, and those types of expenses we cover all of that. For our patients it’s a expensive healthcare system to run, but it’s in a very important healthcare system to run, we’re touching so many children’s lives on an annual basis through our care of our doctors and nurses that, some of the things that we’re going to be talking about today in terms of our DRTV and sustaining program plays a huge role in that and then our donors, we have some very generous donors that support our organization so we’re very grateful and appreciative of all their support and continued support as we move forward to the next hundred years. 

Roy Jones: Let’s get into it. Tell me about how you acquire new donors. What’s that process. 

Alan Stininger: Yeah, specifically related to DRTV, we launched our DRTV program, which is our monthly sustainer program back in 2014 which is hard to believe that we’re going on our 10th year of the program so, just to give you some historical perspective, we never had a formalized monthly sustainer acquisition program before, but we knew that there was a necessity to build that sustainable monthly revenue for the organization in support of our mission. So back in 2014, we probably were averaging anywhere from four to 500 monthly sustainers, on an annual basis is what our file looked like. We had average transactions on a monthly basis of, 1200 to 1500 a month in terms of online transactions from these sustaining donors. And so it was very small file. We got approval to do DRTV or direct response television ad program. And then, strategically sat down and constructed that program and kind of built it to what it is today. So where the program is currently is, we’re sitting currently over 235,000 monthly sustainers to the organization, which generates over 6. 2 million in monthly sustainable. So we’ve come a long way, from where we’re at to where we are currently and we’ve learned a lot of along the way. But very appreciative and grateful for our sustaining donors and the support that they continue to provide for our mission. 

Roy Jones: Now what’s the average offer gift amount?

Alan Stininger: So 19 dollars. We did a lot of research, market research, psychological research into that and landed upon the 19 dollars a month or more offer. We have utilized that across all of our different channels, our DRTV program has grown immensely over the years like it started out as short form spots so 30, 60, 91, 20 seconds spots and then, over the years we’ve expanded and diversified that portfolio into long form or feature spots which are 27 and a half minutes to 30 minutes spots that we’ve now expanded that and are engaging with donors and acquiring sustaining donors through, as well as into programmatic CTV, connected TV, programmatic audio, podcasting and things like that now, we’ve diversified it even more over the years so, very excited about where it was, where it is and what we’re looking forward to doing in the future too, and even expanded into the Hispanic market so we’ve even diversified it even further to creating Hispanic DRTV creative in short form and we’re about to launch it for long form too as well. And then running those connected Hispanic spots so the program has come a long way over the years, and grown tremendously over the years but again, just eternally grateful for the success that we’ve had and especially for our monthly sustaining donors that have supported us some dating back all the way to 2014 when we officially launched.

Roy Jones: Wow. And, in doing that math 19 dollars a month. Obviously the break even point doesn’t happen the 1st month, it may not happen the 1st year for all I know it, that’s 1 of the scientific quantifiable reasons why you have that monthly gift, it enables you to pay for that medium, right?

Alan Stininger: Yeah, and we test and do different things to try to increase our average gift and we see a much stronger average gift than that asking amount of that 19 dollars a month. I think currently we’re sitting around an average gift of close to 28 dollars, 27 dollars right now, it fluctuates, month to month December, we see a significantly higher monthly average gift, but there’s different testing and things we do with the call center scripting, and testing positions of the lower thirds and things like that we do throughout the year that help actually drive up that average gift to as well. 

Roy Jones: And I would assume as well that as you’ve implied, that you’re integrating with direct mail, and then those individuals that upgrade and make a bigger gift at what point do they get introduced to someone in the field that would actually cultivate the relationship in a more personal way?

Alan Stininger: Everything we do for our direct response fundraising program is planned through an audience lens and is executed via Omni channel or multi channel campaigns so, each of our donors is contacted through all available channels for the most part we’re targeting these donors with linear TV ads, connected ads, and some of them are in acquisition files for direct mail so, any available channels that we have, we try to engage and get out front of these donors with our messaging and our stories, and that we do take the omni channel approach, in terms of cultivation upgrade and renewal communications to our donors. So we lead with our child and patient stories, and our stories are coordinated through across all of our channels, the call to action and messaging may be slightly different based on the donor’s history or recent behavior but the goal with everything we do is seamless communication and experiences that resonate, hopefully with our donors through that surround sound type of approach.

Roy Jones: Talk to me about that process. Do the patient stories emanate from the hospitals or access points themselves? 

Alan Stininger: Yes, Roy we rely heavily and have built strong relationships with not only our MarCom teams at headquarters, but at our locations too, because we rely completely on them for these patient stories. Our local staff, builds and maintains this relationship with these patients and their patients families, they know who are great ambassadors, there’s local ambassadors at every single one of our facility locations to as well so we work very closely with them to garner these stories, and then when we go to film to our dear TV spots to we start about 90 days out, and working with those local hospital facilities and staff to, try to identify the patients that we’re looking for in terms of the creative that we’re looking to film at that location or that specific time. So yes, we are eternally grateful for all their support to, to make all of this happen.

Roy Jones: Wow. It makes me smile because, I hear an organization like this where there really is a culture of philanthropy. That emanates throughout the organization and what I hear you saying is, even your doctors, nurses, medical staff, they’re looking for opportunities to connect these stories to the donors that fund the operations they make happen. 

Alan Stininger: Yeah, that’s 100 percent correct. We have some amazing staff from the physicians and doctors to nurses to receptionists to even some of the cafeteria workers and one of the things with our drtv spots is we really truly try to be authentic. We try to show authentic stories and highlight authenticity of what our patients can do now because of the care that they’ve received through our organization. We always try to maintain two positive uplifting stories within the creation of our DRTV spots especially two as well so, that’s something that we’ve tried to achieve, and they are a huge part of that and helping us create that so it is truly a culture of philanthropy throughout our organization. 

Roy Jones: Take just a minute, and I’ll have you put on what I call the magic hat and if you could give a piece of advice to maybe a midsize nonprofit organization that would like to move into this DRTV or direct response radio marketplace, what advice would you give them?

Alan Stininger: I think the most important thing is to know and understand who your audience is, and who best aligns with your mission and set strategic goals, both short and long term. Identifying the media landscape, whether that be DRTV radio or programmatic, where your donors or target audience are. And are most likely to be exposed to your mission and your spots and respond to those, finding the right team also to partner with that was a huge benefit, our success to finding the right partner, digital and media partners to. To help us with the creation and placing in the media of the spots that we were creating, who are experts in DRTV fundraising and align with your support and your mission. Again, that was a huge part to our success and continue success so, whether that be locally or nationally, we’ll depend on the nonprofits audience and goals too but I think, really understanding who your audience is and doing those donor profiles, which we do on an annual basis to and we take a look at the different segments of our donors to see, have they changed? Has that audience changed? Because does that need to change our strategic approach and what we’re doing to so, I would say understanding your audience would be the most important thing. 

Roy Jones: And as you said and really knowing they offer, being able to tell that story and having that compelling message. There are a lot of great nonprofits out there but some of them have a pretty tough message to communicate. Very interesting. So I heard you imply you think this could be done even at a regional level? Doesn’t have to be national in scope?

Alan Stininger: That’s 100 correct because one of the portions of our drtv portfolio I forgot to mention too is we have localized some of the drtv creative that we have creative, where we have specific end slate call outs to, one of our locations in a certain market take dayton for example, and we’ll air spots in some of those local and surrounding local markets too so we’re drawing attention to that local facility, building that awareness, about that local facility and hopefully in term building support to through philanthropy for that organization too, it’s significantly cheaper a lot of times depending on the market. You have different media markets locally from small, medium to large cost it’s very in terms of media costs. To play spots, but you can be very strategic too and how and when depending on your budget and depending on your KPIs and metrics that you have in place in terms of the results, on where you place that media and how you place it. So yes, you can definitely run local spots. 

Roy Jones: I think that it gives a lot of nonprofits, with more than 2 million of them nationwide. I know there are hundreds that are considering it right now just because of how competitive new donor acquisition is. And so the model you’ve laid out, not only for the great work of Shriners Children’s, but a great model for other nonprofits to replicate again, thank you for that and thank you for all that you’re doing. 

We have a lot of people that listen to this podcast because they want to find out from the inside out, of what this particular nonprofit, what this charity is all about. And I think Alan today, you really reflected the heart of Shriners Children. And if you could take just a minute and tell people, if somebody wanted to make a donation, how do they do that? If somebody wanted to reach you, specifically how could they do that?

Alan Stininger: If anybody’s out there interested in supporting our mission at Shriners Children’s, you can go to loveshriners. org to make a donation online. Or mail in donations are just as great too as well, and those can be mailed to 2900 Rocky Point Drive, in Tampa Florida at 33 607. And then if anybody would like to get in contact with me personally or has any other questions about DRTV or sustaining programs, they can feel free to email me at Astinger @ Shrinet. org so that’s A S T I N G E R at shrine s h r i n e t dot org, or you can find me at LinkedIn under Alan Stininger. 

Roy Jones: Alan thank you so much for being with us today. I learned so much and you provided so much hope to so many for everything that’s runners children does. So again, thank you once again. Again, I want to encourage all of our listeners to keep coming back, keep plugging in, keep paying attention, look for those announcements of upcoming podcast and again, I want to remind you. Last year, we helped 41 nonprofits across the country, and this year we’ve set a goal to help 50 nonprofits. If you’re one of those nonprofits, you’re interested in speaking with FIT Fundraising, we’d love to help you. We provide free fundraising counsel initially, and provide free training and counsel, so again if you need help, we’re the place to call. So thank you for joining us today, we look forward to hearing you and seeing you on our next podcast. Thank you again.

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