Increase Monthly Donations with Short Form Direct Response Television

Posted by admin on Aug 10, 2018 7:30:34 AM

Direct Response Infomercials, known as “Short Format” or “Short Form,” resemble television commercials and can range from 30 to 120 seconds in length and feature a running 1-800 phone number.

To strengthen program appeal, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) and others have had the best responses with familiar songs, such as “Amazing Grace,” as musical background. CCFC would show shots of children in need, usually with a host on camera surrounded by the children, or a spot with a strong voice-over of the images of the children. Music can enhance your program, along with a celebrity to deliver the key messages of your non-profit and reach those much-needed monthly donors.

The Advantages of Short-Form
Short-Form TV spots can be purchased one week out and have high flexibility when setting up your Direct Response Television program. It can run in all day parts, on all stations and reach a larger audience than traditional print media. Overall, production costs are lower for Short-Form versus Long-Form (much like a thirty-minute or an hour-long documentary) when you are starting your program.

As far as programming goes you have higher visibility programming because of repeated insertions. As a non-profit you can also take advantage of network time slots at lower costs versus buying long-form time network time slots.

Your donors and overall TV consumers highly value Short-Form with its convenient response mechanisms to product/charity solicitations they are interested in their day-to-day lives.

Direct Response Television – A Specialized Business
Short-Form is a specialized business and it requires strategic planning, which can lead to lead generation and conversion.

Your Direct Response Television program must be a part of your overall annual campaign. When deciding about Direct Response Television you must look at your basic purpose as a non-profit. You must have something to sell; and when making your media purchase the key things to consider are: analysis, what is your market and what are you willing to have as your “cost” per converted monthly donation.

Direct Response TV Seasonality Table: The Best Time to Buy

Month Percentage

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
100% 90% 80% 65% 50% 50% 70% 75% 40% 60% 65% 80%

(Efficiency = combination of rates viewership and responsiveness)

A Strong Case is a Must
Your non-profit must have a strong case which is essential—this is where your program needs that edge. It must be built through exciting creative content. As a non-profit you must tell your story in a way that the potential donor will pick up the phone and make a financial commitment.

What Supplier to Use?
There are a number of outstanding suppliers in the Direct Response Television field. The choice of the supplier needs to be one that is considered long and hard. My advice would be to approach companies that have a proven track record but to also use a supplier that can bring freshness to the project. You don’t want your commercial to look like everyone else’s.

Direct Response TV Short-Form Program Projections
Direct Response Television has high up-front costs but the long-term benefits are fantastic. Monthly donations are the key to its success with the average gift range of $15 to $32. Once people are donating via credit card or automatic debit of their checking account, it is normal for them to give on the average of six years. Non-profit organizations have had success at approaching these Direct Response Television donors for higher end gifts, such as planned giving and major gifts.

Principles of Direct Response Television
Everything is measurable with the right tools and you must have unique 800 numbers as well as telemarketing reports that reflect call flow. Consider these advantages:

  • Your answers are immediate with next day results, which help in your planning.
  • Direct Response Television rates are considerably lower than general rates and savings can be as high as 200 – 300%, compared to traditional advertising rates.
  • Overall, cable time is generally more efficient than spot because of cost and availability of time.
  • Even though Direct Response Television is preemptible it is predictable and is managed with over-buying.
  • All day parts are used and targeting can be achieved with efficient media buys.
  • 120-second length spots are usually more efficient than 60-second spots because of the up-front call volume and back-end conversion rates.
  • You need to monitor daily, analyze weekly, optimize results continuously and each station becomes a profit centre. Your non-profit must buy-manage weekly to maximize efficiencies for your program.
  • Schedules can be added, cancelled or changed quickly, usually within two weeks.
  • The goal is to achieve qualified leads that convert prospects into donors and a good cost per call is not good enough when looking at your results.

Direct Response TV Cost and Revenue Estimates
The approximate costs are $100,000 for a Short-Form test. It will take one year to 18 months to recover your costs. If we assume that your organization had a monthly gift of $21 for six years and that approximately 5% to 10% of donors will cancel their pledge each year, the net revenue after six years could be over $500,000.

Assumptions for Short-Form Direct Response TV

  • Productions and airing of two, two-minute segments featuring an emotional focus on health and children
  • An attractive monthly giving program offering regular benefits and communication to donors.
  • Monthly donor conversion over the telephone - 57% of incoming calls
  • Single gifts: - 5%
  • Monthly contribution - $18.00
  • Single gift contribution - $25.00
  • Telemarketing cost per call - $ 7.00
  • Cost of fulfillment kit - $ 5.00

These costs can vary depending on your marketplace and supplier.

Budget Assumptions

  • Production costs - $ 44,000
  • Monthly media buy - $ 45,000
  • Telemarketing set-up and training $ 7,500
  • Fulfillment set-up - $ 1,000
  • Other - $ 2,500
  • Total $ 100,000

This provides you with a ‘birds eye view’ of how a direct response fundraising appeal, using short-format presentations, might be created for your non-profit organization. Obviously, assumptions were made that may not hold true for your organization. You should seek the advice of an experienced professional when planning something new and different for your non-profit.


For ten years Mary Lynne Stewart served as Director of Development for Christian Children’s Fund of Canada. Following this, she started her own company (Mary Lynne Stewart & Associates Inc.) to work with a variety of non-profit clients, including: Alzheimer Society of Canada; Canadian Liver Foundation; University of Haifa; Hospital for Sick Children; and Youth Clinical Services. Mary Lynne Stewart is a member of the very small group (less than ten people) with recognized expertise and experience in the product of Direct Response Television for major Canadian charities.


Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada.  If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to info@cdsfunds.com.

Topics: Campaign Feasibility and Planning Studies, Capital Campaigns, Communications and Networking, direct response fundraising appeal, direct response television, Fundraising Principles, short form

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