Austin PBS Matching Gift Test

Matching Gift yields twice the net revenue as longstanding control for Austin PBS.

What We Did

Direct Mail, Strategy & Planning

The Challenge

In fall 2019, Austin PBS, the public television station in Austin, TX, was the recipient of a generous matching gift from a couple of longtime viewers and supporters who believe in the power of public television and its ability to deliver the truth without bias.

The Solution

Wanting to make the most of this opportunity, Allegiance worked with the station to test a direct mail package specifically designed to promote this offer against its control package to active donors.

The Matching Gift package was a 2-page letter mailed in a white #10 envelope with a jumbo window through which the donor could see elements of a stylized matching gift voucher that functioned as the reply slip. The letter featured a headline personalized with the donor’s name, which prominently promoted the matching gift opportunity. A September 30 deadline added urgency to the offer.

The longtime control was also a #10 statement-type window envelope package. A pinkish reply slip with the headline Member Contribution Form showed through the window. The letter copy focused on the costs of programs that members enjoy and how much the donor’s support matters.

Both packages used the same variable ask string based on the donor’s prior giving, while the matching gift package highlighted how the donor’s gift would be matched dollar for dollar.

The Results:

The Matching Gift test segment yielded 78% more gross revenue than the control — generating significant increases in both response rate and average gift. For every 1,000 pieces mailed the control netted $1,718 while the test package generated $3,457 for every 1,000 pieces mailed.

Response RateAverage GiftNet $/M


Gross revenue increase

The Takeaway

  • Generally, matching gift offers tend to yield a higher response rate. In this case, the 33% lift in the average gift was unexpected but seen in both the first and second hits of mail and was not a result of any unusually large gifts.
  • While the Matching Gift package/offer was a tremendous success to active donors, a similar test to acquisition and lapsed audiences did not yield the same results.
  • Matching Gifts can often be mailed multiple times throughout the year, and for public media audiences provide an opportunity to do fundraising outside of on-air drives due to the strength of the offer. If you’re looking to increase the number of gifts/donor, then you may want to try this “extra” mailing to your add gift audience.
  • An often-overlooked value of Matching Gifts is that it provides your Major Gift Officers an opportunity to bring a new, different offer to donors they’re working with. The Matching Gift could be from one — or a group of — existing major donors, your board, Advisory Committee, or maybe even a group of younger donors. These younger donors — perhaps with a history of giving smaller gifts — will see the power of their combined giving and how your traditional, older donors will rise to the challenge and respond.