WUNC Radio sustainer renewal program

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WUNC Radio sustainer renewal program

Direct mail re-design nets 7X increase

In 2010 development staff at WUNC Radio launched an innovative Sustainer program, designed so loyal listeners could conveniently support the station by way of automatic monthly charges to their credit cards.  Listeners responded with such enthusiasm that the Sustainer program grew into a predictable revenue steam and the station’s single largest source of ongoing support.

But there was a problem.


The Sustainer program suffered from an operational defect the developers failed to predict. Credit cards lapse when new cards are issued or numbers are changed as a result of identity theft.

This created a challenge: how to retain valuable supporters when they were issued new cards. The station’s response, and its decision to ask Laser Image Printing & Marketing for help, teaches us how a few simple changes to a direct mail program can add up to a big jump in response.

Retaining sustaining donors was a priority for Anne Kendrick when she joined WUNC Radio in 2011 as the Assistant Director of Individual Giving.

She and the development staff tested different ways to do it. Their solution was a simple in-house direct mail program. Unfortunately, their mailings drew a meager 3% response. Anne and the WUNC staff saw that there was lots of room for improvement.

Mail piece

When Anne and Regina Yeager, WUNC’s Development Director, met with Laser Image, it was obvious that the problem lay with the mail piece itself. It went out in a plain window envelope, identified only with the station’s return address and logo. The envelope carried a letter asking donors to please call in their new number, or return it in an enclosed envelope.

Anne suspected many recipients discarded the piece unopened. They saw it, she thought, as just another solicitation from an organization they already supported as Sustainers.


When we sat down to work with Anne, we saw two ways Laser Image could help.

First, we replaced the standard business envelope with a colorful, oversized self-mailer designed to stand out in the mail and grab attention.

To get people to open it we stated boldly on the front what was inside and included a gift.

THANK YOU for supporting WUNC!
Important information about your
including a FREE gift for your participation!

The gift is a colorful decal printed on removable vinyl stock that recipients can display on their windshield or refrigerator proclaiming they are WUNC Sustainers. We calculated that these decals would further promote the Sustainer program.

The request inside the mailer takes the form of a personalized note from Regina Yeager WUNC’s Development Director to individual recipients, addressing them by name, thanking them for past support and notifying them of the credit card issue. A reply envelope and card, coded with the date of the mailing for tracking purposes, are enclosed.

The piece also reminds recipients of the benefits they enjoy under the Sustainer program, including special events and automatic entry into all drawings held during pledge drives.

Second, we set up a streamlined procedure for processing the mailers. WUNC uploads to us a weekly list of lapsed Sustainers though a secure portal on the Laser Image website.

Laser Image merges this mailing list into the pre-designed mailer template, and sends the resulting file to our Indigo high-speed color press for on-demand, personalized printing. We then cut, fold, insert, and seal the lot and mail it out.


Anne says response to has jumped from 3% to 20%. This is a seven-fold increase. She also sees the rate of inbound phone calls going up, as donors call in new card numbers, increasing response even further.

It’s excellent. I couldn’t be happier
– Anne Kendrick, WUNC Assistant Dir. of Individual Giving

The new process has freed staff time as well. They labored to print, stuff and mail everything themselves. All they do now is send the weekly mailing list to Laser Image. This is “very helpful,” Anne says.

Every campaign is different, and no one can predict a 20% response to direct mail efforts across the board. In the WUNC case, we’re mailing to supporters who love the station and are likely to respond. Nevertheless, this case shows that a good mail piece can have a huge effect on the success of a campaign. It also teaches the value of collaborating with experienced direct marketing professionals to get the most from your marketing dollars.

About WUNC Radio

Since 1976 WUNC has broadcast news, cultural and entertainment programming to listeners in central and eastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks. It is currently home to such popular programs as All Things Considered, Car Talk, A Prairie Home Companion, and Fresh Air. The station has offices in Chapel Hill, and a broadcast studio in the American Tobacco Historic District in Durham.

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