Conversation with Maine Public

As Maine Public just passed its one-year anniversary with ROI Solutions, Robert Lambert sat down with Maine Public’s Robin McCarthy, the Manager of Direct Mail Fundraising, and Curt Chadbourne, the Director of Member Services, to discuss their experience with ROI Solutions and Revolution Online. 

Robert: Thanks for joining us today and sharing a bit about your experience with Revolution Online. To start off, could you share with our readers how long you have each been at Maine Public and a bit about your prior experience?

Robin: Sure, I am closing in on 2 years now at Maine Public and I run the Direct Mail and Direct Marketing Program here. Before this, I worked in nonprofit fundraising, with a background doing advocacy work for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and serving as the Development Director for an organization that focused on sustainable farming outreach in Central America.

Curt: I’ve been in broadcasting for most of my professional career, starting in a small station in Bangor, Maine. I was working 6 days a week for minimum wage, but I liked it enough to stick with it. From there I moved to Portland, where I directed morning news casts. After a few years, I switched to writing and producing tv commercials at the same station. We moved back to Bangor to be closer to family, and I joined Maine Public as the Pledge Producer for online fundraising, which I did for 15 years. Two years ago, I became the Director of Member Services for Maine Public, taking over just as we were transitioning to ROI Solutions. 

Robert: Can you give our readers a little more background about the organization and its mission?

Curt: Sure, we are a statewide public radio and television station – a dual licensee. The organization started as two separate stations that merged together about 40 years ago, and we have been serving the people of the state of Maine since then. Maine Public began with a focus on educational television, and has evolved to include an emphasis on news and public affairs. We are a lot of things for a lot of different people, for some people, we are the source for their children’s programs, for some we are a classical music station, and some listeners tune in for our news and public affair programming. Our mission is to connect the people of Maine to the world and the world to Maine.

Robert: You have three offices: Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor.  Do the staff up north call the Portland staff “flatlanders”? 

Curt: Hahah, no that is what we call you. 

Robert: Can you share with us if there was a key piece of functionality that made your organization decide to choose ROI Solutions?

Curt: There was not necessarily one key piece of functionality, we were looking for a database that could do everything we needed it to do, and we wanted something that could do so quickly and efficiently. ROI Solutions checked all those boxes. We enjoyed the team that we met with, and we were impressed that ROI Solutions’ CEO, Gina, came up here herself.  That sort of engagement is not something that you see too often. Revolution Online met all our needs and we liked the style and culture of ROI Solutions.

Robert:  Recurring donors are a big part of your fundraising program.  Does Passport continue to be a big driver of growth? 

Robin: Yes and no. Passport is new and it is definitely creating a new kind of sustainer for us, but they are different from our general member philanthropic sustainer, as they are getting something tangible from their donation. However, Passport is driving a new audience and we have to find new ways to see what that audience wants. These donors want something more than just to turn on the radio and hear the programming. Something that has been useful for us is the ability to be alerted to membership problems. Ifpeople log in and they see something missing in Passport, they will pick up the phone and give us a call. It provides an additional layer of customer engagement, and lets us connect with our audience.

Curt: To add on to that, it can’t be overstated how important the sustaining program is. We haven’t really been doing it that long, and somewhere around 40-41% are now sustainers, which is a big deal.

Robin: Another interesting dynamic that ROI has introduced is the marriage of ROI Solutions and Engaging Networks, which has started us thinking about certain annual or quarterly recurring gifts as a baseline ask. This is a cool thing to be able to take advantage of, and it is something that would take much longer to implement on a different CRM Solution.

Robert: What is the functional area in ROI you have found the most useful since you have gone live?  Did you expect that or was this a surprise?

Robin: For me it has been the uploads feature. I hadn’t been able to work with something like that before – it saves us a ton of time, and it is just incredibly handy. It’s fun when you are working on a new problem to go check the uploads, since there is probably a solution to your issue there. You can also see how workflow has changed around the department as we really cut some time out of a lot of our processes.

Curt: I am not in Revolution Online every day, but I do head there for financial reports. With our previous CRM Solution, this used to take a long time, but with Revolution Online it really doesn’t. Once the report was built for me it’s easy, and it is really very quick. With our old database, many simple things were difficult. Just to see a report was a process, and if you made a mistake at any point, you wouldn’t know until the end and would have to start all over again. Revolution Online is easier to understand, and if there is something I don’t know how to do, it is easy to figure out.

Robert:  Do you all have specific metrics for success that you review on a monthly or quarterly basis to ensure user adoption is meeting your satisfaction?

Curt: We really don’t keep track of that, the team is small, and I work closely with them, so I have a good sense of our metrics, but it’s not something that I have been actively tracking.

Robert: Did you have the chance to attend any industry conferences this year and was there a key learning that you took away from it?

Robin: I was at PMDMC this year, which is the big annual conference for public broadcasting fundraisers and marketers, and I left with two primary takeaways. One is the emphasis on sustainer memberships and the need to actively try to amp up loyalty. The other is the benefit of promoting local programming, since these programs are what makes your station notable and unique. The big advantage of local programming is that it allows you to highlight the local culture and what makes it worthwhile to be a part of the Maine community.

Robert: If Revolution Online were to make smoothies, what flavor would you pick?

Robin: I think the ROI Solutions smoothie would be green.  I don’t want to know all the details of what’s in there or how the ingredients came together, but it’s pretty delicious and it’s good for me.

Curt: I’m not going to try to top that, so I will just have what she’s having!