The people of Maine are stingy when it comes to charitable contributions. In 2012, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Mainers gave only 2.8% of discretionary income to charity, the second lowest percentage in the country. Only the people of Puerto Rico give less. This makes fund raising in Maine, to the say the least, challenging. Here is an example of how one Maine non-profit uses radio to successfully promote its largest annual fundraiser.
Sixty-two years before Maine’s first radio station signed-on and just 40 years after Maine became a state, The Victoria Mansion was built. Completed in 1860, this national historic landmark is the finest surviving Italian villa style house in America. It’s scary to think that in 1940 this august building at 109 Danforth Street in Portland was almost razed to make way for a gas station.
The mansion was built as a summer home by Ruggles Sylvester Morse, a Maine native, who made his fortune as the proprietor of luxury hotels in New Orleans. At the end of the 19th century, the mansion was purchased by J.R. Libby, the founder of a Portland Department Store. By 1928, the Libby family left and the building fell into disrepair, brutalized by the ravages of Maine’s winters and salt-air. In 1941, the mansion was purchased by retired educator William Holmes who turned the house into a museum named for England’s Queen Victoria and has been open to the public ever since.
As one can imagine, the upkeep on a 154 year house is exorbitant. To make ends meet, The Victoria Mansion depends on donations, memberships, and fund raisers. The most spectacular event is Christmas Mansion. During the holidays, each room of the mansion is opulently decorated by an army of designers and florists from the greater Portland area. The cost to tour Christmas Mansion is $15 which, given Mainer’s aversion to charitable giving, might be considered extravagant. To sell the museum’s yuletide sizzle to stingy Mainer’s, the Victoria Mansion uses radio advertising.
Radio Responsible For Rapid Rise In Ticket Sales
According to Greg Sundik, Events Coordinator for Victoria Mansion, “Radio is one of the best media we’ve utilized.” He goes on to say, “We’ve seen our numbers, since we added radio ad time, rapidly increase over the last two year.” Greg gets even more specific, “The first year we used radio, Christmas, as a percentage of Victoria Mansion’s attendance jumped up from about 32% to 35%. Last year there was another marked increase where it was almost 39% of total overall attendance.” Greg is confident radio is responsible. “Radio is only used at Christmastime, so we know it’s the medium that is driving the increase in attendance.” As further proof, when guests are surveyed about how they learned about the mansion, Greg says, “Plenty of times they say the radio.”
Victoria Mansion uses several radio stations to promote the holiday event to maximize the reach of their message. However, Greg primarily relies on WCLZ and WYNZ (Big Hits Y100.9). Each station was chosen for a different reason:
- WCLZ because its listeners, according to qualitative research provided by Media Audit, are 87% more likely to be socially conscious than the general population. Therefore, they are more likely to be generous in their support of local non-profit events.
- WYNZ, a station that plays only holiday music throughout the Christmas season. Arbitron research indicates that listening levels to this type of station, on average, increases 91% during this time of year. The choice of WYNZ, besides offering a relevant commercial environment, also serves to achieve the broad reach objective that contributes to the increased attendance.
Greg believes that a 60 second radio spot is the perfect length to promote all three of the mansion’s revenue streams. Prior to Christmas, the mansion’s ad focuses on tours and private rentals. After Christmas, the emphasis, of the message switches to the mark-down sale in the museum’s gift shop. As a result, the museum saw, in Greg’s words, “A rapid increase” in gift shop visitors. Click below to hear Victoria Mansion’s post-holiday commercial.
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