Failing Forward: Learning From Mistakes on the Journey to Anti-Racism

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, leadership, diversity & inclusion

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So often we spend a lot of time thinking about the mistakes that we make, both those we realize on our own and those that others point out. We can spend days replaying a scenario particularly when it is related to race or gender identity. Some describe it as minefields that they are fearful of saying the wrong thing. I want to liberate you and tell you that you WILL make a mistake and you will offend someone. When working in equity and inclusion and striving to build knowledge while moving forward it is important to have a framework of what to do when you make a mistake. This strategy allows you to make amends, to learn and to feel more courage to take risks and make mistakes in the future. 

During a webinar I was once asked this question: “I have run into situations where a name is unfamiliar to me (e.g. I recently hosted a panel and one of the panelists had a Vietnamese name I hadn’t heard before). I struggle with having to ask someone multiple times to pronounce their name because it feels disrespectful but I am asking because I genuinely want to get it right. Any tips on how to handle this situation?”

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Maximize Streaming Audio Sponsorship Now More Than Ever

Corporate Support, digital sponsorship

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If you have been thinking about adding streaming audio pre-rolls to your mix of digital sponsorship offerings, now is the time to jump in and  jump in all the way.  If you have just been offering a “baked in” single or dual streaming audio sponsorship and are only selling it to one or two sponsors,  it’s time to change to dynamic pre-roll insertion and sell to multiple sponsors.  

Stations can more than make up the monthly service cost for dynamically inserted streaming audio pre-rolls through added sponsorship sales and increased digital revenue.  Borrell Associates recently released “The 2021 Mindset of Streaming Audio Advertisers,” including their survey of 2,262 local advertisers and agencies conducted in Q2 and Q3 2020.  The results showed that almost half of local agencies were buying streaming audio, while only 11% of local advertisers were doing the same. This may indicate that streaming audio is currently bought by more sophisticated marketers, but is starting to gain traction on direct buys, too.  With smart speakers now in over 87.7 million U.S. households (up over 32% year over year) and the ubiquitous use of smart phones, it just makes sense to capture the most sponsorship revenue you can with streaming audio.

The Borrell Associates study mentioned above goes on to show that half of streaming audio sponsorship buyers are in arts & entertainment, retail, civic organizations, and health care.  Most of these are strong public media sponsorship categories. And indicators suggest that streaming audio buyers have bigger budgets.

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The Need for Sustainers Is Bigger Than You Think

sustainers, Membership

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NPR News stations have a fundraising opportunity they’ve never had before and might never have again: the opportunity is to turn significantly more listeners into sustaining givers. Why now? On March 11th, David Giovannoni, President of Audigraphics, Inc. and longtime public radio researcher, wrote in Current that “The events of the last 10 months have accelerated longstanding trends in listeners’ relationships with their NPR News stations. Today listeners to NPR News stations rely more on these stations than ever. The programming is more important to them than ever.” 

Audience 98 showed us that listening causes giving. But listeners give only when they become core listeners, and even then it can take up to a decade (or more) for a listener to become a giver. It’s clear that the time to translate increased loyalty into sustaining giving is now. 

Seizing upon increased loyalty to create more sustainers isn’t just something we can do, it’s something we must do. The revenue stability we can create from increasing sustainers will be a necessity as we grapple with changing listening habits and a greater-than-ever imperative to build new audiences.

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Finding Ways to Meet Sponsors’ Needs During a Pandemic

event sponsorship, Corporate Support, marketing, COVID-19

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Greater Public spoke with Joyce Cotton, director of marketing and community partnership at WEDU/PBS TV. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cotton has relied on many of the techniques she’s honed over decades in the industry, combined with inspiring new ideas for how to serve sponsors, her station, and the community. Here are some of the practices - old and new - that have helped her meet sponsors’ needs in valuable ways. 

Lean into Sponsor Relationships During Hard Times

Over the years, I have been involved in the Tampa Bay community which has given me the opportunity to have a greater understanding of the issues that are of concern in the local community. At the start of the pandemic, I realized that this was going to be a time of change and uncertainty for everyone. I was a natural at adapting and adjusting to change. We have a relatively small underwriting team and I handle most of the arts venues which were shut down immediately. So, maybe two thirds of my business was impacted. I reached out to each community partner in an email. I said, “I understand your situation, if you need help with something, just let me know. We are all in this together.”

Because of the relationship that I have with my clients, some of them reached out to me, including an area restaurant that’s long supported WEDU. They asked if we could produce a spot to let their customers know that, although the restaurant was closed, their chef was preparing family dinners for curbside pick-up. A family-owned catering company changed their on-air message to encourage the donation of catered meals to the doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers who were caring for COVID-19 patients in area hospitals. 

I am fortunate to have developed ongoing community partnerships. For example, since the opening of the Glazer Children’s Museum 10 years ago, we, along with our education department, host bi-monthly “Free Tuesday” events on-site that include PBS Kids activities, character appearances, mobile labs with iPads featuring PBS Kids games apps, take-home educational resources for families, and free books for the kids. We have 2,000 - 3,000 people at each event. The museum recently reopened with a Wild Kratts exhibit in March [of this year] and will have the Daniel Tiger exhibit opening in the summer. Although we are not hosting the “Free Tuesday” events due to the limited capacity, the marketing director contacted me about this natural tie-in to continue our partnership and the museum is recognizing WEDU PBS as a sponsor of both exhibits. They have committed a $10,000 cash underwriting schedule to promote the reopening and assure families that they can come back safely.

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WXPN's Virtual 5k Brings Surprising Results

event sponsorship, Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, Audience Engagement

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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, events have gone virtual. From screenings to concerts and 5k runs, we’ve all been scrambling to figure out the best way to transition to this new model.

Last fall, WXPN successfully did just that, for its Musicians on Call campaign, in partnership with a national organization by the same name. The results were impressive, particularly when it came to participation. With approximately 200 more participating in its annual 5k fundraiser this time, many were listeners who lived too far from Philadelphia to join past runs, but were signing up now.

“We’re a big supporter of the local music community,” says WXPN’s Director of Marketing, Kimberly Winnick, who is responsible for raising funds for the program. “It’s one of the reasons we got involved with Musicians on Call. Our mission is to connect artists and audiences, and build, serve and engage the community. With a large community of local musicians and passionate volunteers, we knew we could build and sustain the volunteer staffing needs for this program. It’s a perfect fit for us.”

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Using Audience Personas to Guide Your Fundraising Activities

Membership, marketing

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Making up imaginary people may seem like a childhood game long forgotten, but media companies across the country are using the practice to help guide their work.

The idea behind audience personas or audience visioning exercises is to use a fictional person who is based on data and insight to guide product or project development. Check out this basic example created to think through a public radio website user:


Audience personas can help you think through audience needs and wants, so the end story (or project, or email, or membership drive segment) better resonates with the audience it is intended to reach.

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Boost Staff Motivation One Year into the Pandemic

Corporate Support, General Management, COVID-19

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The question on everyone’s lips just a month ago was “how do I keep my staff motivated one year into the pandemic”?

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to overcome so many extra challenges, boosting employee morale and keeping employees motivated when they’re working remotely.

We’ve become a Zoom society. Working from home almost daily, we’re Zooming with our sponsorship prospects and clients, our coworkers, and station managers. It’s not always easy. Zoom meetings bring technical glitches, dropped connections, and interruptions from our pets or family members which can be an embarrassing situation. And there’s the often-heard, “you need to unmute yourself.”

Trying to motivate employees after months of being away from an office environment can be challenging. We're so focused on rebuilding relationships and revenue streams that a mental health break is in order. Without time to blow off some steam, a person can become bored, frustrated, and unmotivated.

Here are some ideas to lift your staff's spirits and morale, or offer them a break from their challenges and struggles.

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Possibly the Most Compelling Reason to Sponsor Public Media

Corporate Support

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Reaching the public radio and television audience has always been a selling point with sponsors, and is the unique value proposition of all stations. The public media audience is unparalleled in reaching decision-makers and is an ideal highly qualified audience for sponsors. But as listening and viewing habits change, as well as behaviors due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, there may also be another reason to sponsor public media that is even more compelling.

A recent study reported by Annette Malave, SVP/Insights, RAB in her blog post “Radio Covers Auto Insurance,” showed attribution data analysis by Analytic Owl on the recent large ad spends by insurance companies like Progressive Insurance. The data showed that of nearly 36,000 radio ads throughout 2020, radio increased web traffic by 12%, according to NumericOwl data (powered by AnalyticOwl). For every radio ad aired, it generated 2.2 new website visits for a total of over 135,000 visits.

Everyone wants increased web traffic! Think of all the professional service companies, attorneys, healthcare, and others that have spent a lot of money updating their websites to make them current and user-friendly. If you can increase their web traffic it can help make that investment worthwhile. Oh, and what about automotive dealerships? Driving traffic to their website is exactly what they want.

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Why Confronting Ethics in Fundraising Matters Now

Major Giving, COVID-19

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Americans tend to place more trust in nonprofit organizations than they do in many other structures. But if any organization abuses that trust or defies the ethics of philanthropy, it paints us all with the same mistrust. 

When some nonprofit hospitals across the country recently allowed their major donors and board members to “skip the line” and receive the coronavirus vaccination early or through special invite-only arrangements, it understandably angered not just the general public but most of us inside fundraising. 

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) released an unambiguous rebuke of the practice. “The idea of hospital systems, or any charity, ignoring protocols, guidance or restrictions—regardless of origin—and offering certain donors and board members the opportunity to ‘skip the line’ and receive vaccinations ahead of their scheduled time is unethical, inequitable and antithetical to the values of philanthropy and ethical fundraising.”

While we in public media are not subject to concern over vaccine distribution, it would be unwise to ignore this opportunity to examine our own ethical responsibilities to discover where we need to shore up our practices.

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How to Plan a Collaborative Fundraiser

Membership, pledge drive

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Many stations have used or considered using collaborative fundraisers to contribute to the wellbeing of the community and provide opportunity to donors for deeper impact.

Collaborative drives appeal to donors because their gift simultaneously benefits the work of another community issue that they care about. 

WFDD in Winston-Salem has run a collaborative drive since 2009, gathering insights along the way about what makes these campaigns successful. Our BackPack Campaign works to alleviate childhood hunger through a partnership with our regional food bank’s BackPack Program, which provides children experiencing food insecurity with a backpack full of kid-friendly, nutritious food to take home over the weekends.

The BackPack Campaign offers a model for any station wishing to hold a collaborative fundraiser. 

What Is the BackPack Campaign?

The BackPack Campaign is a four-way partnership. The first partner is a food bank that runs a program to send children home with a backpack of food each weekend. The children have been identified by their school as getting most of their meals at school, and as not having reliable access to food over the weekend. An identified corporate partner agrees to fund the backpacks for children through a direct donation to the food bank. The third and fourth partners are the station, and, of course, the listeners.

It’s structured such that every gift to the station results in offsetting the cost of one backpack of food for a child. Listeners make a donation to the station, and 100% of their gift remains with the station supporting the programming; the corporate partner funds the backpack; the food bank distributes the backpacks through its program, which provides continuity of service to the children who are enrolled and can serve additional children because of the partnership. The backpack is the thank-you gift for the donor, it just goes to a child in need. Because it’s structured as a one-for-one (one donation equals one backpack), rather than a “when-then” (“when we meet the goal, then this will happen”), it’s very positively received. The station is coming together with the community to serve the community in amplified ways.

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