Discovering Major Gift Prospects Amongst Year-End Donors

donor cultivation and stewardship, Major Giving, calendar year-end

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As you finish your fall campaign and begin your calendar-year-end campaign, you’re certain to have some some new or returning $1,200 donors. These donors could become your next major gift prospects. A few easy strategies can help you identify a crop of excellent prospects for 2021.

First, make sure you’re stewarding the wonderful donors who have given you a $1,200 gift. You should have a process in place to make sure this happens without fail. If you need to establish one, these resources can help you get started. 

Prospect Research

The next step is to learn a little bit about each new donor. You don’t need to do a full prospect research report, but gathering some basic information about the donor will help you put them in context. How they made their gift can tell you quite a bit. Did they call in to make the gift during a drive? That lets you know they don’t mind phone conversations and you can feel less anxious about calling them. Did they give through a donor-advised fund (DAF)? Having a DAF likely means they value philanthropy as a part of their budget and make careful decisions about how to give. Additionally, they likely have a high giving capacity. Did they add a comment about why they gave? Donors often give us wonderful information about what they love along with their gift. Use this information to connect with the donor’s interests. Be careful not to assume too much, but gather any clues that might help you understand if they are a prospective major donor.

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Finding Focus for 2020 Year-End Fundraising

Membership, calendar year-end, COVID

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2020 has certainly been a year of challenges and unpredictability. We can’t predict the precise turns that year-end fundraising may take, but we can focus on a few things to do really well. Then, if challenges arise in the final weeks of 2020, we’ll be better prepared to pivot. . Here’s what you can focus on knocking out of the park:

Safety First 

COVID numbers are rising sharply, and lockdowns and restrictions similar to what we experienced in the spring are beginning to happen state by state. It’s important to put the safety of your team first and expect you will be doing and on-air fundraising remotely if you aren’t planning for that already. Getting distance logistics in place now will position you to take on any additional fundraising challenges that arise in the new year.

Use Unifying Messages 

Your public service - be that news or music - is as important as it has ever been to your listeners. As audiences have hunkered down at home or continued essential work during this time, public media has provided essential information and comfort. Yes, listening patterns have shifted. But the connection is strong. Stay donor-centered in your messaging, and focus on what they have made possible. We’ve crafted some scripts with the message, “we’re all in this together” to help you get started and frame your pitches.

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Reflections on the Work of Anti-Racism From WUOL’s Daniel Gilliam

Membership, Major Giving, General Management, diversity & inclusion

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In October, the member services department at WUOL Classical in Louisville received a listener letter objecting to the station’s increase in music by Black composers. The letter stated that the anonymous writer - a self-described long-time donor - was discontinuing their support as a result. 

Member services shared the letter with Daniel Gilliam, WUOL program director and director of radio, who decided to read a Statement to a Racist Listener on-air, stream it on Facebook Live, and publish the statement online. We asked Gilliam about this response from the station, and about the larger anti-racism work being done at WUOL.

Greater Public: What was your reaction when you received the listener letter?

Daniel Gilliam: I don’t think any public radio station is a stranger to receiving negative or controversial letters, particularly around race. Whether it’s someone complaining that a triple-A station is playing too much hip hop, or that they dislike someone’s way of speaking or the coverage of race on a news station. But at a classical station, we’ve been largely immune to these kinds of letters because, historically, classical has not been a very diverse format. There are some people in the classical radio world who are coming to terms with that and being proactive to change it. It’s something I've been trying to work on at WUOL. 

When the letter arrived, it did a couple of things. First, it signaled that somebody is noticing that we’re playing more composers that aren’t white. I wondered how they knew; did we say on-air that this is a Black composer, do they know enough about the music to know which composers are Black, or did they Google the composers to see who was Black and who was white? I had questions about why that would catch their attention. But I’m glad it did, because I want more people to recognize themselves in the music we play on WUOL. And we still have a long way to go.

But the writer of the letter also said they wouldn’t be supporting the station because we’re playing more Black composers. We often get letters at stations that threaten to discontinue support and we let them roll off our backs. But this one struck me for how explicit it was. And it angered me quite a bit. We say “listen to relax and escape” and all is fine in the world. But when you encounter a listener who’s an avowed racist, it kind of shakes you. This is not “peaceful let’s-all-get-along” listenership.

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Strategy Is Not Enough: The Importance of Changing the Culture of Public Media

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, diversity & inclusion

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Once in a meeting with a senior manager of a station I worked at, I was discussing why I felt that the structure and culture of the organization could do a much better job of fostering respect, empowering innovation and providing psychological safety to its employees. Though new ideas were often seen as threatening and feedback was rarely well received, I was daring to speak up because I believed that these changes were imperative for creating the collaborative spirit of innovation needed to ensure the long-term survival of the station. 

Well into the conversation, the manager said, “you know, you’re in a tough spot.” Immediately, I thought of a dozen different things he might be referring to, but, not wanting to assume, I asked him to elaborate. He explained that even though I had been working there for almost three years, I still had to prove myself. 

This was an organization where people were often shamed for being “too sensitive,” and fear of perceived failure routinely drove management decisions. Perhaps he meant to be helpful by suggesting that if I only kept my head down and worked hard there for a decade the other senior managers would finally take me for my word and respect me. But I went back to my desk and cried. 

In that moment he’d confirmed one of my darker fears about our industry: Our overwhelmingly traditional, white, patriarchal culture is killing public media.

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The State of Our Institution

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, diversity & inclusion

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I dare ask, my fellow colleagues, are we not institution builders?

Do we not see ourselves as a “society” of media makers with peculiar “customs”? At the very least, don’t we “set in motion” the constructs of well-designed and articulated best practices and core values?

In doing so, we take great pride in the intentionality from which we create content, the teams that produce, and the well-manicured models employed to monetize. All of this and so much more, we exclaim, in the name of public service.

This racist-drenched and pandemic-entrenched society has come upon a “reckoning.” At once, that bend in the arc of justice is revealed to not only be stubborn towards justice but rooted in design, intentionality and maintenance, suggesting the end game - covertly and with a wink - has been achieved.

It was James Baldwin, the great American literary who confessed:

“I don’t know how most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions… You want me to make an act of faith… on some idealism which you assure me exists in America which I have never seen.”

Public media is an American institution not spared of these charges. The titans of our institutions are overwhelmingly white. I’ve heard it said that we suffer a “whiteness problem” despite years of inclusion, diversity, equity and access efforts. Like Baldwin, I don’t know how we feel, I can only conclude what we feel from the state of our institutions. I say we, for like so many of my colleagues of color, it can be argued that we have co-signed this institution-building by our very presence and efforts and yet failed in molding it to at least reflect a shared space inclusive of our images and voices.

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Leveraging The CARES Act for Corporate Sponsorship

Corporate Support, calendar year-end, COVID-19

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Prospecting new sponsorship leads during this time is a challenging proposition. But the resulting necessity (and freedom) to think outside the box can also be a silver lining. Several stations report doing just that as they successfully prospect and secure sponsorships from new nonprofit or social-service-oriented clients. The prospecting they are doing is from a source that might not seem obvious: The CARES Act. 

Signed into law back in March, 2020, The CARES Act was designed to provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers and families and small businesses, and to preserve jobs for American industries. Recipients in your area likely include many small businesses and a good number of nonprofits. For-profit businesses -- which presumably have marketing and other traditional business functions already built in -- may be more likely to spend their assistance right away. But that may not necessarily be the case with many nonprofits. Indeed, especially when it comes to social-service oriented nonprofits, many received an influx of cash and still have money to spend by the end of the calendar year.

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Surefire Ways to Secure an Appointment With a Sponsorship Prospect

sales strategy, Corporate Support

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You’ve completed your research and believe you are looking at a company that is fairly likely to be interested in a public media sponsorship at this time.

What do you say when you call for an appointment? 

Your goal is to create immediate interest for further discussion. Engage the prospect. It is that simple. Don’t try to sell them over the phone. Sales research has shown that you have between 10 and 30 seconds of attention span with which to earn the right to advance your call. This means you have to maximize the impact of every word. 

Use your hard-won prospecting and researching. It is critical that the person on the other end of the phone know you have given some thought to why a public media sponsorship could help his or her company. Don’t use a canned speech! This is the opportunity to differentiate yourself by showing that you have an idea of the issues they are facing. Instead of saying, “This is so and so from WXYZ, would it be possible to meet with you to talk about how public radio and our online and digital media could help your business?” You should focus on specific business issues they might be facing

The basic components of your opening statement should contain:

  • Who you are and where you’re from
  • A question or statement to demonstrate that you have done your homework and to engage the prospect
  • In very simple terms, how public radio and its digital media offer differentiated benefits to the client
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Tips for Making the Most of GivingTuesday 2020

Membership, #GivingTuesday, COVID-19

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More than any year in recent memory, GivingTuesday 2020 is taking place amidst historic and unsettling events: the pandemic, the U.S. elections, a racial justice reckoning, a recession, extreme weather, and more. Even as the world seems upside down, remember that generosity unites us, especially in tough times. In 2020, generosity has been one of the key ways that people have expressed their power, providing an antidote to isolation, fear, and division. 

On GivingTuesday, generous people look for causes that matter to them, and you want to help them understand why your station is central to their lives, particularly this year. Never has relevant, factual information from trusted sources been more vital. Public media stations are information first responders, on the front lines of facts, and critical local resources.

As you think about ways to connect with your community, there are a few core truths that are at the heart of successful GivingTuesday campaigns, as well as to the long-term resilience of stations.

Generous People Are Generous

This year, giving is actually up as people are looking for ways to help others and make a difference in their communities. We see no evidence of donor fatigue. To the contrary, the same person who advocates on behalf of a cause, volunteers, or responds to a GoFundMe for a friend’s cat who needs surgery is the same person who will likely give to your station.

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How WBEZ Made Strategic Changes in Fundraising to Win This Year’s Benchmarks Award

Benchmarks for Public Radio Fundraising, Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving

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For a station to reach and sustain its full fundraising potential, it must make smart investments in talent and programming, and create strategic growth in all areas of fundraising. 

That’s what’s been underway at Chicago’s WBEZ over the past five years. And the station’s success as a result has been telling. WBEZ was given this year’s Benchmarks Award, which recognizes sustained revenue growth and overall fundraising and corporate support excellence. From FY15 to FY19, WBEZ’s total gross fundraising revenue increased 61%. Total net fundraising revenue increased 54%, showing the station’s ability to spend its fundraising dollars wisely. 

Increase Share of Listening

While overall listening to broadcast radio is down across the country, WBEZ increased its own share of listening by 13 percent over five years. This was achieved with a disciplined approach toward programming, promotion and positioning. The station revised its program mix to ensure it was more “on the news” each day, and strategically encouraged a daily listening habit on the radio and smart speakers. 

Individual giving can only be as strong as the loyalty of the audience, and the strength of fundraising starts with listening.

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Public Media: Existing Within the Shadow of White Supremacy Culture

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

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White supremacy is all around us. If you are aware of this, congratulations, you are on the road to recovery; the first step is admitting it. If you are struggling to grapple with this concept, know that you are not alone. This statement may challenge your inner spirit, causing denial and a sense of panic followed by a twinge of anger. I know this because I have felt it. These powerful, pessimistic feelings show up in our actions, and interactions with others, when merely the ideas of racism and racial bias are hinted at. This is how white supremacy wins every time.

Conversations around systemic racism in our society are far from new. Mountains of data, studies, and reports offer stark evidence that, in the United States, the systems we all rely on were intentionally designed to marginalize and oppress Black and brown people. Yet little progress has been made to change them. Why? Because white supremacy has been the standard throughout. We default to beliefs, actions, and characteristics that promote and uphold whiteness. If it’s not white, it’s not right.

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