Melanie Coulson

Greater Public Director of Member Station Services and Membership Fundraising Advisor

Recent Posts

Tips to Prepare Tax Statements for 2017

Membership, tax statements

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The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will bring a number of changes to the tax code and regulations for nonprofits beginning in 2018. But first you must prepare statements for the year we've just closed: 2017.

Tax statements provide a terrific stewardship gesture to your major, mid-level, and sustaining donors by thanking them for a year of support while providing a receipt for their gifts. Here are some tips to help you get your 2017 statements right.

Review the Rules

Review the IRS Guide for Charitable Contributions: Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements. It’s important to take a look before you get started so you’re up to speed.

Here’s the top-line data for 2017:

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Pull In Your Best Year-End Giving in a Time of Tax Reform

Membership, Major Giving, #GivingTuesday, calendar year-end, planned giving, Year End Giving

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by Melanie Coulson, Jay Clayton, and Jennifer Fusco

The holidays are a time for giving gifts to family and friends… and to nonprofit organizations. In fact, more money is donated during November and December than in other months. The numbers vary by survey, but nonprofits report anywhere from 30-50% of giving occurs during the holiday season.

Both the House of Representatives and Senate tax-reform bills that are being reconciled in conference committee will likely significantly change the way tax law governs charitable giving. There is speculation about how this would affect charitable giving overall. Once the law is finalized, we will provide comprehensive advice on how to approach this situation. 

For now we recommend that you stay focused on the current tax deductibility of gifts and avoid speculative pitches or language when talking to donors. As with other legislative actions and threats, keep it simple and stick to the facts.

These six points will help you make the most of this vital year-end fundraising opportunity.

1. Be weekend-ready.

December 31st falls on Sunday this year. Prepare to accept gifts from your listeners on Saturday, December 30th and Sunday, December 31st. Make sure your shop is up and running in the same way it would be were these two critical fundraising days to fall on weekdays. Remind your listeners that you will be available to them even on the final weekend of the year.

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How to Approach Fund Drives at Music Stations During Natural Disasters

Membership, pledge drive

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In difficult times, the power of music is vital to our listeners as a reflection of our lives, as a respite from difficult news, as an inspiring and energizing force.

However, when it feels like the outside world is turning upside down, with a political environment that’s as divided as ever, and now major natural disasters impacting millions of Americans, fundraising for music can be decidedly tough, especially for a distracted audience.

Conducting fund drives while  natural disasters unfold requires a great deal of sensitivity. Settling on the right strategy and finding the right messaging mix is essential.

We know that some donors will reallocate money they might have donated to their local station to disaster-relief. That’s understandable. But it’s important to continue to educate your listeners - with sensitivity - about the importance of supporting the music programming they value. Our set of scripts for music stations to use in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma can help you give context and balance to your messaging efforts.

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How to Approach Fund Drives at News Stations During Natural Disasters

Membership, pledge drive

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2017 has already dished up a dizzying array of news. As the fall drive season starts, our country is facing multiple natural disasters, including one of the worst in recorded history. These events are front-and-center in our listeners' minds, as they should be.

Handling drives as natural disasters unfold requires a great deal of sensitivity. We know that some donors will reallocate money they might have donated to their local station to disaster-relief. That’s understandable.

But catastrophic events are also an opportunity to educate listeners about our vital role  providing news and information when disasters happen. Even if some listeners decide not to give to your station this fall, make a strong case for the value of your service for when they do return or finally join as a new member. Our on-air scripts for fundraising during a natural disaster can help you find the right language.

First, do not apologize for fundraising right now. Your station provides an important service that listeners depend on.

Here are other messages to focus on right now:
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How Stations Are Communicating the Threat to Federal Funding

Membership, Major Giving, General Management, Federal Funding

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As the system grapples with decisions about how to address possible cuts to federal funding with their donors and in their fundraising, we surveyed the approaches of four stations. Here are their current strategies, including examples of their email and on-air messaging.

WETA: Secondary Messaging on All Channels

Jeff Regen, vice president membership marketing & Development Services for WETA TV 26 and Classical WETA 90.9 FM, explains that his station is using the threat to federal funding as a supporting fundraising message point across channels:

Our approach to the issue has several parts:

  1. Inform supporters about the risk to federal funding.
  2. Set them up for advocacy (for example, via Protect my Public Media).
  3. Gather assets that could be useful in an advocacy fight for funding.
  4. Tee up the issue - in an appropriate manner - for use in fundraising.
    And, if possible...
  5. Grow our list.
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How to Thank Your Members to Keep Them Coming Back


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Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.
-G.B. Stern

Members are the foundation upon which your organization rests. You literally can’t afford to take them for granted.

The two most important rules for donor acknowledgment are:

  1. Acknowledge members’ generosity promptly when they give.
  2. Acknowledge the value of members' contributions throughout the year.

As your sustainer file increases, and renewals no longer offer you an obvious occasion for a thank-you, your station needs to develop a plan to keep sustainers involved. Find other ways to cultivate and remind them of their importance. Otherwise, your most essential members will become the ones who hear from you the least. And then they won’t stick around.

Say thank you immediately...


Gifts made online allow you to send an acknowledgment automatically via email. Clicking the Submit button on your donation form should take your donors to an acknowledgment page, thanking them with a simple message and letting them know that an email confirmation of their gift is also on the way so that they will have an immediate copy for their records.

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10 Steps to Making Telemarketing a Successful Part of Your Membership Program


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Telemarketing easily ranks among the most divisive fundraising techniques. It’s costly and sure to bring in complaints to customer service. However, telemarketing can be essential to running a successful multi-channel program. It can also be the most effective way to reach out to the donors you probably want the most right now: sustainers. Take these steps to make sure you’re doing telemarketing in the best and most effective way.

Step 1: Decide what to use it for.

Telemarketing is most useful for campaigns that benefit from a more personal conversation or case-building, such as sustainer campaigns.

When to Use Telemarketing:

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Advisory About Possible Changes to Federal Public Media Funding

Membership, General Management, Federal Funding

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Like you, we are closely following the work of the new administration and watching for policy and funding changes to public broadcasting. We know federal funding to local stations is critical to the mission of providing the American public with high-quality noncommercial programming, especially in low-income and rural areas.

We also know it’s important to discern between speculation of changes and actual moves toward change to help us build the most effective strategies, if threats to federal funding do arise.

Greater Public is prepared to support you, just as we have in the face of defunding threats in the past, as well as during the Great Recession. We are committed to making sure you have strategy, language, and communications support if and when you approach your listeners and supporters.

We’ll continue to stay in contact with your station, other national organizations and networks to coordinate any necessary efforts.

We strongly feel that the most important thing you can do is continue to produce the exemplary journalism and music programming your listeners trust. Remind them of the impact of your station in your community, and their crucial role in that.

Continue to seek ways to stay connected with them and build deeper relationships. You can also find more tools and ways to do that at The Community Voices project at The resources here will help you engage your audience and make local voices heard in support of future federal investments.

If your listeners have questions about how to more actively support public broadcasting, you can remind them to sign up and participate in the Protect My Public Media campaign, and to follow their updates via social media.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us. We’re here to help.

Doug Eichten
President and CEO

Melanie Coulson
Executive Director for Member Station Services
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Resources & Tips for Preparing 2016 Tax Statements

Membership, calendar year-end

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Tax statements are an important part of your donation acknowledgement program – and often a chore that feels cumbersome and a bit stressful. Minimize headaches and maximize your success by having a plan and making sure you’re up-to-date on the latest IRS requirements (which has become much easier in recent years).

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Post-Election Year-End Scripts and Pitch Points

elections, Membership, scripts, calendar year-end

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Since Election Day, it's been hard for many of us to unwind the personal from the professional. It's been a turbulent and sometimes uncomfortable election cycle, to say the least.

As we all forge ahead with year-end fundraising, marketing, and corporate support efforts, one thing is clear: Our audience is hungry and grateful for the news, conversation, and music your station provides them. Your work, all of it ... including making a clear case for why their investment in your station is vitally important to them.

KPCC in Los Angeles has graciously shared a one-sheet of pitch points they've been successfully using this week. At last check they were ahead of goal by more than 15 percent.

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