ideastream's Virtual Asks of Major Donors

Major Giving, COVID-19

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Last year, we were looking for ways to connect with major donors in a manner that would inspire them, allow us to make solicitations, and also be safe given restrictions presented by the pandemic. We developed a two-pronged effort designed to first connect with major donors through a virtual event and then deliver an ask based on the donor’s particular passions and interests.

We started our engagement with an exclusive virtual event aimed at our Idea Leaders at the $1,200+ giving level. We called the event “Inside ideastream.” Each subsequent event had a different topic.

The inaugural one-hour virtual presentation hosted by ideastream’s president and CEO, Kevin Martin, was attended by about 60 donors. Kevin shared a behind-the scenes look at our strategic plan and highlighted some of the various ways we were advancing our mission to serve the community.

After the event, I collaborated with our board chair to identify those who had attended the virtual event whom she also had a relationship with. Then she reached out to those individuals to invite them to attend an individual special presentation. We planned five individual presentations based on what we felt the donors’ passions and interests were, including election 2020; community issues; and arts and culture.

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How to Pivot Corporate Support to Meet This Year's Challenges, Part 3

sales strategy, Corporate Support, COVID-19

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Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald recently sat down again with Paul Jacobs, VP/General Manager of Jacobs Media, for the third in a series of conversations about disruptions to the public media corporate support landscape (go back and read Part 1 and Part 2). The discussion was designed to take stock of where we are a little over a year into the pandemic and to offer advice for sales teams working towards recovery: 

First the good news: things are better than they were this time last year … 

But, to state the obvious: they are still messy! 

Here are a few tips from the conversation to help you continue to navigate through the uncertainty, keeping this guiding principle top-of-mind:

Just because things are beginning to resemble “normal” life, we are not going back to the way things were. If you are looking at 2021 through a 2019 lens, you are in trouble. 

Consider:

Digital Acceleration

The shift to digital marketing that was taking place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic is now accelerating. This is primarily because many local companies had to learn digital as a survival tactic to literally keep their businesses open during lockdown. In doing so, here's what they learned:

  • Digital marketing is not as hard as they thought, in fact it is pretty easy.
  • Digital marketing offers direct communication with customers, which they like.
  • Digital marketing makes tracking and testing possible, which allows for flexibility of messaging and spend in an uncertain business environment. Again, something they like. 

As a result, they will continue using digital moving forward.

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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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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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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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Corporate Support Strategy in the Coming Year: Growing and Diversifying Audience

Corporate Support, COVID-19

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After a recent lively one-on-one conversation with Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald, Vice President and General Manager of Jacobs Media, Paul Jacobs, answered some additional questions from station colleagues across the system about corporate support efforts in the wake of challenges from the past year.

Q: What are some best practices for operating public media outlets?

Jacobs: While I don’t have best practices to offer specifically, I can tell you that what used to be a much simpler task has grown significantly more complex in the past decade. The onset of digital, the aging of the core audience, the diversity of America, and new competitors all make operating a public radio significantly more challenging. Given this, I offer these suggestions:

  1. Embrace younger, diverse staff members. All media outlets, including public radio, tend to rely on old experienced hands (like me). But we know Millennials and even Gen Z have much different experiences and outlooks. To position your station for the future, get them into the conversation.

  2. Research the audience. One of the greatest things about digital platforms is that conducting ongoing audience surveys and Zoom focus groups is a lot easier. I find too many public radio stations don’t take the time to get real input from their audience and miss opportunities to serve.

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How to Pivot Corporate Support to Meet This Year's Challenges, Part 2

sales strategy, Corporate Support, COVID-19

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After their first conversation about disruptions to the public media corporate support landscape due to COVID-19, Greater Public CEO Joyce MacDonald sat down again with Paul Jacobs, VP/General Manager of Jacobs Media to learn about his best advice as we move into the new year. 

Where we are: the wild ride continues

The roller coaster of a year has continued for businesses, consumers, and media companies alike. Last fall brought more uncertainty with colder weather, a rise in COVID cases and more restrictions. At the same time, the promise of a vaccine is a bright light taking us into 2021, and there is hope that by Q2 business and marketing may start to come back to an operational “normal” (although things will never be as they were).

Consider these trends and their long-term impacts, which are still unknown:

  • Consumers are moving out of big cities.
  • Two million women have voluntarily left the workforce.
  • Many small businesses - including those that are the bread and butter for public media - probably won’t make it.
  • Working from home is likely to be a part of business operations for the foreseeable future.
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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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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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Using the CARES Act to Your Best Advantage for Year-End Giving

Major Giving, calendar year-end, COVID-19

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NOTE: The Coronavirus stimulus package that was approved on 12/28/20 extends the provision allowing individuals to claim a charitable deduction of up to 100% of their AGI into 2021 instead of ending in 2020. 

As we approach the close of this unique year, one important opportunity for your station to receive more major giving support should not be neglected. A goal of the 2020 CARES Act was to spur Americans to donate to “public charities” in light of the pandemic. For those donors with greater wealth there is a particularly beneficial provision that changes the charitable deduction maximum from 60% adjusted gross income (AGI) to 100%. 

What this means is that now the donors with the potential to give very large gifts have an extra incentive to do so. This isn’t a relevant opportunity for your membership donor but using it with your major donors and prospects could help you motivate your higher capacity donors to give before year-end and strengthen your financial bottom line for 2020.

Three ways to take advantage of this change:

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