Three Strategies to Strengthen Fundraising in an Unpredictable Economy

Membership, customer service, Social/Mobile, Engagement, online giving

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Stations have grown used to raising money in the glow of a decade-long economic expansion and much-touted strong economy. Maybe economic news will remain glowing. But the chief economist at Freddie Mac recently said we are in a “mental recession,” explaining a palpable nationwide unease. If this persists, members, listeners, and viewers may do what donors always have done when facing uncertainty: delay giving decisions and avoid new commitments.

When planning for the next 12-18 months, stations can either hope for the best or get ready. But ready for what? If macro factors like gyrating stock markets, uncharted tax policy, and political upheaval begin scaring people away from giving, what can we do about it? In fact, there are three smart things stations can do, no matter what 2019 and 2020 hold:

  1. Reexamine member acquisition using ALL of your digital prospect channels.


    Stop neglecting NPR One subscribers, PBS.org website visitors or your social media followers. Probe your fundraising results from non-member digital constituents, fix weak performers, test neglected groups.

    Test new ways to recruit sustainers, like apps for rounding up spare change on credit card purchases.

    Get e-communications off snooze control. Pretend you don’t have an e-newsletter or e-anything and design them from scratch, asking what would motivate people to give.

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How Minnesota Public Radio Captured the #MPRraccoon Sensation to Connect With Its Audience

Membership, marketing, Engagement

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Reprinted with permission from Solution Set reports from The Lenfest Institute and The Solutions Journalism Network

On Tuesday, June 12, a raccoon got stranded on the side of an office building across the street from Minnesota Public Radio, the public radio station in the Twin Cities.

The station’s reporters quickly dubbed the critter #MPRraccoon, and as it climbed up the building to safety it attracted worldwide attention. But as the newsroom covered the viral phenom, others at MPR tried to meet listeners’ request for raccoon merchandise. This week in Solution Set, I spoke with some of 
MPR’s leadership to better understand how they responded to this unique moment.

The Challenge

June 12 was a fairly normal Tuesday afternoon at Minnesota Public Radio until staffers noticed something odd on the building across the street: A raccoon was climbing up the side of a building.
 
Journalists, as they’re wont to do, quickly began tweeting about the little critter, and MPR reporter Tim Nelson christened it the #MPRraccoon as he reported extensively on the animal’s progress.
 
Soon, people far beyond Minnesota began following the raccoon’s ascent. Social media posts spread rapidly around the Internet, #MPRRaccoon trended on Twitter, and news organizations from around the world began publishing stories about the raccoon.
 
People from all around the world also began producing art depicting the raccoon’s challenge. And as the drawings and depictions appeared on social media, users had another request: Can I get an #MPRraccoon tote bag or T-shirt? (This is public media after all.)
 
So as the raccoon continued its climb, MPR began thinking about how it could make the most out of the unexpected attention.
 
“The conversations were how do we, Minnesota Public Radio, respond to this? It was more about feeding what the audience wanted and being true to who we were than how can we make money so to speak,” said Jennifer Van Zandt, managing director of marketing & creative services.

The Strategy

#MPRraccoon took off on Tuedsay afternoon, June 12. The raccoon safely reached the top of the building in the early morning hours of the following day, Wednesday, June 13.
 
By that afternoon, MPR was already selling T-shirts and tote bags.

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Ten Approaches to Audience Feedback That Help Listeners Love You

PMDMC, Membership, Engagement

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Every day, listeners and viewers contact their public media stations with questions, comments, compliments, and criticisms. These interactions can range from day-making to incredibly stressful. In truth, hearing from the audience at all means they care enough to reach out. These encounters are valuable opportunities to truly connect with listeners and viewers, deepening our relationship with them, and making sure they know how valuable they are.

1. Pay attention to what your audience is saying.

Everything we do is for the audience. Without them, public media wouldn't exist. We don't always need to see eye-to-eye, but we do need to pay attention and let our audience know that their voices matter. Make certain that listener feedback is actually reaching your programming staff and management. 

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Three Great Ways to Grow Listening Among Your Audience

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive, Engagement

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Informed by recommendations from Michelle Owens of Vermont Public Radio, Craig Oliver of Greater Public, Jody Evans of Public Radio Program Directors, and Izzi Smith of NPR

Listening is the most elemental unit of the public radio economy. The past year has seen record increases in listening, and many stations are converting that increase into new revenue, updated case statements, and new content for future audiences. The importance of listening is simple: Those who listen more have a better ability to understand and internalize the value of public media and the public funding model. Decades of studies have indeed shown that station revenue is listener-sensitive; more people listening means greater opportunity for fundraising success. Better fundraising leads to more investment in great programming, which brings in more listeners and so on.

Here are some great ways to grow listening over the long-term.

1. Understand that listening actually decreases during a drive and plan accordingly.

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