Donors Want to Support Winners: Why Negative Fundraising Doesn't Work

Membership, Major Giving, General Management, Federal Funding, tax law

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If a station floods in a hurricane, it's an emergency. It's an unusual event, not anticipated, requiring immediate intervention, short-term in duration. You should be able to depend on donors to come to your aid to help resolve the problem.
The threat of losing federal funding is not such an event.
It's not new and can be seen as an always-present possibility, depending on who is in power. One could argue that public media has had time to develop fundraising and financing strategies that could, over time, lessen dependency on government funding.
Sounding the alarm in a chronic situation eventually loses its punch.
Instead, donors start thinking about the number of times they have stepped up to the plate already to help you solve a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away. Instead of taking your side, they might start asking, “What have you done with the money we already gave you? Have you established a long-term fund, or did our contributions just go into the general operating budget?”
At some point, you will be called to account.
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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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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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