Preparing 2018 Tax Statements Under New Tax Law

tax law, tax statements, Membership, General Management, calendar year-end

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Sending gift receipts to donors is an end-of-year obligation for all stations. Embedded in this task is also the tremendous opportunity to thank your major, mid-level, and sustaining donors for a year of support.

Of course, there’s been a significant change to tax law since you last mailed your year-end statements. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made no significant changes that should impact the compliance component of the tax statements provided to donors.

Compliance isn’t the only concern. We haven’t been able to predict how changes in the standard deduction requirements will affect overall charitable giving. Tax experts and fundraisers alike are watching this unfold. Therefore, it’s even more critical to communicate to donors that they are public radio’s largest and most important source of funding. This message is important year-round, but should be the foundation of your 2018 year-end communication with donors.

As you prepare your 2018 year-end correspondence, here’s what to keep in mind.

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The Good Things We're Doing With Our Member Survey (And How You Can Survey Too!)

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, marketing, surveys

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Introduction

This September, Greater Public surveyed our members with the goal of determining how well we were serving them in our four main resource areas: our website, our ongoing webinar series, our professional advising team, and Benchmarks for public media. We serve fundraisers in public media - the ones who make sure public and community radio have the means to serve listeners - and we want to ensure we’re providing the best information and cutting-edge ideas so that they may succeed and, ultimately, public media succeeds. In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the raw data that our survey yielded, along with our own impressions of what it means, why it’s important, and what we’re doing to make our resources better.

We all take surveys (or are asked to!) and we almost never see what companies are doing with them. We want to be transparent about the feedback we get and what we’re doing about it. We also know many of our members also conduct surveys and we want to reveal how we go about doing ours so you can see too.

As we reviewed the results, we found that few criticisms were truly surprising to us. We had a sense for where we needed to do better before the survey went out, and had begun work on several projects that our survey-takers said they needed. We also discovered some new areas for improvement. Surveys can serve many purposes: to illuminate things going wrong you didn't know about, or reinforce what you already knew about needed changes. If you decide to take on a survey, know that the feedback can provide credibility and urgency when you need to, for example, request additional resources to make something better.

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Molly Davis’s Top Four Recommendations for Achieving Meteoric Growth With Benchmarks

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

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Molly Davis says the first year was the hardest. It was also what set her station on a course for unprecedented fundraising growth.

The assistant general manager at 88.5 WFDD in North Carolina has overseen her station's data entry for Benchmarks for Public Radio Fundraising for the past four years. In order to receive her customized report, Davis was charged with gathering audience, expense, and revenue numbers from several different departments within the organization. Finding the right numbers to enter that first year was, frankly, hard.

The Challenges

WFDD is a university licensee; some of the raw data Davis needed was provided by staff members in campus financial services, who weren’t fully versed in the public radio business model or in the purpose of Benchmarks reports. When she reviewed her station’s past reports, she discovered their data had been entered both incorrectly and inconsistently. A key feature of Benchmarks is the ability to analyze year-over-year performance to highlight areas of opportunity. She began to take detailed notes on how each point of data should be calculated and where it came from (use our handy worksheet for your own notes). This would save anyone coming after her from the confusion she faced; it also vastly simplified her process the following year.

The Roadmap

After completing (and documenting) her data-entry process, Davis received her station’s report. It showed several areas where WFDD could be performing better. Some might have read the results with disappointment. Not Davis.

“We had loads of potential,” she remembers. “I pulled out that report and said here’s where we are. We are leaving money on the table.”

The Payoff

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How National Geographic Builds Social Media Trust During the Facebook Apocalypse

PMDMC, social media, Social/Mobile, facebook, Membership, General Management

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Thanks to “fake news,” bots, and political polarization online, trust in social media is at an all-time low. But social platforms still offer a powerful way to connect with audiences and donors.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans regularly use social media (Pew Research Center, 2018) and 31% of online donors now say that social media is the communication tool that most often inspires them to give, surpassing email for the first time (Global Trends in Giving Report, 2018).

A PMDMC 2018 session entitled “Building Brand Trust and Engagement in the Facebook Apocalypse” explored how one superstar brand, National Geographic, has built and maintained its social media effectiveness in an era of social media mistrust.

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What You Should Know About How Most Stations Run On-Air Drives

Membership, pledge drive, General Management

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On-air fundraising practices are the very lifeblood of public media. That's why we at Greater Public take a moment every so often to scan the landscape to discover what most stations are doing and not doing; how much, how often, and when. 

We've just released our 2018 On-Air Fundraising Practices Survey. This snapshot includes responses from 101 public media stations from all over the country and reveals how most stations are running their on-air drives. It shows us what practices are nearly universal, and which ones may be trending. 

Here is a glimpse of a few of the findings we captured in this year's survey:

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Evidence of Growing Audience Trust in Public Radio

Membership, Corporate Support, General Management, marketing, Major Giving

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Reprinted with permission from Jacobs Media Blog.

Whether you’re in middle school or are a media brand, these days there’s nothing as toxic as a bad reputation. These days, just the utterance of the term, “fake news,” unleashes a torrent of emotion, whether you’re a journalist, a politician, or just a member of the masses.

A recent story in Fast Company by Gloria Origgi suggests we’ve left the “Information Age,” and now reside in a world where it’s all about reputation… and of course, that means trust.

Origgi makes the point that while most of us don’t have the time or bandwidth to track a story or a rumor down, we have come more and more to rely on sources that have earned our trust.

And many think that’s a trend – that in the not-so-distant future, it will become less about how we critically assess a story, but how much we trust in the information source that delivers that content. Origgi quotes Frederick Hayek who postulated that “civilization rests on the fact that we all benefit from knowledge which we do not possess.”

So, who do people believe? And where do radio stations, personalities, hosts, and media brands stand on the “Trust-o-meter?” Do consumers trust in the radio stations they listen to, whether it’s delivering the news or giving away tickets to that Arctic Monkeys concert?

At Jacobs Media, we conduct a considerable amount of research – both qualitative and quantitative – in the public radio space. These stations are enjoying some of the strongest ratings in the history of their platform, and audience trust is a key driver of their success.

Our most recent Public Radio Techsurvey (our 10th annual is in the field right now), seeks to better understand the medium’s “core values.” And trust is an attribute we track.

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The Digital Metrics That Matter Most for Public Media Fundraising

Membership, Corporate Support, digital revenue, General Management

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In public media's ongoing quest to connect to audiences via digital platforms, it's important to realize that what we decide to measure can ultimately affect what we do to increase our audiences

This became a focal point for a small conference organized last spring by the Station Resource Group and the Wyncote Foundation in cooperation with NPR. The gathering was aimed at “strengthening the digital news service within public media.” But the team quickly agreed that there wasn't a shared understanding for how to measure digital success.

So a working group of public media organizations formed in order to define a shared framework for measuring successful growth on digital platforms. 

The group winnowed down a lengthy list of possible metrics to four essential areas of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) - or audience-focused goals - along with the metrics considered to be most important within each, organized by platform:

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Protecting Fundraisers From Sexual Harassment by Donors

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, #metoo, PMDMC

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Chronicle of Philanthropy writer Timothy Sandoval offers these concrete suggestions from three experts about what organizations should do to protect fundraisers and others involved in seeking gifts from sexual harassment by donors.

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

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

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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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Powerful Storytelling Secrets From Glynn Washington That Any Fundraiser Can Master

PMDMC, storytelling, Membership, Major Giving, Corporate Support, General Management

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Glynn Washington calls good storytelling a vicarious experience.

“If you’re doing it right,” he explains in an interview with Nieman Storyboard, “The person who’s listening to the story will feel the same highs and lows that you do… They feel proud when you do the good thing in the end. [They may even feel like] ‘I can do some things that I couldn’t do before.’”

As host and executive producer of Snap Judgment, Washington is a master at transporting listeners along what the show calls an "audio roller coaster." He’ll discuss the power of narrative in fundraising at PMDMC18 as a keynote speaker.

Telling stories is great entertainment. But it's also more than that. Washington comes from a family of “great tellers of tales.” Perhaps most influential was his upbringing as a member of a religious cult in Michigan. The reality-bending fiction that was cultivated by the end-of-days fundamentalist group felt entirely real to him.

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