The Great Major Giving Pivot

Major Giving, General Management, leadership, philanthropy

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Whenever I talk to leaders in other nonprofit industries about fundraising for public media, they tell me how lucky we are. They understand that our supporters - the people who love and give to public media - are truly the stuff of envy. Our fans proclaim their adoration on tote bags, in dating apps, in conversations with friends and family, and by becoming members. More than half of public media donors are sustaining members; they give year after year. This percentage is head-and-shoulders above the share of sustainers that can be claimed by other nonprofits. Not surprisingly, overall retention among public media donors is also significantly higher than the national index.

Public media has nearly perfected the model of raising money from a large swath of people who love what we do. Our central strategy has historically relied on the fact that our supporters engage with us everyday, all day long on our airwaves. When we want them to give, we don’t have to go far to get their attention. We simply go on-air and ask. These donor interactions are straightforward and transactional. And they deliver.

Like I said, the stuff of envy! Of course, our greatest strengths can conceal our greatest weaknesses, or, as I see them, our greatest opportunities.

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Bust Your Organization's Internal Silos With an Audience-Centric Approach

PMDMC, Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, marketing, leadership, strategy

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This interactive session  was first presented by Atlantic 57 at PMDMC 2018. You can try three session exercises with your own team to explore how to put these principles into practice.

There's a division in many newsrooms today that has an impact on how well we serve our audiences. 

Most newsroom reporters and editors focus on creating content, while those in digital roles focus on distributing that content or analyzing audience analytics.

The challenge: Newsrooms are struggling to bridge the divide between old and new.

When these groups work as two teams instead of one, newsrooms struggle to bridge the divide between old ways of presenting content and the new ways in which audiences consume content. It's a gap that has a significant impact on the audience experience:

The solution: Unite your teams to serve your audiences.

Put the needs of your audiences at the center of your work. This seems like a no-brainer. And yet, many organizations are falling short of this goal. There are three key barriers that stand in the way. We'll outline what those barriers are, and how to bridge them. 

BARRIER 1: Media organizations try to be everything to everyone, everywhere.

Sound familiar? Audiences are moving across platforms at a rapid pace (think podcasting, social media, smart speakers...) Many organizations are scrambling to keep up with these platform shifts and can lose sight of the larger mission. 

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Defining Digital Revenue: Current Public Media Trends

KCPT, PMDMC, KQED, digital sponsorship, WGBH, boards of directors, digital revenue, General Management, leadership

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According to an in-depth 2011 study by Ernst & Young that examined how global media and entertainment leaders define digital revenue, the conclusion was:

“The multiple interchangeable terms used to describe digital revenue – new media, online, internet, electronic delivery or interactive – add to the complexity of clearly defining digital revenue. They lead to lack of clarity of individual business models and revenue streams.”

I’ll say.

This study confirms the same struggle felt in public media. Without a standard definition, there are inconsistencies in judgment. As the Ernst and Young report notes, not only are there inconsistencies across all media organizations, public or commercial and large or small, there are inconsistencies inside organizations, between different departments within a single organization.

This issue was identified in the discovery process with Greater Public’s Digital Revenue Readiness Council earlier this year, as the group explored actionable guidance on digital revenue strategy. The challenge was noted in the council’s findings that were presented with the illustrated digital revenue roadmap at the PMDMC CEO symposium. Most council members’ organizations had their own definition of digital revenue but more importantly, they had a process in place at their organizations to assess it. That was the takeaway:

How each organization chose to define digital revenue was not a key indicator of success. The council believed that stations should define it however they want, but once they do, commit to growing that number.

While this conclusion mirrors the findings across other studies, the CEOs in attendance at the symposium asked for some level of guidance and an explanation as to what some of those definitions were. What are the different ways in which public media organizations define digital revenue and are there any conclusions we can draw immediately? The answer is yes.

Current practices fall into three trends...

When we look across public media it is important to highlight a significant point. Many, if not most organizations are not yet thinking about digital revenue in a significant way at all. Most are still developing a strategy to grow this illusive revenue stream as well as determining how they will count it. It is a chicken and egg conversation for many. How can we count something that we can’t define? For those who are thinking about it, however, some common practices emerge. They seem to fall into few broad categories.

TREND #1: Membership revenue obtained through digital initiatives is the primary focus.

Of the small number of stations that are actively tracking digital revenue, it seems that there is one immediate takeaway. No one seems to be counting all donations given through digital channels as digital revenue. The current practices are careful to note what initiated the action or “source of gift.”

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12 Pro Tips to Successfully Move From Underwriting Account Exec to Manager

hiring, underwriting, account executives, training, managers, staff, Corporate Support, recruiting, time management, leadership

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By guest author Gina Dragutinovich, Director of Corporate Sponsorship Sales at WUWM 89.7 FM-Milwaukee Public Radio

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You Complete Me: Bringing Commercial Salespeople onto Your Public Radio or TV Team

hiring, underwriting, onboarding, sales strategy, training, staff, Corporate Support, recruiting, leadership

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Members: don't miss Greater Public's"Onboarding New Underwriting Reps" webinar

It was only a few years ago that public radio and television stations were loath to hire commercial salespeople. It felt too much akin to letting the camel inside the tent.They would surely destroy the integrity of public media by making it too commercial-sounding; junking up the airwaves with a bunch of car dealers… or worse.

Fast forward to now. In one recent PMDMC session the group was asked how many in the room had commercial experience and it seemed that half the room raised their hands.The question is, what makes one person a better hire than another when it comes to transitioning into public media?

There are lots of reasons to embrace commercial salespeople into your organization. The key is to help them make the transition so they will stick around and you can reap the benefits of their experience and, perhaps most importantly, their relationships in the community.In many cases the commercial reps that are looking to make the transition into public media are senior reps that are looking for a job they can feel good about.They love the medium, know how to use research, and, best of all, they know where the money is when it comes to bringing in revenue for the station!

What makes a good candidate; things to interview for...

  • Passion for public media: are they a listener/viewer?
  • Have they been donors and for how long?
  • What is their favorite program? This question is courtesy of Market Enginuity, and it generally shows how involved they are in the programming.)
  • How many years’ experience do they have?
  • What were their favorite kinds of projects?
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Onboarding Public Radio & TV Underwriting Reps for Success

underwriting, onboarding, sales strategy, training, Corporate Support, small stations, General Management, leadership

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Onboarding new hires at your station should be a strategic process, one that’s designed to ensure high retention and pave the way for a productive employee. Onboarding should not be limited to a one-day orientation. Rather it’s a process that should go well beyond the signing of paperwork and the employee’s first day on the job.

Goals of effective onboarding:

  1. Provide your new employee the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team.
  2. Integrate a new underwriting sales representative into your station and its culture.
  3. Have fun! An enjoyable, engaging onboarding will go a long way toward employee engagement and retention.

Be prepared.

Before you implement a formal onboarding program for your station, you should answer some important questions so that everyone on your team agrees upon what’s needed, and you're able to get any needed buy-in from upper management.

  1. When will the onboarding start?
  2. How long will it last?
  3. What impression do you want your new employees to have at the end of their first day?
  4. What do new employees need to know about your station’s culture and work environment?
  5. What role will your human resources manager have in the onboarding process? Direct managers? Co-workers?
  6. What goals do you want to set for new employees?
  7. How will you gather feedback on the program and measure its success?

This planning should begin prior to the new hire’s first day on the job. If you don’t start thinking about and implementing your onboarding before your employee starts, then you’ve already fallen behind.

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Dispatch From the Trenches: My Three Principles of Underwriting Sales Success

underwriting, sales strategy, Corporate Support, prospecting, small stations, leadership

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A few years back, I had the chance to start up an underwriting department at a station that had never had one.Having been in public radio sales for a number of years, and having a few years in sales management, I was intrigued by the challenge.Since nobody in the market knew we were an option for their media dollars, I had my work cut out for me.

I realize that most sales people are not in this extreme situation. But we are all familiar with having to find new business.Over the past three years I've been my own guinea pig; I've had to apply each and every sales technique I learned over the course of my career to see what really worked.I was ultimately able to increase the underwriting revenue at my new station from $50,000 to $450,000. Here are three overriding principles that I have lived by in order to achieve that outcome. Important: discipline has most certainly been my core principle from the start.

1. Call New Prospects Constantly

Yes, that means cold calls, but if you are thoughtful about it, they are more like warm calls.It’s critical that you understand who your audience is, do your research and call the right prospects.Many of them will be glad you called.

When preparing to call, plan for two contingencies:

  1. They don’t answer the phone and you have to leave a message.
  2. They do answer the phone and you have to actually have something intelligent to say.

You should have a reason for calling, whether it’s a specific idea, an example of how a company like theirs has had success on your station, or to share some information that would benefit them. The goal of the calls is an appointment.

I believe in writing out a sample script for each scenario.You don’t have to follow it exactly, but at least you will have some words in your head that you have practiced so you don’t end up saying, “Hi, this is Sue Smith from WXYZ. Please call me back at 206-123-4567.”Seriously. Would you call you back?

When you feel ignored, you can’t take it personally. Chances are that they simply don’t have any money for you at the moment and can’t take the time to call you back.If you leave compelling messages they will respond eventually.

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Digital Revenue Roadmap Provokes Mixed Reaction... But of Course!

PMDMC, digital revenue, General Management, leadership

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Here’s a surprise to absolutely no one: the subject of digital revenue can be a bit prickly. Not only is it new and uncharted territory, but it also takes time, which feels counter to the battle cry of constantly being told to “HURRY UP!”

At this year’s CEO Symposium at the PMDMC, the findings of the Digital Revenue Readiness Council produced mixed reactions. In my opinion, the responses to the roadmap and recommendations fell into three categories:

  1. “Of course.Yes. This seems pretty simple. I’ve got this down.”
  2. “Hmmm. I’m doing some of this, but this gives me some new ideas to work on.”
  3. (And I’m paraphrasing here) “What in the #!#! is this??!”

If you haven’t seen the infographic that visually walks you through the steps, or read the longer report, I’ll give you the gist:

Acquiring digital revenue requires changing your organization to be more digitally focused with a strategy for growth that includes goals and accountability.

This was the unanimous recommendation from leaders all the way from The Atlantic to Gannett. The concept itself may not seem controversial, but the process of putting it into action and changing the way leaders do business is clearly where the challenge lies.

I wasn’t surprised by the different responses and understood why the council’s ideas may not have been what some leaders were hoping for. From the beginning, the project aimed to consider the bigger question of how we can position ourselves for digital revenue success by ensuring our organizations have a foundation in place, where it is possible at all. Our blue-ribbon council of leaders from inside and outside of public media set out to determine if and how others had done it. What could we learn from those who had experienced success and what can we learn from those who are ahead of us on this path?

One of the very first questions our council wanted to pose was very simple: “Do you actually want digital revenue?” In other words, are you here because you’ve been told you have to do this or are you really interested in growing this area of your business? The implication is that we are rarely successful with ventures that we are not interested in or engaged in. Interestingly, during the presentation to the CEOs, we asked for a show of hands: who wants digital revenue? About 2/3 of the people present raised their hands.


For me, this was a good example of why these recommendations are so essential. We have worked very hard for decades to sustain and grow revenue on the broadcast side. We have spent money, hired and trained staff, used consultants, reviewed reports and more. For some reason, however, when it comes to digital revenue, we hope for similar results without the same (or even slightly similar) investment of time and resources to get it. But I realized something important during this meeting with the CEOs on this particular subject. They believe they have made an investment -- a fairly large financial investment for some -- that has shown little to no return.

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Digital Sponsorship Part V -- Swimming with the Sharks: Your Online Sponsorship Guidelines

sales strategy, Corporate Support, digital revenue, small stations, General Management, leadership

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A station manager’s short course. This is the final post in a five-part series running this week to help GMs lead the digital sponsorship effort.

Welcome back to the last post in our mini-series – we hope you have found this week’s focus helpful as you strategize how to lead your digital sponsorship effort from the GM’s chair. For our last post, we’ll focus on one of the areas that most needs your leadership: online sponsorship guidelines.

Where inventory discussions focus largely on ad unit size and placement, guidelines discussions need to focus on what sponsorship messages will be allowed to contain.

First Things First: Your Role

These can be very challenging conversations within stations. Ultimately you are the guardian of your station’s brand and your station’s financial health. It falls to you to stick it out through some uncomfortable moments and lead your respective teams to reach consensus – or at least compromise.

Whatever you do, please don’t turn this into a cage match between your sales staff and your content team. Take an active role, and be prepared for an ongoing process. The fact is, the online advertising world is in a state of constant evolution. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate. It simply means that you need to be flexible and ready to adjust your practices and guidelines to adapt to the shifting landscape.


The online space, unlike on-air, is not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). So where do you begin? If the government isn’t regulating, and you have little experience with visual corollaries to on-air guidelines, how and where do you draw the line?

There are two main schools of thought here. Most stations are seeking to retain the noncommercial feel of underwriting when it comes to online sponsorship. They are creating online guidelines that keep the spirit of their on-air guidelines, while leveraging the unique qualities that digital creative offers (immediate click through, instant engagement, etc.). This approach provides continuity of brand experience from broadcast to web, but may or may not meet sponsor expectations.

Other stations (and many non-station producers of public media content) are creating separate guidelines for online that go beyond on-air restrictions. They may have an easier time securing sponsors, but their more permissive approach may or may not conflict with your station’s particular brand promises.

Keep the following considerations in mind as you think about your station’s approach to online sponsorship guidelines.

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Digital Sponsorship Part IV -- The Accidental Technologist: A GM's Guide to Ad-Serving Options

sales strategy, Corporate Support, digital revenue, small stations, General Management, leadership

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A station manager’s short course. This is part four of a five-part series running this week to help GMs lead the digital sponsorship effort.

Now that we’ve talked about people and inventory, it’s time to talk about tools of the trade.If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, just take a moment to revisit why digital sponsorship is worth your effort.Hang in here with us – you’re rounding third base!

So.Ad-server software.Is it worth the trouble and expense?If you have only a few ad units, you may be tempted just to let your online team hard-code them. But that approach quickly becomes unsustainable as your program takes off.

Ad-server software can automate a variety of tasks: rotate messages, organize campaigns, track ad views, track click-throughs, generate reports, and more. Much like the affidavits and reporting on the on-air side of your business,campaign analytics and reports are a baseline expectation for sponsors (and their agencies) in digital sponsorship as well.

Ad-serving software makes all of this possible easily, and in real time. If you’re serious about digital sponsorship revenue, eventually you will need to make this necessary investment.

A Minimal Investment Approach
But do you need to acquire ad-serving tools from the start?Not necessarily.If you are right at the starting line with digital sponsorship, you might consider one or more of the following options, which can help you get in the game with little effort or expense.

Network: If your traffic is on the lower end, consider adding your station’s online traffic to the traffic of other public broadcasting sites and join NPM’s PMI Channel. NPM sells on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis, and while network participation typically drives down CPM, it is an easy, turnkey way to get up and running with online sponsorship sales. Plus, you’ll be able to leverage the campaigns that may be running on the national sites, which meet high creative guidelines that are tailored to public broadcasting standards.

Outsource: Consider outsourcing your entire digital ad operation to NPM’s network via PMI Ops, and take advantage of custom training and coaching along the way to prepare your station for future growth and the potential for in-house sales.

Hybrid: Explore selling and serving your highly trafficked online content areas or features yourself, whether on a CPM or flat fee basis, and designate remnant or other inventory to the PMI Channel. This could give you the best of both worlds, but will require you to get ad-serving tools in place.

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