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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How Using Data From Prospect Research Can Boost Major Gifts Revenue

Major Giving, prospecting

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As major giving programs become more important to the overall revenue picture at public media organizations, it is critical to run these programs as efficiently as possible. A key tool for many successful major giving programs is prospect research. Simply put, prospect research is a formal and organized way of determining whether or not a person is a good major gift prospect.

This kind of vetting is commonly used by hospitals and universities. Investments in prospect research aren’t as common in public media because stations tend to start their major giving programs at a lower level of giving ($1,000 or $2,500). As we in public media set our sights on higher levels of giving and conduct more relationship-based major gifts work, the benefits of prospect research become much more pronounced. Prospect research delivers the information and context that major gift officers need in order to do their job efficiently and strategically.

What Is Prospect Research?

Prospect identification and research: discovering and evaluating prospective donors and their interest, relationships, inclination to give and philanthropic capacity to inform and support an organization's fundraising strategies and outreach efforts.

- Apra (Association for Prospect Development)

Prospect research is most often thought of as a simple wealth screening tool where a company does an electronic sweep of all or part of a database and assigns a wealth score or grouping to donors. Prospect research then goes beyond wealth screening to develop a more well-rounded picture of a donor’s possible interest in an organization and in philanthropy, as well as their financial capacity for a charitable gift. Prospect research can be used to find new major giving or planned giving prospects from your current database, manage new prospects as they are discovered, sort through the volume of data you uncover, build major giving portfolios for new gift officers, and help giving officers identify the priority for donor outreach.

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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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Make This the Year to Beat for Year-End Major Giving

Major Giving, calendar year-end, giving clubs

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Every fundraiser looks hopefully to December when so many people give generously to nonprofits. In fact, over 30% of the annual gifts made happen in the month of December. There is great opportunity to connect to some of your most generous supporters by ensuring that your organization's gift-club donors ($1,000 - $5,000) are asked to renew their gifts before the end of the calendar year.

Here's a concrete (hypothetical) example of how gift-club renewals can line you up to meet your year-end goal: Say your station has a budget gap of $150,000 between your year-end goal and  your giving total as of December 1st. If you have 500 gift-club members ($1,200 entry gift), and 100 of them are due to renew their gifts in November/December, there is an opportunity to ask for $120,000 in gifts.

The difference between finishing the year on-budget or not could come down to the number of gift-club asks you make, so don’t delay. Here is a plan of action to solicit these donors and help them to be a vital part of your organization's successes in the coming year.

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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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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

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

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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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Create Major Donor Offers That Pull Donors in and Keep Them Close

Major Giving

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 A donor offer is a fundraising industry term for telling a story about what will happen when a donor gives a gift. It should be a very short story about why the donor's gift is needed right now, and what the gift will accomplish.

A donor offer isn't about marketing. It's not a perk like a membership premium. It's also not about what the donor will do for our organization. Rather it points to the psychological benefit of giving. To create a strong offer, there are only two stories that matter: 

1.) The donor's story. Tap into the donor's motivation for why they give and what they support. Talk to the donor about what they care about. Your goal is to offer the donor the opportunity to complete their story (your organization is not the hero of this story!)

"Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's needs."    
-Frederick Buechner

2.) The story about the needYou're not trying to tell the donor how great your reporting is, or how wonderful your organization is. You must illustrate the need and the problem that the donor can connect with. 

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How to Write a Capital Campaign Case Statement That Dazzles Donors

Major Giving, case statement, capital campaign

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One of the most visible work products of a capital campaign is the campaign case statement. This cornerstone – and, ideally, captivating – document illustrates the need your campaign is addressing, why it is urgent to address it now, and persuades the reader that they are key to making transformational change. It is a chance to demonstrate why your station is in a unique position to do amazing things. The most fabulous case statements are concise, urgent, and inspiring.

Your case statement should be unique to your organization and to the project that you are raising money to create. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but you must create a document that will clearly communicate to your prospective donors:

1. The problem facing your community

2. What your project is and how it solves the problem

3. Why they should be a part of the solution

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Three Easy Ways to Amplify Planned Giving at Your Station

Major Giving, planned giving

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For most organizations, the opportunity that awaits in planned giving is tremendous. It’s not uncommon for a station to have more interest from donors than there are resources to follow up on. The following suggestions come from the major and planned giving team at Wisconsin Public Television as part of the PMDMC 2018 session “Turn Up the Volume on Planned Giving.” These are a few simple ideas for how to capture and cultivate donor interest in planned giving.

Become truly donor-centric.

Being truly donor-centric in everything you do extends to how conversations take place internally. Wisconsin Public Television has chosen to be conscious about how it refers to its donors, never focusing on “getting” a gift, but always on the donor’s act of “giving” a gift. Even choices in language help transmit your team’s values and can be felt by the donors you’re working with.

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Why Planned Giving Makes a Difference: The Story Behind KEXP’s Surprise Transformational Estate Gift

Membership, bequests, Major Giving, planned giving, estate planning, legacy giving

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Co-written by Ellen Guettler

KEXP didn’t expect that its first-ever realized bequest would also be the largest philanthropic gift in the station’s history and one of the largest estate gifts ever received by a public media organization.

The donor, known outside of KEXP only as Suzanne, out of respect for her desire to give anonymously during her lifetime, gave a gift of just under $10 million to the station through her estate plan. The planned gift was announced in April of this year and has been transformative for KEXP.

Suzanne had shared her intent to make an estate gift—although not the size or amount—with Betsy Troutman, KEXP’s Director of Development. Troutman says that Suzanne was a strong believer in the station’s mission to connect people and bring joy through the power of music. She had given generously, particularly during the station’s 2013 capital campaign. But, like many other KEXP donors, she was relatively young.

“I set it aside in my mind,” Troutman remembers of the conversation about estate planning. “I thanked her, of course. But I thought, well, there will be time to talk about that.”

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