Finding Focus for 2020 Year-End Fundraising

Membership, calendar year-end, COVID

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2020 has certainly been a year of challenges and unpredictability. We can’t predict the precise turns that year-end fundraising may take, but we can focus on a few things to do really well. Then, if challenges arise in the final weeks of 2020, we’ll be better prepared to pivot. . Here’s what you can focus on knocking out of the park:

Safety First 

COVID numbers are rising sharply, and lockdowns and restrictions similar to what we experienced in the spring are beginning to happen state by state. It’s important to put the safety of your team first and expect you will be doing and on-air fundraising remotely if you aren’t planning for that already. Getting distance logistics in place now will position you to take on any additional fundraising challenges that arise in the new year.

Use Unifying Messages 

Your public service - be that news or music - is as important as it has ever been to your listeners. As audiences have hunkered down at home or continued essential work during this time, public media has provided essential information and comfort. Yes, listening patterns have shifted. But the connection is strong. Stay donor-centered in your messaging, and focus on what they have made possible. We’ve crafted some scripts with the message, “we’re all in this together” to help you get started and frame your pitches.

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Reflections on the Work of Anti-Racism From WUOL’s Daniel Gilliam

Membership, Major Giving, General Management, diversity & inclusion

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In October, the member services department at WUOL Classical in Louisville received a listener letter objecting to the station’s increase in music by Black composers. The letter stated that the anonymous writer - a self-described long-time donor - was discontinuing their support as a result. 

Member services shared the letter with Daniel Gilliam, WUOL program director and director of radio, who decided to read a Statement to a Racist Listener on-air, stream it on Facebook Live, and publish the statement online. We asked Gilliam about this response from the station, and about the larger anti-racism work being done at WUOL.

Greater Public: What was your reaction when you received the listener letter?

Daniel Gilliam: I don’t think any public radio station is a stranger to receiving negative or controversial letters, particularly around race. Whether it’s someone complaining that a triple-A station is playing too much hip hop, or that they dislike someone’s way of speaking or the coverage of race on a news station. But at a classical station, we’ve been largely immune to these kinds of letters because, historically, classical has not been a very diverse format. There are some people in the classical radio world who are coming to terms with that and being proactive to change it. It’s something I've been trying to work on at WUOL. 

When the letter arrived, it did a couple of things. First, it signaled that somebody is noticing that we’re playing more composers that aren’t white. I wondered how they knew; did we say on-air that this is a Black composer, do they know enough about the music to know which composers are Black, or did they Google the composers to see who was Black and who was white? I had questions about why that would catch their attention. But I’m glad it did, because I want more people to recognize themselves in the music we play on WUOL. And we still have a long way to go.

But the writer of the letter also said they wouldn’t be supporting the station because we’re playing more Black composers. We often get letters at stations that threaten to discontinue support and we let them roll off our backs. But this one struck me for how explicit it was. And it angered me quite a bit. We say “listen to relax and escape” and all is fine in the world. But when you encounter a listener who’s an avowed racist, it kind of shakes you. This is not “peaceful let’s-all-get-along” listenership.

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Strategy Is Not Enough: The Importance of Changing the Culture of Public Media

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, diversity & inclusion

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Once in a meeting with a senior manager of a station I worked at, I was discussing why I felt that the structure and culture of the organization could do a much better job of fostering respect, empowering innovation and providing psychological safety to its employees. Though new ideas were often seen as threatening and feedback was rarely well received, I was daring to speak up because I believed that these changes were imperative for creating the collaborative spirit of innovation needed to ensure the long-term survival of the station. 

Well into the conversation, the manager said, “you know, you’re in a tough spot.” Immediately, I thought of a dozen different things he might be referring to, but, not wanting to assume, I asked him to elaborate. He explained that even though I had been working there for almost three years, I still had to prove myself. 

This was an organization where people were often shamed for being “too sensitive,” and fear of perceived failure routinely drove management decisions. Perhaps he meant to be helpful by suggesting that if I only kept my head down and worked hard there for a decade the other senior managers would finally take me for my word and respect me. But I went back to my desk and cried. 

In that moment he’d confirmed one of my darker fears about our industry: Our overwhelmingly traditional, white, patriarchal culture is killing public media.

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The State of Our Institution

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, General Management, diversity & inclusion

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I dare ask, my fellow colleagues, are we not institution builders?

Do we not see ourselves as a “society” of media makers with peculiar “customs”? At the very least, don’t we “set in motion” the constructs of well-designed and articulated best practices and core values?

In doing so, we take great pride in the intentionality from which we create content, the teams that produce, and the well-manicured models employed to monetize. All of this and so much more, we exclaim, in the name of public service.

This racist-drenched and pandemic-entrenched society has come upon a “reckoning.” At once, that bend in the arc of justice is revealed to not only be stubborn towards justice but rooted in design, intentionality and maintenance, suggesting the end game - covertly and with a wink - has been achieved.

It was James Baldwin, the great American literary who confessed:

“I don’t know how most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions… You want me to make an act of faith… on some idealism which you assure me exists in America which I have never seen.”

Public media is an American institution not spared of these charges. The titans of our institutions are overwhelmingly white. I’ve heard it said that we suffer a “whiteness problem” despite years of inclusion, diversity, equity and access efforts. Like Baldwin, I don’t know how we feel, I can only conclude what we feel from the state of our institutions. I say we, for like so many of my colleagues of color, it can be argued that we have co-signed this institution-building by our very presence and efforts and yet failed in molding it to at least reflect a shared space inclusive of our images and voices.

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Tips for Making the Most of GivingTuesday 2020

Membership, #GivingTuesday, COVID-19

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More than any year in recent memory, GivingTuesday 2020 is taking place amidst historic and unsettling events: the pandemic, the U.S. elections, a racial justice reckoning, a recession, extreme weather, and more. Even as the world seems upside down, remember that generosity unites us, especially in tough times. In 2020, generosity has been one of the key ways that people have expressed their power, providing an antidote to isolation, fear, and division. 

On GivingTuesday, generous people look for causes that matter to them, and you want to help them understand why your station is central to their lives, particularly this year. Never has relevant, factual information from trusted sources been more vital. Public media stations are information first responders, on the front lines of facts, and critical local resources.

As you think about ways to connect with your community, there are a few core truths that are at the heart of successful GivingTuesday campaigns, as well as to the long-term resilience of stations.

Generous People Are Generous

This year, giving is actually up as people are looking for ways to help others and make a difference in their communities. We see no evidence of donor fatigue. To the contrary, the same person who advocates on behalf of a cause, volunteers, or responds to a GoFundMe for a friend’s cat who needs surgery is the same person who will likely give to your station.

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How WBEZ Made Strategic Changes in Fundraising to Win This Year’s Benchmarks Award

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

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For a station to reach and sustain its full fundraising potential, it must make smart investments in talent and programming, and create strategic growth in all areas of fundraising. 

That’s what’s been underway at Chicago’s WBEZ over the past five years. And the station’s success as a result has been telling. WBEZ was given this year’s Benchmarks Award, which recognizes sustained revenue growth and overall fundraising and corporate support excellence. From FY15 to FY19, WBEZ’s total gross fundraising revenue increased 61%. Total net fundraising revenue increased 54%, showing the station’s ability to spend its fundraising dollars wisely. 

Increase Share of Listening

While overall listening to broadcast radio is down across the country, WBEZ increased its own share of listening by 13 percent over five years. This was achieved with a disciplined approach toward programming, promotion and positioning. The station revised its program mix to ensure it was more “on the news” each day, and strategically encouraged a daily listening habit on the radio and smart speakers. 

Individual giving can only be as strong as the loyalty of the audience, and the strength of fundraising starts with listening.

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Public Media: Existing Within the Shadow of White Supremacy Culture

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, leadership, diversity & inclusion

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White supremacy is all around us. If you are aware of this, congratulations, you are on the road to recovery; the first step is admitting it. If you are struggling to grapple with this concept, know that you are not alone. This statement may challenge your inner spirit, causing denial and a sense of panic followed by a twinge of anger. I know this because I have felt it. These powerful, pessimistic feelings show up in our actions, and interactions with others, when merely the ideas of racism and racial bias are hinted at. This is how white supremacy wins every time.

Conversations around systemic racism in our society are far from new. Mountains of data, studies, and reports offer stark evidence that, in the United States, the systems we all rely on were intentionally designed to marginalize and oppress Black and brown people. Yet little progress has been made to change them. Why? Because white supremacy has been the standard throughout. We default to beliefs, actions, and characteristics that promote and uphold whiteness. If it’s not white, it’s not right.

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Looking for Evidence of USPS Delays in Direct Mail

Membership, direct mail

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U.S. postal delays are in the news and causing many stations to wonder if direct mail delivery has been or will be affected.

Greater Public has operated its direct mail acquisition list co-operative and direct mail production collaborative for 13 years. During these years we’ve tracked the arrival time for every single mailing we’ve ever sent. We do this by adding “seeds” to each mailing.  A seed is the name and address of one of our team members (slightly misspelled, for example) that is added to each and every mailing list used to produce a station's mailing.  Receipt of our seeds is confirmation of the delivery date of the mailing.

This history of tracking arrival times has given us reliable, longitudinal data on when direct mail can be expected to arrive, and when to be concerned if it’s delayed or hasn't arrived at all.

Due to the volume of our mailings, Standard Mail rates are the most economical and average 3 to 10 business days or as many as 14 days from send date to arrival date. Sometimes mailings arrive in one-and-a-half weeks, sometimes in two-and-a-half weeks. We can request a USPS investigation if the mailing has not arrived within three weeks.

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Build Powerful Local Pitches to Raise More Money On-Air

Membership, pledge drive, COVID-19

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Out of adversity comes opportunity. 

Especially now, with most of your listeners stuck close to home, in extremely challenging times – the local reporting, culture and music sharing, and community building that your station has done in recent months holds even greater importance in people’s daily lives. 

Across the nation, at stations large and small, so much gratitude has poured in for the role that stations are playing right now. In most cases, this gratitude has also paid off with strong financial support. 

As the impacts of the coronavirus continue, and as the dramatic election season approaches, fall is the perfect time to make a strong case for your local station and its services in your local market, whether you’re on the ground reporting the news or providing essential music and culture to lift spirits and provide a respite in difficult times.

In a few simple steps you can make sure your whole team is prepped (and excited) to pitch the value of the vital work your station is doing – and will continue to do.

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Leadership for the Now Generation

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, leadership, diversity & inclusion

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We are experiencing a reawakening in America: A global pandemic and failure of our democratic systems. Nearly a decade of watching Black Americans murdered from multiple video angles. The Karens. Mask polarization. The psyche of America is crying out: When will it end? Enough is enough.

The overwhelming feeling is that few solutions - or even substantive conversation - have come from those in power. 

It’s no different in public media.

My heart aches when I see/read/hear so many of my media colleagues and particularly those in public media, who have expressed during these past few weeks their lived experiences inside of newsrooms and organizations as being made to feel less than or even invisible.

Those words come from a tweet that I posted back in mid-July. But it’s a statement I’ve been making for the better part of the last decade. These are years when my BIPOC colleagues have been speaking up about their experiences working in public media. Applying for c-suite roles and never being interviewed, being passed over while whites with less experience and questionable pasts get promoted, discovering that white colleagues in similar roles make significantly more, and enduring retaliation for speaking up or filing complaints with leadership or HR.  

While some diversity might exist at the bottom of our organizations, as you summit the peak of leadership, it’s snow-capped white. It's the public media version of a 1960’s lunch counter. It’s modern day segregation.

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