Antidotes to White Supremacy Culture in Our Organizations

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

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We work in the culture business. Our individual and collective efforts have the ability to mold the world outside of our industry’s walls. The stories we report, music we air, programs we produce, and events, webinars and experiences we offer to our audiences all add to the narrative of our multifaceted, multi-lensed society. Our programming is like a tapestry; it offers perspectives carefully designed, woven and crafted with different materials, patterned and textured to make something uniquely appealing. Adding our own flair to the public media tapestry is a privilege we all share; we do not take this position lightly. Each of us brings ourselves, past and present, to our work in hopes of creating something meaningful that resonates throughout history.

It is critical we look at culture when thinking about who has access to public media. To do so, we must examine the definition of culture from an everyday perspective and within the workplace. Generally speaking, culture defines our way of life, such as our norms, values, attitudes, customs, vernacular, and the nuances in between, depending on the group in question. In a corporate setting, culture sets the tone for how business is conducted. It ripples across departments and hierarchy, denoting which behaviors are praised and which are deemed unacceptable. In both settings, culture maintains boundaries, whether physical or psychological, tangible or abstract.

Leadership controls the culture. We look to their vision as our main objective while measuring and observing their every move. This includes a litany of things: their public and private behavior; their decision-making processes; their character; what and who they value; where they divert time, attention and resources; the company they keep, and so much more. The list of attributes that encompass their leadership style is endless. The compilation of these traits creates a culture barometer, measuring the efficacy of the entity’s vision.

Much of my time as a consultant is spent untangling conversations, carefully pulling them apart and then piecing information together to get to the crux of an organization’s culture. In some instances, I have separate conversations with multiple people within an organization and find there is a disconnect between the information both parties share. When this happens, it becomes evident that the organization’s communication mechanisms are strained, signaling a potential culture problem. I ask questions about leadership and how supportive they are in creating a workplace environment where everyone receives what they need to be successful. Too often, I hear comments similar to these:

“When I have a question about a project, or have an idea that could help my department or organization, I’m told to stay in my lane.”

“My organization says it supports professional development, but all of my requests are denied. How do I grow if I’m not receiving the training I need?”

“I have glowing performance reviews and am told the department could not function without me, yet I always get passed up for the promotion and I’m always asked to train the new employee hired for the job.”

“My manager asked me for feedback about a project/situation. I came prepared and explained my concerns and solutions in detail. My feedback was never incorporated and my manager never gave me an explanation as to why.”

“My editor is afraid my story, that includes instances of racism, will upset our core audience and wants the story scrapped altogether.”

“Sometimes I feel like I’m not trusted to do the job I was hired to do.”

“The organization’s leadership continues to ignore recommendations from its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, or makes plans without asking for our ideas, insight or opinions.”

“I always have to jump through hoops to get the things I need/my department needs, while other employees/departments get things handed to them without question.”

“How people are promoted is secretive and exclusive.”

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Failing Forward: Learning From Mistakes on the Journey to Anti-Racism

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

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So often we spend a lot of time thinking about the mistakes that we make, both those we realize on our own and those that others point out. We can spend days replaying a scenario particularly when it is related to race or gender identity. Some describe it as minefields that they are fearful of saying the wrong thing. I want to liberate you and tell you that you WILL make a mistake and you will offend someone. When working in equity and inclusion and striving to build knowledge while moving forward it is important to have a framework of what to do when you make a mistake. This strategy allows you to make amends, to learn and to feel more courage to take risks and make mistakes in the future. 

During a webinar I was once asked this question: “I have run into situations where a name is unfamiliar to me (e.g. I recently hosted a panel and one of the panelists had a Vietnamese name I hadn’t heard before). I struggle with having to ask someone multiple times to pronounce their name because it feels disrespectful but I am asking because I genuinely want to get it right. Any tips on how to handle this situation?”

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The Need for Sustainers Is Bigger Than You Think

sustainers, Membership

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NPR News stations have a fundraising opportunity they’ve never had before and might never have again: the opportunity is to turn significantly more listeners into sustaining givers. Why now? On March 11th, David Giovannoni, President of Audigraphics, Inc. and longtime public radio researcher, wrote in Current that “The events of the last 10 months have accelerated longstanding trends in listeners’ relationships with their NPR News stations. Today listeners to NPR News stations rely more on these stations than ever. The programming is more important to them than ever.” 

Audience 98 showed us that listening causes giving. But listeners give only when they become core listeners, and even then it can take up to a decade (or more) for a listener to become a giver. It’s clear that the time to translate increased loyalty into sustaining giving is now. 

Seizing upon increased loyalty to create more sustainers isn’t just something we can do, it’s something we must do. The revenue stability we can create from increasing sustainers will be a necessity as we grapple with changing listening habits and a greater-than-ever imperative to build new audiences.

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WXPN's Virtual 5k Brings Surprising Results

event sponsorship, Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, marketing, Audience Engagement

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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, events have gone virtual. From screenings to concerts and 5k runs, we’ve all been scrambling to figure out the best way to transition to this new model.

Last fall, WXPN successfully did just that, for its Musicians on Call campaign, in partnership with a national organization by the same name. The results were impressive, particularly when it came to participation. With approximately 200 more participating in its annual 5k fundraiser this time, many were listeners who lived too far from Philadelphia to join past runs, but were signing up now.

“We’re a big supporter of the local music community,” says WXPN’s Director of Marketing, Kimberly Winnick, who is responsible for raising funds for the program. “It’s one of the reasons we got involved with Musicians on Call. Our mission is to connect artists and audiences, and build, serve and engage the community. With a large community of local musicians and passionate volunteers, we knew we could build and sustain the volunteer staffing needs for this program. It’s a perfect fit for us.”

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Using Audience Personas to Guide Your Fundraising Activities

Membership, marketing

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Making up imaginary people may seem like a childhood game long forgotten, but media companies across the country are using the practice to help guide their work.

The idea behind audience personas or audience visioning exercises is to use a fictional person who is based on data and insight to guide product or project development. Check out this basic example created to think through a public radio website user:


Audience personas can help you think through audience needs and wants, so the end story (or project, or email, or membership drive segment) better resonates with the audience it is intended to reach.

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How to Plan a Collaborative Fundraiser

Membership, pledge drive

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Many stations have used or considered using collaborative fundraisers to contribute to the wellbeing of the community and provide opportunity to donors for deeper impact.

Collaborative drives appeal to donors because their gift simultaneously benefits the work of another community issue that they care about. 

WFDD in Winston-Salem has run a collaborative drive since 2009, gathering insights along the way about what makes these campaigns successful. Our BackPack Campaign works to alleviate childhood hunger through a partnership with our regional food bank’s BackPack Program, which provides children experiencing food insecurity with a backpack full of kid-friendly, nutritious food to take home over the weekends.

The BackPack Campaign offers a model for any station wishing to hold a collaborative fundraiser. 

What Is the BackPack Campaign?

The BackPack Campaign is a four-way partnership. The first partner is a food bank that runs a program to send children home with a backpack of food each weekend. The children have been identified by their school as getting most of their meals at school, and as not having reliable access to food over the weekend. An identified corporate partner agrees to fund the backpacks for children through a direct donation to the food bank. The third and fourth partners are the station, and, of course, the listeners.

It’s structured such that every gift to the station results in offsetting the cost of one backpack of food for a child. Listeners make a donation to the station, and 100% of their gift remains with the station supporting the programming; the corporate partner funds the backpack; the food bank distributes the backpacks through its program, which provides continuity of service to the children who are enrolled and can serve additional children because of the partnership. The backpack is the thank-you gift for the donor, it just goes to a child in need. Because it’s structured as a one-for-one (one donation equals one backpack), rather than a “when-then” (“when we meet the goal, then this will happen”), it’s very positively received. The station is coming together with the community to serve the community in amplified ways.

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Tips to Prepare Tax Statements for 2020

Membership, Major Giving, calendar year-end, tax statements

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The new year is not just a busy time to map out your upcoming fundraising objectives, it’s also time to start planning for tax receipts for donors' gifts made the prior year. And while best practice is to refrain from asking for a gift with the statement, this is an opportunity to thank your major, mid-level, and sustaining donors for a year of support.

The 2020 CARES Act had two important provisions for tax deductibility for donor gifts in 2020. As of legislation signed on December 28, 2020 those provisions have been extended to 2021. First, charitable contributions up to $300 in 2020 are considered an “above the line” deduction on donors’ taxes. Second, donors may now claim a charitable deduction up to 100% of their Adjusted Gross Income for cash gifts to nonprofits. There are no significant changes that should impact the compliance component of the tax statements provided to donors. However, compliance isn’t the only concern. Tax statements are a way to engage with donors and be of service to them regardless of how they file their tax return.

The strength of public media is that our supporters use and place a high value on the service stations provide. So, with that lens, strengthening that connection by practicing good stewardship is paramount.

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1984: The Year I Discovered "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion"

Membership, Corporate Support, Major Giving, diversity & inclusion

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As futuristic as it once sounded, thanks to the novel by George Orwell, the year 1984 didn’t stand out because of a dystopian society. Instead, I remember it as the year I experienced my first diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) moment, long before I’d ever heard the abbreviation or the term uttered. There was not a mention, not a peep. If I had heard it, I would not have known what it meant.

In 1984, I was more than 20 years away from focusing on DEI at KPBS in San Diego. When I encountered the topic, I felt frustration and resentment. Not because I took it as a personal affront, but because it left me having to complete someone else’s work. 

I attribute these feelings of discontent, in part, to being an American-born Venezuelan, having spent most of my childhood living in Queens, a borough of New York City. While my brothers came and went as they pleased, my family did their best to raise me to be a proper daughter with many of the restrictive traditions by which a Venezuelan female needed to abide. This included chores on Saturdays and church on Sundays. 

In 1984, I was in the fifth year of my career at KCTS, public television in Seattle. I had recently hired Beth, a student from the University of Washington, who was majoring in communications and eager to learn. Beth was amiable and appeared to be a good fit for our department, and, though I didn’t see it then, I’d eventually come to see that Beth was an activist, more socially aware than I was, with a mind of her own. What’s more, she wasn’t shy about knocking down established norms of the day. Whereas exhibiting such behavior went against everything I believed in.

Unlike Beth, any mind of my own that I might have possessed had been molded and shaped by my parents’ careful oversight and by the mores of the day. Let’s not forget that in addition to being a Latina, I was a Baby Boomer. This meant that, like most girls my age, I was raised on TV shows about sweet, loving housewives who wore pearls while vacuuming and baking pies. I’d see films starring Doris Day, who’d always get her man, and I was encouraged to “play house” in kindergarten while the boys played at being firefighters and astronauts. What’s more, my imaginative play consisted of my Barbie doll marrying Ken over and over, and mindless hours drawing in bridal coloring books. 

Feminism might have been in full swing, but I found myself choosing the traditions of being female in America against the backdrop of the feminist movement. I was firmly and decidedly a product of my culture and generation.

Enter Beth.

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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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