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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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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How KPCC’s Mission Statement Project Could Help On-Air Drives in a Moment of Change

Membership, pledge drive, marketing

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Every public media station is changing how they approach on-air fundraising in this moment. The drive structure, duration, and tone that worked so well a few months ago are being reassessed. What remains constant is the message of public media’s critical service, whose value is perhaps more important than ever. 

A recent project in the newsroom at KPCC in Southern California captured that value in a way that could serve other stations, particularly during this time of change for on-air drives. 

In 2019, KPCC newsroom leadership asked all reporters and producers to write mission statements for their work.

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How to Use Your Airwaves to Support Other Nonprofits Legally and Responsibly

Membership, FCC, pledge drive, COVID-19

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt lives and the economy, many stations are extending their service to the community through collaborative fundraising for relief efforts. This might include supporting a food bank or local disaster relief. These efforts promote the wellbeing of the community and allow donors to make a deeper impact with their financial contributions by supporting two nonprofit organizations at one time. Take care, though, because there are FCC regulations that govern public media third-party fundraising. Here’s what you should keep in mind.

If you’re planning on holding an on-air drive in support of another nonprofit, you will need to request a waiver from the FCC. Typically stations work with their attorney specializing in FCC law to submit the official request in writing or by email. 

You don't need a waiver, though, if you are a non-commercial station not receiving CPB funds, and you are not an affiliate of NPR. There are still limitations, mainly that third party nonprofit fundraising appeals that interrupt regular programming can only comprise up to 1% of your total airtime in a year (about 88 hours).

Whether or not you need a waiver, the rules require on-air disclosures at the beginning and end of any fundraising appeal in which the station tells its audience that the money is going to a third-party nonprofit organization, not to the station. For longer programs, the same announcement must also be made at least once during each hour of the program.

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Station Results From the May 5 #GivingTuesdayNow Event

Membership, pledge drive, #GivingTuesday, COVID-19

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Facing a disrupted spring fundraising season, many public media stations around the country participated in the May 5 special international campaign organized by GivingTuesday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: #GivingTuesdayNow. In a survey of Greater Public member stations, we found that 86% of them participated in the event. Most of the 14% who did not participate didn’t believe the day fit their strategy.

The setting for the day was anything but promising: stations were shifting or cancelling on-air drives, personnel were scattered by work-from-home rules, and audience members were reeling from a relentless daily flow of news about the devastating health and economic consequences of a pandemic. But the special campaign was driven by three elements: 

  1. A near-universal sense of shared purpose
  2. A deep gratitude for the work of community groups including public media
  3. A desire to take some sort of action in response to the helplessness felt by so many stuck at home

The number of stations reporting strong results on May 5 far exceeded the number of those that did not, and a scan of some examples paints a picture of how to succeed in fundraising in the middle of the biggest disruption the nation has faced since the last world war.

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WBUR’s One-Day $1 Million Drive During COVID-19

Membership, pledge drive, COVID-19

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On April 1, 2020, WBUR reduced its planned eight-day spring on-air drive into a single day and succeeded in meeting its $1 million goal.

The station has some experience running short on-air campaigns, but implemented several key components to make this unusual feat a success.

1. Lead-Up to the Campaign

WBUR’s traditional spring drive was slated to begin on March 30. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the Boston area, it became clear to WBUR’s Director of Membership and Campaign Strategy, Mike Steffon, and his team that the drive as originally planned would sound inappropriate and curtail the station’s ability to bring its audience essential news coverage. They made the decision to reduce the drive to a single day on-air: April 7.

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When to Stop an On-Air Drive Due to Major News

Membership, pledge drive, COVID-19

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On-air fundraising interrupts your core programming, but sometimes your core programming has to interrupt your fundraising. 

The COVID-19 virus spreading across the country is a major news event that can cause stations to pause their on-air drives to bring listeners breaking news and vital information. The need to provide critical information might prompt some stations to move their drives.

Public media is a public service first, and our primary obligation is to deliver that public service to our audience. This is the key tenant to come back to in any discussion about pausing or moving a fund drive.

Your listeners expect you to bring them breaking news and significant events such as press briefings as they happen. To continue fundraising in such moments sends the message that raising money takes precedence over your mission of public service.

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How Positive On-Air Messaging Can Remedy Listeners' News Fatigue

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive

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The almost frenzied news coverage of the 2016 election and emotional response by many Americans has led to speculation about the rise of news fatigue among the public media audience and its effect on time spent listening and overall revenue. 

Several studies show that news fatigue is occurring. But this fatigue isn’t guaranteed to impact stations negatively. Many of our audience members see conventional media as the source of their news fatigue, and can still be reminded of the singular, trusted role public media plays for them.

First, the data. A 2018 Pew Research study reported that nearly seven in ten Americans were exhausted by the news, Republicans even more so that Democrats. Another study conducted by NPR found that 50% of Morning Edition and All Things Considered listeners said they sometimes needed a break from the news, and 38% said they felt overloaded with news and information these days1

However, there’s no indication that station listenership is down overall. RRC (Radio Research Consortium) finds that while some stations are experiencing decreased listenership, other markets are experiencing gains. (Of course, examining only listenership can be misleading, since people are consuming media across increasingly diverse platforms. Inside Radio estimates that Americans will spend over 11 hours each day interacting with content across various streams.) 

So where does this leave a fundraiser with a goal to meet and a on-air campaign looming? During this moment of news fatigue, it’s more important than ever to embrace on-air messaging that is positive and engaging.

At PMDMC 2019 we joined two experienced allies from the programming world to discuss on-air messaging that can combat the effects of news fatigue and positively engage donors right where they are during the drive and beyond.

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How to Use Air Checks to Make Each Drive Better Than the Last

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive

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When we surveyed stations last year about their on-air fundraising practices only 30% said they used air checks from on-air drives. Programmers use air checks to review and improve everything else on your station. Since fundraising is programming, we should use air checks to make drives better too. 

Air checks are the best way to experience your membership drive the way a listener does, which is exactly what you need to do to create a listener-focused pledge drive. Air checks are the best tool we have to make our drives sound better (keeping listeners with us) and perform better (turning listening into more givers and revenue).

When you do listen to air checks, here are some good ideas about when and how to listen, and how to use what you hear to improve the sound - and fundraising effectiveness - of your drive.

1. Listen to air checks after every drive.

And don't wait too long to do it! It's best to listen soon after the drive so the experience is still fresh in everyone's minds.

Don't look for your best or the worst pitch-breaks. Instead, find a handful of typical examples of how your drive sounded. This is what your typical listener heard.

And, of course, listen to the same air checks again right before your next drive to reinforce what you're aiming to improve.

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IRS Rules You Must Follow for Contests and Drawings

Membership, pledge drive, tax law

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Raffles or drawings can accomplish fundraising goals for a tax-exempt organization while also providing entertainment for the organization and participants. But these fundraising events require a bit of tax planning to keep IRS issues at bay (and note that separate laws apply to state-level and federal income tax exemptions).

The IRS views raffles and drawings similarly to lotteries: participants pay for the chance to win prizes, and the host typically determines winners by drawing tickets at random.

When hosting a raffle or drawing, tax-exempt organizations may need to:

  • Obtain information about the prize winners
  • Report prizes to the IRS
  • Notify the winners of this reporting
  • Withhold federal income tax on the prizes
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