Monday, June 11, 2007

Fundraising Catalyst or Competition?

There was a time when soliciting donations from listeners was strictly the domain of local stations. That's changing fast.

Recently, the radio program Open Source turned to listeners for helping covering the loss of a subsidy. PRI (Public Radio International) takes contributions from individuals on its website while also encouraging listeners to give to their local stations. Independent producers and program producers also take listener contributions. The Kitchen Sisters and The Splendid Table are just two examples. And, of course, stations will compete with one another for listeners' ears and dollars through streaming and podcasts.

We can hope that the independent solicitations of producers and distributors will grow the overall giving pie rather than simple shifting donor money around. The industry doesn't measure overall giving to all public radio entities.

We do know that having two or more stations in a single market generates more overall giving to public radio than having just one station in the market. That's a good sign for the future but past performance might not be an indicator of future behavior. It's something to be mindful of.

In the meantime, it would be helpful to figure out how to create economies of scale for all of this fundraising. A lot of effort is replicated. Those dollars would be better spent on programming.



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