Friday, October 31, 2008

End of Year Fundraising

You might have already seen the announcement about the Best of 2008 fundraising special. It's a project we're putting together with Jay Clayton, NPR, PRI, APM, DEI, and Public Interactive.

The centerpiece of the project is a national fundraising special to air on Saturday 12/27. Peter Sagal and Fred Child will host. Ira Glass and the Car Guys will be featured. We will look back at the most compelling moments in public radio in 2008.

There's an off-air fundraising component as well with direct mail letters, eblast copy, and on-air support spots to run from Thanksgiving to December 31.

The Project Overview and FAQ is here. (PDF)

Stations can sign-up here.

Is there something you heard on public radio in 2008 worth including in the special? Submit your suggestions via email:


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Growth Requires Calculation + Inspiration

Most of the news out of the Grow the Audience project is focused on the math part of the initiative. How many listeners does public radio have? Which audience segments does public radio want to grow and by how much?

That's all necessary but it is no different than the work of our commercial counterparts. It's just an exercise in math.

The Grow the Audience project won't take off until there are content visionaries sharing how exciting it could be to serve new audiences. It won't take off until there are inspiring conversations about how lives can be changed and communities can be improved by public radio's service.

Consider these excerpts from NPR's first "mission statement."

National Public Radio will serve the individual: it will promote personal growth; it will regard the individual differences among men with respect and joy rather than derision and hate; it will celebrate the human experience as infinitely varied rather than vacuous and banal; it will encourage a sense of active constructive participation, rather than apathetic helplessness.

Programs in the "by and for" specific cultural, ethnic minorities category could be developed. For example, there could be a linkup of stations in urban areas with sizeable non-white audiences, or student groups studying ecology, or groups with distinct lifestyles and interests not now served by electronic media. As man pulls himself out of the mass society to develop his unique humanness, his minority identification (ethnic, cultural, value) becomes increasingly important...

In order to provide minorities access to the medium, it is not only important to establish the identity of that group, but essential if the total population is to understand and appreciate the interdependence of pluralism.

The people who wrote these words also had a vision for how to turn these ideals into content. They were involved in the creation of the service from the start. Through experience and subsequent calculation their inspiration evolved into public radio today.

Now public radio is trying to do this process in reverse; to calculate first and then find a vision to fit the math. It's a much tougher task.

You can't just go out and sub-contract for inspiration. The content visionaries have to be deeply involved in the process from the start. If they are involved in Grow the Audience at this point, it's not apparent. If they aren't, it's time to get them involved.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Fundraising Update

It looks like its been a pretty good fall fundraising season in public radio with many stations meeting or exceeding donor and dollar goals. Some stations are reporting record numbers of first-time givers.

It's a good reminder that public radio is even more valuable to its listeners during difficult times.

The challenge now is getting that second gift from all the first-time donors. Getting a second gift in the next 12-months essentially doubles the likelihood that a new donor will become an ongoing donor. That's essential if public radio is going to meet its goal of getting to 3 Million Givers.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Grow the Audience: Black and Hispanic Listening and Accountability

The Grow the Audience project has released a new report on listening by Black and Hispanic College Graduates. You can find the PDF here.

It's an informative report and, surprisingly, one of the few published reports with any Black and Hispanic audience numbers for public radio.

One would think that with all of the time and money invested in growing Black and Hispanic audiences over the past decade that it would be easy to find reports with actual audience numbers in them.

There are lots of reports on what was done and how money was spent doing it, but virtually nothing on the audience outcomes of those investments. In other words, public radio was measuring its success based on what was created, not on how much it was heard.

It's no wonder the audiences didn't grow. The measurement of success (programming investment) wasn't in alignment with the stated goal (audience growth). One is an input, the other is an output. Under this configuration, there has been no accountability for results.

JSA submitted a commentary to the Grow the Audience project web site to address this issue. It is republished below.

Grow the Audience: Clear Goals, Sufficient Funding, and Accountability Are a Must

At the Public Radio Program Director's conference, Tom Thomas stated that the Grow the Audience project's goal is to increase the broadcast audience for public radio.

That's a strong and welcome statement about the intent of the project. Radio isn't dead. There's room to grow our public service through radio listening and there should be specific growth goals, especially among Black and Hispanic listeners.

Those growth goals should be sufficiently funded based on existing programming economic models. We know the range of financial investment required to generate an hour of broadcast listening today. Getting new listening, especially from previously unserved audiences, will cost as much or more. Anything less sets the project up to fail.

Finally, someone must be held accountable for these audience growth goals. Goals tend to be missed if they have no champion. A lack of accountability for results is among the reasons past efforts to diversify the audience have failed.

Someone needs to be in charge and needs to have incentives to succeed. That's a standard business practice on the fundraising side. Missing substantial goals gets you fired. Making them has rewards. Applying similar standards to meeting audience goals increases the likelihood they will be met.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cheer the Phone Volunteer

More than 100 public radio stations will be conducting on-air fund drives in the next week or so. Most of those stations will have phone volunteers taking contributions from listeners. Some stations will have just a few listeners answering phones. Some will have 30 or 40.

At the busiest times, up to 1,000 volunteers might be taking a pledge. At an average gift of $100, they will help public radio stations raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in just 5 or 10 minutes. This will happen again and again throughout the week.

We always talk about the importance of listener support and how it is the foundation public radio's service to this nation. That foundation was built and is maintained by thousands of phone volunteers, many of whom graciously show up at 6 on a weekday morning and then come back to cover a 4-hour shift on the weekend.

It's a workforce public radio could not afford if it had to pay for it, especially in the early years.

Please take the opportunity to thank some phone volunteers this week. If not for them, public radio would not be nearly as good as it is today... and it might not even exist at all.

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