The NPR Pledge Drive Fuss
Current.org has a good summary of the article and some related links here. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller sent an email to stations stating NPR was not pursuing the pledge drive option. Aaron Read, who frequently posts to this blog, commented on the topic on his Fried Bagels blog.
As someone who has worked at stations, for stations as a researcher and fundraising consultant, and at NPR as a researcher and provider of fundraising service to stations, all I can say is this:
The industry is losing money each year by not allowing NPR to raise money directly from listeners.
Whether the issue is fundraising or audience growth, public radio chronically suffers from the belief that its pie can't get any bigger. People believed that 20 years ago. They believed it 10 years ago.
But static-pie thinking views the future through an Either/Or lens. It can't see the Both/And possibilites.
We know from past research that listeners to two stations will support both stations and give average or above average gifts. They have room in their budgets to do both . Even now. Even in this economy. In fact, the best way to raise more money in a down economy is to ask more often and in more ways. Many listeners would gladly support their station and NPR if given the opportunity.
The issue here shouldn't be whether or not NPR should be allowed to raise money directly from listeners. The issue should be how NPR and stations can work together to grow the revenue pie with stations and NPR making appeals.
Making this work starts with understanding that raising money from listeners and how stations pay for programming are related but separate issues. NPR raising money directly from listeners without sharing revenues and/or reducing station fees wouldn't be fair. A central piece of any direct fundraising effort has to focus on how the money is distributed and how NPR charges stations for programming.
Everyone could have more money to spend, if only public radio can get past its belief that the pie can't get any bigger.