If Membershop can combine the handling
of lists from 25 radio stations,
it will have the volume--100,000-addresses--
believed to create economies of scale.

Radio "Membershop" among projects aided by Future Fund

Originally published in Current, March 2, 1998

Twenty-five public radio stations in the Southeast are planning a joint "backroom" operation to give themselves economies of scale--and centralized expertise--in their membership fundraising.

The Membershop project, overseen by public radio's Development Exchange Inc. (DEI), last month won $333,600 from CPB--the largest grant in this year's Radio Future Fund round. About 20 other radio projects were also named in CPB's Feb. 11 [1998] announcement.

Membershop's participating stations aim to complete a business plan in July and decide then whether to go ahead with it, says project director Ellie Hidalgo.

The radio stations' project follows the creation of a similar backroom agency by 12 Florida stations, almost entirely TV. Florida's newly named Infinite OutSource agency, backed by CPB and based in Tampa, has begun consolidating the handling of their membership lists and direct-mail operations, standardizing on the new PBS Team Approach software. In December, Tampa's WUSF-TV became the first station to go online at the agency.

If Membershop can combine the handling of lists from 25 radio stations, it also will have the volume--100,000-addresses--that the Florida project estimated to be desirable for economies of scale, according to consultant Mark Fuerst, who is shepherding the project with Hidalgo. Fifteen of the stations are from North Carolina and 10 were recruited in other southeastern states, according to Hidalgo.

In regional meetings with stations, Fuerst was surprised how readily they volunteered to join the project. "This is not an idea we're selling," he says. "It's selling itself."

Not only does the project aim to relieve development officers of the most tedious detail work, and possibly do it better and cheaper, but it also frees them to go out and raise major-donor and underwriter funds in person, Fuerst says.

The recent CPB grant is Membershop's second. The project received $100,000 last year for the feasibility research.

Other Future Fund grantees

In addition to the second Membershop grant, CPB announced aid to these projects Feb. 11:

Statewide Underwriting Project: $40,478 to the North Carolina Public Radio Association to further develop the sale of multi-station underwriting.

Creation of a North Dakota Public Radio Network: $49,973 for development of a local management agreement combining operations of Northern Lights Public Radio, Prairie Public Radio and KDSU-FM, Fargo.

Kenai Peninsula Consolidation: $49,588 to consolidate operations of KDLL-FM on the peninsula and KBBI-AM, Homer.

Increasing delivery capacity: separate grants of about $32,500 to WBEZ-FM in Chicago and KERA-FM in Dallas to explore the possibility of acquiring new stations or partnering with others to expand public radio's delivery capacity and consolidate operations.

African-American Public Radio Futures Summit: $60,000 to WBGO, Newark, to develop a blueprint for collaboration and improved service among black-controlled stations.

Partnership for Classical Public Radio: $50,000 to KUSC-FM, to reinvent the Los Angeles station and bring it into the ongoing program production partnership between Colorado Public Radio and Cincinnati's WGUC-FM. KUSC's new manager, Brenda Pennell, recently moved from WGUC.

Field Guide to Giving Online: $46,500 to John Sutton & Associates for creation of a updated resource guide for fundraisers by Sutton, author of the original, print-only handbook.

Fundraising Boards for University Licensees: $49,550 to WSHU-FM, Fairfield, Conn., for a demonstration project, starting a separate nonprofit to raise funds for the Sacred Heart University station.

Major Giving Initiative: $50,000 to the Station Resource Group develop major-donor solicitation processes for about 12 SRG-member stations. The project grows out of SRG's earlier CPB-backed Leaders Partnership Project.

Increasing Audience Service: $10,000 to $40,000 each to 10 stations at risk of losing their CPB Community Service Grants because of new ratings standards. The stations were identified in an earlier NPR project backed by the CPB Radio Future Fund.



To Current's home page

Earlier story: Florida stations collaborate on fundraising and the creation of program schedules, among other things.

Later news: Membershop to be operated by Development Exchange in Minneapolis, September 1998.

Related story: Overseeing the Membershop Project is the Development Exchange, public radio's clearinghouse for fundraising how-to knowledge, which is reorganizing under a new president.


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