A new service from DMW Direct Fundraising aims to help pubmedia stations reach members and donors through cellphones and tablets, using software for creating mobile-friendly pledge forms.
According to DMW, the new service will be more effective than the text-to-give format many stations have experimented with because it doesn’t rely on cellphone carriers to collect money and allows for larger donations. It also offers more opportunities for individualized communications. Mobile giving can be an important revenue stream, but stations should view it as more than just dollars and cents, said DMW President Debbie Merlino. “It’s really important to not just think of this as another channel for revenue only,” she said. “It really needs to be about engagement.
In an experiment signaling public TV’s resolve to address concerns about the long-term effects of transactional pledging on its donor base, PBS plans to test whether fundraising around regularly scheduled signature series can convert more viewers into loyal members and donors. Though traditional fundraising programs generate more cash for stations, many development professionals believe that pledging around core programs could yield better-quality donors who are committed to public TV’s mission. Stations such as Maryland Public Television and PBS SoCal in Orange County, Calif., have successfully pledged series from PBS’s National Program Service, as well as popular British dramas and comedies acquired from other distributors. Their results prompted PBS to take a deeper dive into the approach. “As we transition from a goal of gross dollars into a broader philosophy of the long-term value of donors, this seemed like a great time to look seriously at best practices with emphasis on sustaining donations,” said Joe Campbell, v.p. of fundraising programming.
The licensee of KJZZ and KBAQ in Phoenix has asked the FCC for temporary permission to sidestep the agency’s rules governing language in underwriting announcements in a test of whether “enhanced” sponsor messages could boost income. In a March 18 letter to the FCC, the Maricopa County Community College District proposed a three-year trial window “to conduct a limited and controlled demonstration project to test a modified loosening of the Commission’s enhanced underwriting policies.” Under the looser rules, KBAQ and KJZZ would air announcements that include:
“factually accurate information concerning interest rates available at underwriter banks, credit unions, automobile dealerships, and other local businesses”;
notification of sales and special events such as discounts and promotions; and
qualitative adjectives based on factual data, such as “certified,” “accredited,” “award-winning,” “experienced” or “long-established.”
During this experimental phase, the stations would monitor listener satisfaction and revenue resulting from the enhanced announcements. If sales rose and listeners accepted the new language without complaint, other public radio stations could adopt the looser rules as well, the college district suggested. In the letter, submitted by communications attorney Ernie Sanchez, the college district cited the need to experiment as stations grapple with cuts in state funding, declines in underwriting revenue and the possible elimination of federal support for public broadcasting. “Could public radio stations remain financially viable, even with diminished federal funding, if the guidelines were simply relaxed or — expressed another way — enhanced somewhat more than previous levels?” the letter asked.
When Syracuse PBS station WCNY-TV announced that its September 2007 pledge drive would be its last, skeptics predicted the new policy would be short-lived. But five years later, the station is still proudly pledge-free and its leaders say they have no regrets.