WITF backs CDP as strategic investor alongside GBH

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WITF's headquarters.

WITF in Harrisburg, Penn., has finalized a deal to make a strategic financial investment in the Contributor Development Partnership, the development services company specializing in public media fundraising.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but CDP President Michal Heiplik described the investment as a one-time payment.

With his station as a strategic investor, WITF CEO Ron Hetrick joined CDP’s board of directors.

In a statement, a WITF spokesperson said the station “has a long history of being an innovative and entrepreneurial station and is fortunate to have board-designated funds to both invest in traditional securities as well as in alternative investments like the one forged with CDP.”

“After many years of working with CDP, the WITF board recognized the evolving and important role that CDP plays leveraging technology and data to benefit all public media organizations,” said Sarah Sheehan, spokesperson. “CDP is investing in building out new technology and tools to leverage innovative fundraising strategies and WITF wanted to help secure the foundation of this work for our own use … and for the good of the system.”

With the investment, WITF is the first public media station to join GBH in Boston in taking a direct financial stake in CDP’s success. GBH and CPB funded the startup of CDP in 2011 with backing from public TV’s Major Market Group. During its first two years of operation, CDP’s services were free to participating stations. After CDP moved to a subscription-based business model, GBH continued to invest in CDP’s technology and data analytics capabilities. GBH operated the partnership through its business unit until 2018, when CDP went independent as a public benefit corporation. GBH remains CDP’s largest shareholder.

“We welcome this shared investment,” said GBH CEO and CDP Board Chair Jon Abbott in a news release. “It is in keeping with GBH’s original vision for CDP’s role as a collaborative enterprise dedicated to the success of all public media stations, and I am confident WITF and GBH will be joined by other public institutions in the future.”

CDP aims to find more stations willing to become strategic investors, according to Sheehan and Heiplik, so the company can continue building its technological capabilities and services for stations.

“Until this WITF investment, the idea of bringing on others was just that — an idea,” Heiplik said. “This is certainly something that now solidifies that path of saying ‘Hey, we’d love to have more station participation,’ in a way of investment or other ways of partnering.”

CDP is focused on improving its technological capabilities, Heiplik said, pointing to its new partnership with ROI Solutions for a new fundraising customer relationship management system.

WITF, a joint licensee serving central Pennsylvania, earned $25 million in the FCC’s 2017 television spectrum auction and invested the proceeds in its endowment. Last year, WITF partnered with South Carolina Educational Television and WLVT in Bethlehem, Pa., on the Information Equity Initiative, a platform to transmit educational materials and interactive programming in communities that lack sufficient broadband access.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified WITF’s partners in creating the Information Equity Initiative. It was SCETV and WLVT, not Signal Infrastructure Group, whose role is limited to technology software support.

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