NPR to launch donation option for the NPR Network

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Tyler Falk

NPR will debut on its website this week an option to donate to the NPR Network, its new collaborative initiative with member stations. 

The NPR Network aims to increase station membership and revenue on digital platforms. It also includes the rollout of a podcast subscription bundle and new branding and sponsorship efforts with member stations.   

When the NPR board approved the NPR Network plan earlier this year, it changed the organization’s bylaws to allow it to seek individual contributions. The board will determine on an annual basis how to allocate funds that have been donated to the NPR Network. Board members will have broad authority to determine how that money is used, including giving it to member stations or providing a portion to NPR. Member station leaders make up more than half of the NPR board.

The change provides more donation options for digital natives who “might not be familiar with their station,” said NPR CDO Leora Hanser. The option allows them “to give to what they love, and to use that as an opportunity for a much longer journey and a much more dedicated stewardship towards their local station,” Hanser said. 

Hanser told the NPR board in June that less than 1% of NPR’s 20 million weekly digital users give to local stations.

NPR has not set a goal for how much it hopes to raise through donations to the NPR Network, Hanser said.

“We’re about to do something very new,” she said. “And so we’re sort of cautious in making firm predictions about exactly how and where this is going to lead. We know that this is an audience that we are not engaging with right now. So are we going to do better than we are now? Yes. But that’s starting from zero. So we’re only going to go up.”

Fundraising language for the NPR Network will be “quite broad,” Hanser said, but will not be “‘Give to NPR’ all over the place. It is about, ‘Give to NPR as part of this incredibly important local-national partnership with these more than 250 member stations.’”

Digital users will be able to give to the NPR Network, but the default choice will be a gift to their local station. The option to give to the NPR Network will be in a secondary tab, Hanser said.  

NPR prioritized launching the donation option this fall so it could work out bugs before the end of the year, when nonprofit fundraising peaks. 

“We really want to make sure that everything is up and ready by the time we much more proactively begin to do all of the things that we have done in the past around year-end digital fundraising,” Hanser said.  

NPR is not planning to promote donations to the NPR Network in its fundraising campaigns, Hanser said. “What we’re going to be pushing is, ‘Remember to be donating to your station,’” she said.

For its year-end digital fundraising campaign, NPR will follow previous years’ strategies, such as email campaigns, website pop-ups and campaign messaging. But it will “supercharge” these efforts and do more to drive traffic to campaigns, Hanser said. 

“It’s a priority of NPR to really be driving this kind of digital fundraising,” Hanser said. “That hasn’t always been the case. It’s been something that we have always done. But I think the level of priority and the level of resources that we’re dedicating to this effort is new. And I think it’s going to end up with some real results.”

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