Public Media Giving Days: Gaining momentum for station success

By Susannah Winslow

Public Media Giving Days (PMGD) returns this May 1st and 2nd. Stations are once again coming together to fill the need for new methods to connect with fans, turn those fans into donors, maintain relationships with those donors—and more. PMGD is also a celebration dedicated to powering and expanding the public media mission.

CDP, in partnership with Greater Public, NPR and PBS, brought the event to fruition last year, when it was embraced by more than a hundred stations, raising over $800,000 from people across the country. “PMGD has helped stations meet and surpass their goals,” says Frank Auer, CDP’s Senior Director of Digital Fundraising. “It’s transformed audience engagement into tangible support and fostered a thriving, connected community around our shared values.”

Together, this participation of nationwide stations helped bring the mission of public media to the national stage, inviting audiences from every demographic to engage. And, through the collective backing of PBS, NPR, Greater Public, and CDP, their messages received the resources necessary to be amplified and truly heard. All of this came together to mean that stations didn’t just raise money, they reaffirmed and grew their roles as not just sources of gripping entertainment but also civic engagement and vibrant social discourse.

Each of these stations has their own unique PMGD story, including their own strategies and routes to success. Vermont Public and PBS Reno were kind enough to share their techniques to help provide inspiration as you put together your PMGD plans for this year.

Vermont Public is a joint licensee station serving news and classical radio listeners, television viewers, and an array of other digital audiences through podcasts and newsletters. “When this opportunity first presented itself, we knew that we wanted to do something, but weren’t sure how much to do,” says Katie Miller, Director of Membership. “There were concerns that an email or social-only campaign might not be as fruitful if we used some—or all—of our broadcast channels.” They adeptly integrated PMGD into their scheduled fundraising activities for both television and radio, promoting PMGD across all channels: broadcast, social media, email and digital placements on their website and on their podcasts.

To reinforce the importance of advocacy, Vermont Public offered a pack of stickers to each donor that made a gift over five dollars. “Like many public media stations, we have tens of thousands of stickers just hanging out in the office,” Miller says. “This was a great opportunity to offload some of those stickers and give something to donors that helps them share their love of Vermont Public with others.” Response was enthusiastic, and their staff sent out over 400 envelopes of stickers.

PBS Reno, on the other hand, is a relatively small station with just 38 employees and a development team of ten people, including a membership team of three. “Last year, PMGD brought in 200 donations and about $5,500, which was huge for us,” says Samantha Harris, Director of Membership.

Their station leveraged PMGD as an opportunity to build an integrated campaign, promoting it across digital channels and broadcast. Running lower thirds intermittently throughout the day with donation information, including a QR code and phone number, allowed their PMGD message to be front and center. Paid as well as organic social media, email marketing and outbound texting were all part of their campaign strategy.

“This year is PBS Reno’s 40th anniversary, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to expand PMGD,” says Harris. Leaning into community dialogue, they plan to invoke feelings of nostalgia through testimonials from longtime employees, former staff that worked there when the station started and members that have been supporting the station for many years. “This will help frame the idea that long-term advocacy turns into donations and financial support.”   

In addition, PBS Reno plans to increase their social footprint for PMGD this year. “We have fun plans to do some things on TikTok and Instagram reels to gain more interaction with our social followers and beyond,” says Harris. The station also has a popular Murder Mystery event that sells out each year. “We’re saving two tickets to use as a giveaway—anyone who donates during PMGD will be entered to win the last pair of tickets!”

This year, stations can expect expanded resources to support direct mail, including graphics and copy for a postcard and additional P.S. copy that can be used in your renewals and acknowledgements. Challenge match copy and graphics are also new this year, in addition to fresh on-air spots provided by PBS and NPR.

In the end, PMGD is more than just the sum of its parts. It’s about coming together to spread the word about what public media means to us and why our mission matters. We look forward to another great year.

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