A digital revolution for public radio fundraising

Marketing consultant John Sutton has been forecasting what public radio will look like in 2018, and his predictions, published on his blog RadioSutton since February, have been provocative. Sutton is among the pubradio analysts who believe that federal funding “will be sharply reduced or gone in five years.” He also believes that digital listening will fragment the audience enough that eventually NPR will have to raise money directly from listeners or the current public radio economic model will collapse. Below, he lays out a proposal for overhauling public radio fundraising and how it makes both dollars and sense. Imagine a future in which listeners donate 26 percent more money to public radio at half the cost. Imagine that NPR has nearly $60 million more to invest annually in world-class journalism and development of new programs.

Is this imaginative exercise making you uncomfortable?

Basic memberships: More trouble than they’re worth?

Basic memberships offered during pledge drives and in direct-mail appeals are a time-tested enticement for converting pubcasting viewers and listeners into contributors, but station-based development staff are perplexed about how to set the rate for this donation level. Some pubcasters are weighing whether to stop offering basic memberships altogether. A survey conducted this fall by Plymouth, Mass.–based direct-marketing consultant DMW Direct found that most stations charge below $50 for a basic membership, and few have adjusted the rate within the last five years. The basic median rate among the 41 public TV and radio stations that participated in the survey is $40, but 16 stations reported to DMW that they charge less. These rates are far below average gift amounts for public stations.

PBS to produce sessions on TV fundraising at PMDMC

Next year’s Public Media Development and Marketing Conference, the annual event organized by pubradio’s Development Exchange Inc., will include a new track for pubTV professionals, produced by PBS. The conference runs July 12-14 in Seattle. The track will focus on pledge practices, fundraising and community engagement around children’s programming, and television-specific research. DEI and PBS announced the collaboration in a statement Dec. 6.

What feels really good: helping others ‘be more’

‘PBS gives everyone the opportunity to explore new worlds” — this is the meaning that station communications to viewers and donors should evoke, the network says. PBS plans to test new messages with stations and make a new round of spots for its “Be More” brand campaign based on new research about language that moves people to donate to pubTV. The network’s goal is to create more consistent messaging across the system, says Judy Braune, v.p. of strategy and brand management. “When we set out to do the research,” she says, “we were looking to answer the question, ‘How can we position PBS stations as a cause that people want to support for the long haul?’”

PBS discussed the research findings at the PBS Development Conference in October and will review them at the PBS Content Summit in January and at PBS Showcase in May. In March, PBS plans to supply stations with new messaging materials to use on-air, online, and in direct mail and e-mail fundraising efforts.

Florida, Minnesota donors question sale of favorite stations

Fans of two now-defunct college stations are pursuing legal actions against the sale of the stations to Minnesota-based American Public Media Group.Two supporters of Florida’s Christian Family Coalition filed suit Oct. 18 [2007] in a state court in Miami to overturn Trinity International University’s September sale of former Christian music station WMCU to APMG, which aims to start a classical music station in Miami. In the Twin Cities area, where a classical station was on the losing side, a group of former listeners to St. Olaf College’s bygone WCAL has questioned its sale to APMG’s Minnesota Public Radio, which converted it to The Current, a contemporary music station. On.