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All together now
CPB to aid major-giving efforts at all interested PTV stations

Originally published in Current, Jan. 19, 2004
By Karen Everhart

The new major-giving initiative by CPB will offer training and support to all stations that sign up for an 18-month program.

Robert Altman, director of the initiative, had planned to try out major-giving programs at a few stations but opted to offer in-depth training to as many as possible. [By early February, 89 of the 170-some public TV licensees had signed up to participate.]

The three-phase program begins with a series of regional workshops in early March.

General managers, chief development officers and one key lay leader from each participating station must agree to participate in the workshops, which will lay the groundwork for more intensive training and implementation phases. Each station will work with a project consultant to assess its development programs and needs.

When workshop participants return to their stations, they will complete a six-month online major-giving curriculum that includes peer-to-peer conference calls. Each station will develop a major-giving project or plan ways to take an existing program in new directions, according to Altman.

In the third phase of the project, an outside consultant will advise each station as it begins soliciting major gifts. CPB will pay for 15 days of a fundraising consultant’s time during the year.

Altman explained: “If you don’t provide ongoing help in implementation, there’s the risk that people will learn a lot, get excited, but then get caught up in the normal activities of running their station” once the training is over. “You need someone there to guide and prod people through that process,” he said.

The project plans another round of workshops and course work for next fall. “If we can get 100 stations to sign up between the spring and fall, I’d be thrilled, and that would be a huge impact on the system,” Altman said.

The initiative aims to reorient stations’ development programs to seek more large donations, rather than relying so much on small gifts generated by pledge drives and direct mail. In an analysis of public TV’s business model last year, consultants from McKinsey and Co. estimated that effective major-giving programs could generate as much as $35 million annually in net revenues.

Public TV could raise that much if “all stations are brought up to the level of the very, very best stations,” said Altman. His project will set its goals based on the goals of participating stations. “Our goal-setting will be rooted in each situation and will build up from there.”

Web page posted Feb. 17, 2004
Current: the newspaper about public TV and radio
in the United States
Current Publishing Committee, Takoma Park, Md.


Major-gift fundraising gets major attention, 1999.

Growing your major gifts in 10 steps.

CPB selects promotion of major-giving as one of its three top initiatives, 2003.


The Major Giving Initiative is financed by the Future Fund but may be one of its last projects, since CPB is discontinuing the fund.


CPB's Major Giving Initiative website.

Kay Sprinkel Grace, consultant to the initiative, speaks at PBS Development Conference, 2003 (PDF file).