January 23, 2019
Discipline: Membership

Stations have grown used to raising money in the glow of a decade-long economic expansion and much-touted strong economy. Maybe economic news will remain glowing. But the chief economist at Freddie Mac recently said we are in a “mental recession,” explaining a palpable nationwide unease. If this persists, members, listeners, and viewers may do what donors always have done when facing uncertainty: delay giving decisions and avoid new commitments.

When planning for the next 12-18 months, stations can either hope for the best or get ready. But ready for what? If macro factors like gyrating stock markets, uncharted tax policy, and political upheaval begin scaring people away from giving, what can we do about it? In fact, there are three smart things stations can do, no matter what 2019 and 2020 hold:

  1. Reexamine member acquisition using ALL of your digital prospect channels.

    Stop neglecting NPR One subscribers, PBS.org website visitors or your social media followers. Probe your fundraising results from non-member digital constituents, fix weak performers, test neglected groups.

    Test new ways to recruit sustainers, like apps for rounding up spare change on credit card purchases.

    Get e-communications off snooze control. Pretend you don’t have an e-newsletter or e-anything and design them from scratch, asking what would motivate people to give.

  2. Become a relentless advocate for spectacular engagement, customer service, and stewardship.

    Study Local That Works for examples of stations grabbing the attention of their communities. Then copy, improve, or try your own idea to emphasize your relevance.

    Reread your welcome series, acknowledgements, and lapsed efforts. Feel dated? Not exciting? Throw them out and start over.

    [Continued below…] Manage digital buyers and agencies

  3. Double down on training.

    This is no time for managers or staff unfamiliar with fundraising benchmarks. Include knowledge of trends in performance reviews. Reward those who improve weak spots.

    Assign someone to attend key webinars from Greater Public, PBS, NPR – AND for reporting key takeaways to your team.

    Attend two webinars NOT for public media, one on benchmarks, one on fundraising trends. Learn how competitors are raising money from your audience and members.

    The downside of more efficient member acquisition, stronger audience relations and a smarter team is…wait. Oh, there is no downside. The upside? Perhaps high-performance fundraising, regardless of whether the economy holds up or heads south.

Manage digital buyers and agencies