Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Painless Fund Drive

As I've done for the past decade, I attended the Public Radio Marketing and Development Conference. I go as an exhibitor for our business, DCI, which works with public radio stations across the country. But I also sit in on as many sessions as possible as a representative of WTJU, trying to get ideas on how we can fund-raise more effectively.

Don't kid yourself -- the University of Virginia holds our license, provides us with a space, and pays the salaries of the paid staff. But it doesn't cover all of the expenses of running a radio station. And anyone who tells you it does is simply misinformed.

About half of our operating budget has to be raised from the community. Because money comes from different sources that vary, I don't have an exact figure, but it's somewhere around $56,000 we still need to raise this year. Some of it comes in through underwriting, but it's our listenership that has provide the bulk of that shortfall.

Our marathons are a lot of fun, and eagerly anticipated events, but as fundraisers go, their not always completely successful.

So what's the solution? Well, it's sitting in the lower left hand corner of our website. There's a "Donate Now!" button you can click and go straight to our secure server. Make an online donation, and you'll have done your part to support your favorite radio station.

Here's the thing: research has shown the public radio audience is moving increasingly online -- for listening, and for pledging. So if you're listening to us online from somewhere outside the Charlottesville area, donating online makes a lot of sense.

But it also makes sense if you're within our terrestrial coverage area. Because it's something you can do when you want to, any time of day.

We'll have our fall fundraiser coming up in a few months, and phone lines will be open, but you don't have to wait until then. Contribute now, and you can just enjoy the programming.

And here's a concept that was front and center at the conference: What if enough listeners contributed online to meet our fundraising goal before the marathon started?

I'm thinking it would mean we would have 10 glorious days of special programming with no on-air fundraising pitches. If we had 500 listeners donate $100 before October 1, the fund drive would be over before it began.

What's that worth to you? Enough to make you one of the 500?

I hope so. And I hope 499 others think the same way!

- Ralph

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