Fall means it’s time for year-end planning

The author is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB commentaries are featured regularly at www.radioworld.com.

This week, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters hosts its final Regional Summit for community radio in Santa Rosa, Calif. This gathering is thus far the largest for community radio this year. With sessions on programming, digital strategy and more, stations clearly have a hunger for the trends as well as for learning needed by all community media.

The appearance of legendary fundraiser Kim Klein, author of many books on nonprofit development, came before a packed room. Klein’s perspective is honed by decades of helping community radio and many other charities to connect with donors. Among her key points is plan ahead — and it is something stations should always bear in mind.

The end of the year feels far away, but the truth is that 2019 will be done before you know it. The fall is a perfect time for noncommercial radio to begin ramping up for that crucial task of Giving Tuesday and year-end fundraising.

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Why worry now about these periods, seemingly months away? The news cycle has only increased demands for nonprofit media. We are asked to do more and more by our audiences. They want us on social media, our websites, smart speakers and on the air with the programming they crave. Yet more and more beleaguered managers are contending with slim resources and must close the gap between maximizing all their opportunities without necessarily having the resources to do so.

Complicating these needs is a parallel pressure on community radio: increasing our visibility. Without awareness, these efforts can be for naught. What is more perplexing is that even our most loyal fans can easily be wooed by so many other options on countless channels. While brewing up great content and engagement, stations also need to be on the minds of their fans so to convert this appreciation into funds that sustain the work.

Klein is famously quoted as saying, “Our fantasy is that people who care about any given issue simply go on the internet to find great organizations who they decide to support with their donations — and there they find your organization! The fact is that people give when they are asked, and they don’t when they are not.” She’s right.

Community radio should be comfortable with and proud about asking for listener investment. An injection of donor support can add a needed hand to all of its obligations. Enter the important year-end stretch that starts just after Thanksgiving.

Giving Tuesday, the day after Black Friday and Cyber Monday designed to boost charitable giving, and the end of the year have traditionally been times when organizations like community radio appeal to the public. We make a case to audiences about our mission, service and impact. We do so to elicit their contributions. And the stakes are high; GivingTuesday.org claims almost $300 million was raised on last year on Giving Tuesday. That figure is up from almost $180 million the year before. Needless to say, stations stand to gain a lot.

However, as Klein and many fundraisers suggest, success cannot happen without adequate planning. The onus is on your community radio station to begin the process.

There are a variety of nonprofits that offer resources for organizations starting their year-end development map. Of interest, ProPublica just shared an extensive toolkit, featuring calendars and much more. Making the case early and often counts. “I lead with logic, and then when they want that sticker, want that tote bag, or are running out of time, they emotionally want to do it and then they have all these arguments we’ve been making forever at the ready,” ProPublica’s Director of Online Fundraising and Outreach Jill Shepherd told Solution Set. “Then they finally get up, go across the room, get their purse and make a donation. Half the battle is to pull their wallet out of their pocket. It’s not that difficult to get people to say in theory that they’re glad we exist, that we produce journalism, and that we’re funded by readers. One day they’ll definitely do it but getting them to pull their wallet out is tricky business. Because at the end of the day we’re a free product. So, come December, we throw out all of those persuasion triggers.”

In whatever fashion your community radio station makes its case to its audience, you will benefit by being ready for year-end fundraising. Your stories, graphics, video and other on-air spots may feel like a ton of work, but the rewards can be tremendous.

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