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LPFM Fundraising Case Study

Donors and underwriters helped WDPE get on the air

The author is consultant to WDPE(LP) in Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio.

“DNP 102.3” has confronted financial and other struggles before and after our launch, a common occurrence for many low-power FM stations. But DNP 102.3 faces them with continued enthusiasm and excitement.

The Dover Canal Days festival provided an excellent opportunity for the station to raise awareness — and funds. After fine-tuning the working relationship within the board of Dover-New Philadelphia Educational Broadcasting, we knew we had to take on the aspect of fundraising. Most locals seemed to embrace the station concept, but how could we encourage them to donate?

Dover Canal Days, a local festival, provided an opportunity. Starting with that event we adopted the NPR-like example of spiffs or gifts. A small donation (or even no money in some cases) earns prospective listeners a station bumper sticker; donors in a higher bracket get a T-shirt or poster of photos of the city or an early map. Posters of various sizes are according to the size of the donations.

We haven’t yet fully explored the potential for grants, which are harder to obtain before a station goes on the air. The board perceived this issue as a problem that will be improve now that the station is broadcasting; we hope the local organizations responsible for such grants will then recognize the benefit to the community and the help the station itself gives to non-profit organizations through on-air support.

WDPE has been founded with a two-fold mission.

First, the station will provide an opportunity for anyone to get into broadcasting, communications, engineering, IT, on-air presentation, public speaking, public relations and promotions. The station itself offers an excellent opportunity for volunteers. Numerous local persons joined as volunteers even prior to last summer’s launch.

The second, equally important part of the mission is to support all non-profit organizations as “their voice.” This includes helping them with their missions of anything from child mentoring to health awareness and local history. Many local non-profits greatly improve the quality of life in the area; the station (and board) are dedicated to helping them.

The station expects to find its primary support through underwriting; our board has developed an interesting and unique model, with three tiers of underwriters. All underwriting is to be paid in advance.

The first level is “Underwriting Friend.” In exchange for a commitment of $1,000 per year, they receive one underwriting announcement daily between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. Underwriting announcements rotate equally and include the overnight hours, though any run overnight are not counted as their one per day. This means the Underwriting Friend receives 365 announcements annually. There are limited availabilities for this level of support — only 10 underwriters are planned at this level.

Special programming, like live sports coverage, special programming, etc., are not part of the regular schedule and thus not a part of the regular underwriting rotation.

The second level the “Launch Underwriter.” In return for a $2,000 level of support, this underwriter receives three underwriting announcements per day, again rotated equally. They receive a total of 1,095 announcements throughout the course of the year. There can be up to five of this level.

The final tier is the “Founding Underwriter” at $4,000 per year. This level of underwriter receives eight underwriting announcements per day or 2,920 per year (rotated equally between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m.). To further entice up to five underwriters at this level, there are additional benefits. These underwriters receive additional underwriting announcements in all special programming (including live sports and special programming), plus a discount of $500 off their second year of underwriting, if chosen and paid for at the same time as the first year.

Unique to this level is product/service exclusivity. For example, let’s say the underwriter is a car dealer and supports the station at the Founding Underwriter level. If no other car dealer has supported the station at the Launch Underwriter level or Underwriting Friend level, no other car dealer can be accepted as an underwriter.

The board feels that this market exclusivity has great value and that underwriters will recognize this. It also helps with bringing in the necessary funds up-front to alleviate the concerns of operational funding. But this exclusivity, as mentioned, is only available if no other car dealer (service/product) has already supported the station with underwriting at a lower financial level.

The station also uses the multi-level approach for traditional donors. These include the “DNP Radio Friend” for $10, “DNP Supporter” at $60, “DNP Founding Member” at $100 and the “DNP Major Donor” at $250. Though there are currently no gifts in exchange for these donations, the hope is that someday the station can afford to offer tiered level of gifts to match these donations. This could be a special donor support sticker at each level, with a coffee mug for the $60 donor; a coffee mug and T-shirt at the $100 level; and two mugs, two shirts and special on-air recognition, if desired, at the $250 level.

DNP 102.3 launched last summer.

Dan Slentz is an engineer and LPFM veteran. Tell your fellow readers about your own LPFM strategies and successes. Email [email protected].