4 strategies public broadcasters can use for better fundraising

Community involvement can help public broadcasters create a more sustainable path forward.
Date Published

Public broadcasting stations are a unique resource for the communities they serve. At the same time, there are common strategies that each station can rely on to develop more sustainable paths forward.

Current.org, an online resource for those interested in and part of public radio and television, indicated the approach many nonprofit organizations have adopted is one that combines public service with the broadcast framework. One way organizations can do this is by making a commitment to the community a core value. In accordance, the PBS report “Public Media Models of the Future” highlights strategies that nonprofit radio and television operators can implement to ensure they’re meeting this goal and maintaining sustainability. The research, using recommendations from the Knight Foundation, identifies four core ways organizations can achieve a social impact, which ultimately helps with fundraising initiatives.

  • Work within the community

    Beyond providing coverage of news, cultural events and a variety of other topics, many public broadcasting stations have the opportunity to engage donors and listeners directly through municipal or civic initiatives. Rich Harwood, founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, was cited in the report supporting the idea that nonprofit radio and television organizations need to become inextricable from the area that they serve.
  • Extend beyond the broadcast booth

    In a similar vein, public media enterprises have a distinctive opportunity to get community members involved in their daily operations. While many groups already appeal to committed individuals for volunteering, it’s also a good idea to integrate outside voices into the broadcast to help identify issues that others might not be aware of. For example, a public radio station in Cleveland founded The Listening Project, which established an open dialog with community members in an effort to improve their services and engage the public.
  • Develop regional partnerships
    By working with other nonprofit organizations that have similar missions and values, public media groups have the chance to improve fundraising campaigns and visibility among community members. The PBS report cited the Arts Initiative, which many nonprofit broadcasters have worked with to develop segments that focus on local art events. In fact, a San Antonio-based organization was able to raise roughly $150,000 in fundraising with the help of the strategic partnership.
  • Promote professional skills training
Just as many other nonprofits work to provide community members with skills development projects, public broadcasters often are staffed by individuals with talents in media arts that can benefit others. The Nine Network in St. Louis created the Nine Academy which helps train people to make documentaries. Through the project, participants create short works which the station then displays on its website.

Through strategic planning, public radio and television stations have stronger donor management and are able to develop a sustainable path forward. Although every nonprofit organization has its unique mission and community that it serves, there are common tactics they can implement to achieve these aims.

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