Creating stronger donor and community bonds
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Community Radio News and Notes
Beaver Lake near Sitka
Beaver Lake near Sitka

"In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors."
– Judge Hugo Black, writing for the 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court majority that decided in favor of the press in 1971

A fitting quote to mark the week I just spent in our nation’s capitol. NFCB’s dynamic and talented board and staff put our heads together for two days of in-depth planning and conversation. Since we only convene quarterly, this time of year is the one time we come together to review our goals, assess our progress, and make sure we are doing our level best to deliver high-quality services in the most efficient way possible. Our time together wrapped up with a lovely reception hosted by John Crigler and Melodie Virtue where we filled the room with folks in DC who care about community media and the constituencies NFCB represents.

All in all, 2017 was a full year for us and we are excited by the robust program of summits, webinars, newsletters, Solution Center resources, and more that we have in store for our members in 2018.
Before traveling to Washington I had the great honor of being invited to member station KVRF (Big Cabbage Radio) in Palmer, Alaska. If ever there was an example of the press serving the governed and not the governors, it lives in stations like Big Cabbage Radio where friends and neighbors help friends and neighbors and supply information, entertainment, creative expression, and inspiration.

I visited four more stations in Alaska (KCAW, KSKA, KNBA, and KTOO) before returning “down south” and I was left with a renewed sense of the value and relevancy of authentic local media that is rooted in place and offers listeners an amplified experience of belonging to something larger than themselves... something that makes their communities shine just a little bit brighter.
Keep calm and carry on all you dedicated audiophiles in commuity media land…..your service is a lifeblood for our democracy and a friend to the thousands and thousands of listeners who rely on you to provide a window to the world from their own backyard.

Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters

Listeners first in fundraising

Many of us in community radio have heard the cringworthy on-air plea for funds -- the browbeating over all the hours volunteers put in to make shows, the price of lattes, or the Big Bad of other media. These appeals, though desperate sounding, underscore an anxiety familiar to everyone in community media: how we create that fundraising spark. 

At NFCB's upcoming Regional Leadership Summits, revenue will be part of the discussion for community media attendees. It is the topic on plenty of minds for a host of reasons – most importantly because stations like yours need to win new and renewing contributors to the fold.
Station fundraising training and discussion comes at an opportune time. Community radio is ramping up for spring pledge drives. Many more organizations are evaluating their development plans, including sustainer programs, major donor relations, and underwriting forecasts. Everyone is seeking the right tone and strategy.
NFCB seeks to provide guidance and support for stations like yours through its services and in-person events. Over the years, we've gathered insights to help you help your community radio station.
Successful on-air fundraising requires planning, but not the kind of planning you may normally consider. As our KEXP friends mentioned in a January NFCB member webinar, good practices require a thoughtful effort that puts donors at the center of our fundraising work. Our words on the microphone, email, social media, postal mail and elsewhere should squarely be about honoring their generosity and valuing their commitment to the station.

If your station focuses its campaign on your DJs and the work they do, that's okay, but why might you see less of a return? Because giving by listeners is less of a transaction (you give dollars, we give you radio) and more about supporting the kind of community they want (one with music, news, conversation and culture). One donor study (pdf) discovered just how personal giving is to a donor. Key reasons for contributing money included donors feeling their funds were needed and that others were impacted by the organization.

Similarly, a sustaining pledge being worth less than a Starbucks cappuccino may not resonate as much as, for instance, a station organizing jazz appreciation classes for high school students, thanks to donors, or news reporting that resulted in a change in county policy. Stations using funds to positively influence local culture matters to your audience.

From millennials to older listeners, people donate for emotional reasons. A sense of connection to a place, an organization being aligned with their values, and to be part of an experience are just a few very powerful and intimate explanations for giving. Thus your message should be about how you do more than keep the lights on with a donation, but the difference your community radio station makes.
Fundraising is more than your goal, but it is about cultivating trust and starting a relationship that is intended to foster long-term giving to your community radio station. As such, you want to orient volunteers, DJs and staff to be in service to your VIPs (donors), to respond promptly and courteously to them, and to present your appeals with the value your station provides and its meaning to them. Making people feel guilty may have short-term results, but continued giving is about the good feelings giving back creates for people. Fundraising is a time to spark a positive connection in someone's mind with you.
NFCB will be providing more teaching and ideas at our Regional Leadership Summits this year. Learn more about these member exclusive events here.

And, by the way, the abovementioned January webinar and slides are available right now in NFCB's Solution Center for members. Not a member? Your station is encouraged to join today.
Sowing the Seeds

Sharon Maeda: leading anew

Seattle's low-power FM scene has exploded in 2018. After a successful 2017, with LPFMs around the United States going on the air, a wave of new community stations in Seattle, including several new NFCB members in the area, were profiled by the New York Times in January.
Among the fresh crop of stations is Rainer Valley Radio/KVRU-LP, an initiative of Seattle nonprofit, SEEDArts. Like most community radio stations, Rainer Valley Radio welcomes volunteers and features a blend of music and talk as a part of its unique programming mix.
Although the station may be new, it welcomed a radio veteran to lead it. After decades of public service, including as a White House liaison to Asian American organizations, as executive director of the Pacifica Foundation in the 1980s, and work with Housing and Urban Development, Sharon Maeda came out of retirement to become KVRU-LP's general manager. In addition to helping put Rainer Valley Radio on the map, she's training new producers and leaders in community radio.
Maeda shares a bit about why community radio still motivates her.

What about your station inspired you to come out of retirement to lead it?
In 2014, the Rainier Valley of Seattle was declared by the US Census Bureau as the most ethnically diverse zip code in the country. Despite gentrification forcing many immigrants and other people of color out of Seattle, it is still a very diverse community. Decades ago, my switch from public education to media had everything to do with media access for underrepresented groups. And, while enjoying retirement for two years, I was very troubled by what I thought would be the assault on democracy. I knew I had to do something, and while not knowing exactly what that something would be, I knew that my best skills were in communications and organizing and at KVRU, I can do both every day.
I was an early advocate for LPFM back before the FCC decided to take it on and helped stations in the first round. I was delighted to know that there are a number of groups in Seattle applying for this second round of LPFM, including one in my own community -- I live walking distance from KVRU! From time to time, I had lunch with the KVRU project manager, providing background and resource information. But, I had no idea they would build a station with three studios and had a vision of a full service community radio station.  So, when I saw the job announcement, how could I not apply?
I knew their 20 hours per week job would have to include a lot of volunteer time as well, but I knew that this community, more than any of the others in Seattle, needed to have a strong voice. 
I’m very excited that we will train a new generation of media makers to take over the station.   
Where do you see the greatest opportunities for LPFM in your area and community radio in general to grow?
Within the limits of nonprofit and FCC regulations, community radio can be the resource in every community for equity and justice. By providing a platform for diverse people to share their stories and cultures, debate the issues and be heard when they advocate for themselves. The opportunities are limited only by the imagination and financial resources of the LPFM and larger community stations.
One example: KVRU just received a small grant to produce human service PSAs in multiple languages. The critical element of the project is to engage with immigrant communities to determine which services each specific community needs and to pay stipends to the translators/announcers of these announcements. We plan to schedule them so that a specific language community knows to tune in at a specific day/hour of the week; with those ongoing relationships, we will be able to gradually add programming by and about these communities in their languages.
What are your biggest mistakes or challenges as a manager, and how did you overcome them? What did you learn?
I assume you mean at KVRU and not back at KRAB or Pacifica! My two big mistakes are being too optimistic about how fast we could go from automated music to community produced programming; and not having insisted on meeting with the board of the parent organization before assuming the job.  They have expectations that are no fault of their own; they have never been given a realistic analysis of what is possible when and what resources are needed to kick start the station.
What are you most proud of?
Getting the station on the air with only six weeks from my arrival to the FCC deadline!  And, the people who came out of the woodwork to volunteer to help, including people that I worked with in the 1970s.
What advice would you give if you met your first-time-manager self today?
Pace yourself!
One Last Thing

Be more inclusive

February marks Black History Month. This month also prompts community radio to dialogue about fostering a more inclusive environment for producers, leaders and listeners.

In January, NPR released its diversity numbers related to hiring and staff. And while community radio stations largely are not NPR, where the large public media group goes often shapes people's perceptions. Moreover, the latest data provides a yardstick for any station to ask about its hiring of staff and managers of color, and policies related to equity.

Community radio aspires to serve our varied neighborhoods. How good of a job we do at that is sometimes hard to quantify. If you have not taken a closer look at your service, this is a good time to do it. Many voices have sought to move the conversation forward. Back in 2015, Al Letson famously wrote a manifesto for diversity in public media. "If an organization is talking about diversity but doesn't invest in it, what's the value of all that talk? Public media particularly has done pretty well super-serving the default human being and it's understandable; the core audience is what's keeping the lights on," Letson wrote.

"But we are doing a disservice to both the 'core' audience and those outside if we are not presenting America in its technicolor splendor… It starts with making people feel welcome, letting them know they are valued, letting them hear themselves in your local programming. It's going into these communities physically — being a presence."

How much does what Letson shared resonate now? As producers of color and allies mourn the passing of trailblazer Jacquie Jones, how can community radio do more to serve African Americans and communities of color?

A few reads for Black History Month include:

  • Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney set off a debate about noncommercial media last year when he suggested it doesn't serve the needs of working class people. Yet there are wider discussions your station might examine internally, considering noncommercial media support is not trending with growing national diversity. HuffPost argues public media must do more to serve disenfranchised communities and focus less on affluent whites as a matter of system survival.
  • One recommendation from Quartz on hiring: the creation of safe spaces to foster greater dialogue with managers and stronger relationships to attract leaders of color.
  • Community radio stations making inclusion and equity inroads were recently profiled at NFCB's website, offering you a glimpse of powerful community media efforts.
  • NFCB compiled a list of Black History Month 2018 resources for community radio.
  • Elsewhere, diversity changes to Outside magazine focused on greater representation in its publication, hiring and approach. "We’ve always had a wider sense of our audience than I think the market has," one manager said.

Have other recommendations for what you're reading? Tell NFCB on Twitter.

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