Making the most of the fall for community radio
View this email in your browser

“The world is not made of atoms. The world is made of stories.”
- Muriel Ruykeser

So many times when media people get together, we talk about collecting and sharing the stories of our communities. Stories have so much power and radio is arguably the best medium out there for telling a story. Just look at how podcasting has jumped off the shoulders of a long tradition of radio storytelling for an example of how enduring a good story is, even in the face of massive change in how stories are delivered and distributed. What remains in our memory when so many other things evaporate is so often tone of voice, inflection, a pregnant pause, or a random chuckle escaping.
In my last couple of years at the helm of KVNF Community Radio in Paonia, Colorado, I invited a group of high school art students to cover an entire wall of our new building with a mural. As a guiding concept, I told them that radio was a keeper of the stories. I told them that the radio signal emanating out over our rural area was much like the smoke of a campfire where people have gathered and shared their stories since time immemorial. They took that notion, ran with it, and created a fabulous mural with a campfire at the center and radio waves like ripples in a pond moving over a background populated with people making music from all over the world. It was a sight to behold.
Stories have power and they endure. We who pride ourselves in amplifying stories must diligently strive to treat them with the respect they deserve. We live in a climate of polarization and distrust. It calls us to be vigilant and courageous.  As always, we hope that our newsletter inspires you with stories and the critical knowledge that it takes to do your best job, because your work matters so much to so many.

Sally Kane, CEO
National Federation of Community Broadcasters


Community media history online

The University of Maryland Libraries have preserved and shared online 600 broadcasts from the historic community radio collection.

During its history, NFCB collected recordings from stations as part of a larger program service to community radio stations. The recordings, from 1965-1986, are a portion of the NFCB Program Archive, which resides in the National Public Broadcasting Archives.

The mix is astonishing. A 1982 performance of William Shakespeare's Hamlet is in the collection. A 1967 recording of the traditions of New Guinea, recorded at now defunct community radio station KRAB, is in the collection as well. Footage from a 1976 nationwide pledge drive for community radio, coordinated by NFCB to lift up stations around the United States, is a highlight. However, the collection has many worthwhile moments to peruse.

Sally Kane recently explored this collection with Laura Schnitker, curator of the Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland:
A look at the community radio archives of NFCB.
Other highlights in the collection include: “Song of the Indian” a cultural and public affairs program about Native Americans (WBSB-Bemidji, MN); a 1978 Nikki Giovanni speech on education (WRFG-Atlanta, GA) in which she discusses the difficulties faced by African-American children in schools; a four-part series entitled “Boone County Fiddle Contest” (KOPN-Columbia, MO) comprised of local musicians; a feature called “Who are the Panthers?” that includes interviews, commentary and speeches from a local Black Panther community (Albina, OR); 47 original broadcasts from the 1970s-era Feminist Radio Network that aired on WGTB in Georgetown; and several hundred music programs featuring live performances from cultures all over the world.

You can read the full release here. The Radio Survivor podcast also featured the collection on an episode.

To sample the recordings now, just search here.

Mike Lupica, WPRB

Mike Lupica grew up idolizing the smartassed DJs of Princeton University's WPRB, who routinely revealed all the best-kept secrets in the universe through obscure music selections and sardonic humor. He snuck his way onto the station's airwaves as a townie DJ in 1992, and made it his broadcasting home until 2000, when he left to make freeform radio for WFMU, and than later do technical work at WNYC. In 2012, he returned to WPRB as the station's first Educational Advisor. In 2015, he launched the WPRB History project by curating an exhibit of station artifacts at Princeton University's Mudd Library, and also creating, which documents 75+ years of the station's history. Over the years, he has hosted programs like "Hip Transistor" and the "Anti-Static" podcast. Presently, he is the host of "The Freeform Pathogen" on WPRB. He is also the founder of WPRB's Digitization Task Force, which aims to convert the station's thousands of rapidly deteriorating CDs into hundreds of thousands of FLAC files. 
You have a long history in radio. What skills did you acquire that best prepared you for your current role?
I've been a community radio listener since the mid-1980s, but didn't begin volunteering as a program host until 1992. At that time, radio was a mouthpiece for my own cultural obsessions with the aim being to reveal as many new musical discoveries as possible per week. I was for years a near-ubiquitous presence at late night gigs in NYC and in front of every used record bin within a 30 mile radius of my apartment, so not surprisingly, this was a pretty exhausting period of my life. It wasn't until 2000 when I was hired as WFMU's Special Events Director that radio became the focus of my actual career. FMU was utterly transformative for me because in addition to being responsible for my own interests, I was now also expected to help enable a staff of unruly weirdos and eccentrics realize theirs as well.
In addition to hosting a show and auxiliary podcast during my eight years at FMU, I ran fundraising events (including the station's fabled NYC Record Fair), and also booked benefit gigs, launched DJ workshops, edited print materials, archived thousands of hours of programming for on-demand listening, helped implement crazy fundraising strategies, and even served as the interim building manager when the boss was out of town. That level of small business responsibility, coupled with the much broader sense of staff-wide engagement than I'd had previously, is what set the stage for my role at WPRB. I routinely draw upon the management experience I earned at WFMU to propel things in a progressive direction here in Princeton.
What is one thing you had to change about yourself or your approach in doing this work?
WPRB isn't owned by Princeton University (a non-profit board of alumni trustees are the license holders), but at its core, it still has an educational mission. Which means that working with a new student staff each year involves frequent resets of their collective knowledge base. As the only member of a management team who doesn't graduate and move on to other life pursuits, this was initially very frustrating for me. But after a few years at WPRB, I realized that the station's trajectory was definitely on an upward climb and I've learned to accept that change here most often happens incrementally rather than in linear leaps.
What have you come to appreciate about community radio that you initially took for granted?
I'm in love with the extent to which community radio's participants are willing to share their own successful strategies with others. Unlike many industries and even including many arts organizations, there's a corporate mentality of guarding secrets which are deemed 'precious', or thinking of peer stations as competitors rather than potential allies or collaborators. With that attitude, community radio stations run the risk of becoming very insular realms where old guard traditions can create barriers to newer and more adventurous strategies. As such, we've worked to forge relationships with other stations—whom we see as fellow travelers—and the outward gaze has done wonders for our perspective.  
You chose to create a station archive. Why make that kind of resource intensive choice?
The WPRB History Project was inspired by the amazing work done by Laura Schnitker at WMUC and Jennifer Waits of Radio Survivor. Their guidance and encouragement was a key factor in my own project's success and I think they understood that my goal was to put WPRB's history to work as a hands-on listener engagement tool. I respect and admire the more academic efforts to preserve radio history, but those paths still seemed off-limits for an anarchic arts organization like WPRB, and that's something that also guided our eventual approach. 
In 2015, after attending a conference at the University of Maryland (where I met both Laura and Jennifer), I came to understand that PRB's history was strewn around the station in the form of old photos and handwritten playlists crammed into dusty file cabinets, and on vintage 1/4" reel to reel tapes decaying in the tech closet. Two of my primary takeaways from the 2015 conference were that A) a DIY rescue of these important materials was entirely feasible, even on a shoestring budget, and B) acting quickly and boldly was a necessity, since all legacy materials will eventually reach a point of decay that's beyond all hope of repair. 
At the time, WPRB's 75th anniversary was rapidly approaching, and that seemed like a cosmic sign from the broadcasting gods that the timing for the opportunity was perfect. As such, I leapt headfirst into the task of organizing and scanning all of the ancient documents and photos as well as digitizing the recorded history of the station from the old reels. The materials uncovered in this process defied all hopes and expectations: Long-forgotten interviews with criterion PRB artists like Sun Ra and Sonic Youth, promos for decades-old station events and programs, and so on. In order to flesh out the backstories on these materials, I tapped into the hivemind of the WPRB Alumni Facebook group and gave the huge amount of data generated by those conversations a publicly-accessible home at We also partnered with Princeton University's Mudd Library, where I curated a physical exhibit of station artifacts which was open to the public for nine months, and which was augmented by an opening and closing reception, an alumni banquet, and a mini-record fair with live music and DJs.
By acting as the curators of our own history, we've discovered that our listeners are even more thrilled than usual to support an organization with a clearly chronicled legacy of great stories. In the subsequent years, it's been a huge honor for me to speak about our archival efforts at radio conferences around the country and encourage other stations to do this important work.
WPRB is freeform and may not have the same budget stresses as the average station has, but you have seen this space evolve, too. How can freeform programming be sustainable in a time of segmentation, so much so that, to most listeners, content is producer-driven, diverse and expansive already?
The freeform spirit has always animated the station's best programming, even going back to eras of conservative conformity like the 1950s. I've discovered airchecks of student DJs from that era putting weird effects on their voices and pulling bizarre on-air stunts. That kind of experimentation set the stage for later years when DJs were eager to mimic the style and traditions of freewheeling hosts like Jean Shepherd, Alison Steele, Rosko, or Dan Ingram. The DIY/punk ethos also had a major impact on the station's culture in the 1980s and 90s, and the passion of those scenes drove WPRB's DJs into a kind of informal competition of who among them could find the most obscure or challenging material to work into the station's airsound. Such endeavors might be programmatically suicidal for some stations, but PRB is fortunate to have a very large broadcast footprint upon an area that includes a major metro market. As such, we've spent years building the support of a listenership that expects their boundaries to be pushed.
That said, the internet has changed the entire way that many people listen to music— algorithms and paid tastemakers being among the lead influencers. A lot of blood has been lost by radio people fretting over how best to deal with the changing realm of music discovery, but my feeling is that adventurous curation by a committed and engaged host can always find an eager audience. Strictly by the numbers, it's true that radio is not the powerhouse that it once was in terms of driving trends and artist popularity. But I also believe that the existing audience for challenging programming is deeply committed to the spirit of community radio, and that there's major growth potential for anyone smart enough to see through the haze of corporate lackeys, Spotify "influencers", and music industry stooges who are merely pushing product. For my money, none of that can hold a candle to real human curation from someone who's in love with what their doing, and I believe stations that match their most ambitious hosts' enthusiasm with great, online listener engagement tools will be the clear winners.
Given the current ease of making media, why does radio – with its regulations and position as legacy media – still appeal to young people?
I think an easy answer would be to say that it's because they just think radio is weird and retro, but in an environment like WPRB (where the station management and 50% of the airstaff is comprised of student-age DJs), I would also argue that radio has an enduring romance that can't be matched by other outlets. In my experience, even radio's youngest practitioners who take the time to seek out that romance and see themselves as somehow being a part of it have no trouble at all understanding what separates radio from other content delivery systems. It's a well-known mantra in community radio that "audiences don't happen by accident", so when we've got a staff of 20 year olds who are eager to jam their shows with artists like Palberta, Crazy Doberman, and Human Adult Band (and earn rave calls from listeners who are also of student age for doing so), the future seems brighter than it did a few years ago.
What is one thing in community radio that may be going out, but you think will always be cool?
Playing records backwards.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you go back and give yourself when you first started out?
Never, ever sleep on the couch in the station lobby.

It's time to fundraise!

With the passing of summer, many community radio stations switch gears to think about fall pledge drives and year-end fundraising. This focus is for a good reason: many stations' biggest campaigns happen in the fall, and year-end donations are oftentimes some of the most generous.

Bringing your best to fall and year-end development is critical these days. More and more nonprofits are getting more sophisticated every year with their asks. The result is growing competition for Americans' charitable dollars. On top of that, the expanding nonprofit journalism sector is also generating new pressure on community radio's appeals. For music-centric community media, there is plenty to contend with, with streaming services. Nevertheless, community radio can meet the challenge by making a persuasive case.

The good old fashioned pledge drive, with phone rooms and on-air appeals, remains a community media institution. However, the Internet and social media have offered stations a new platform to make their case for giving. As choices grow and nonprofits get more assertive in appeals, community radio is today tasked with stating its need and importance even more emphatically. The stakes as mid-term elections loom have never been higher for convincing listeners of your need.

NFCB has hosted many webinars, including learning opportunities this month and in November, for community stations exploring innovative fundraising techniques. NFCB offers many tools for your community radio station in its Solution Center, where these and other teaching discussions are archived.
Here are a few smart reads on fundraising, on the air and beyond:
  • A good fundraising plan means knowing your strengths. For Transom, Jay Allison suggests being daring is central to the strategy. “Why be daring at all? Because if your station is not taking chances you won’t be ready for the future. Worse, you won’t be able to attract, let alone keep, the talent (or the audience) you need to succeed,” he writes. “Your station won’t be seen as a leader and innovator. The next generation of supporters will back real risk-takers — that might be The New York Times or even Google, but will it be YOUR station?”
  • Greater Public offers a long-range view of pledge drive, including how often stations pitch, when and number of on-air membership campaigns. These may give a baseline of when you want to schedule your pledge drive.
  • NPR offers a few suggestions for how you can better promote your pledge drive and make the campaign impactful for your listeners. Best takeaway? “Tell the story of who we are and why it is important and make it fun for the listener.” You can find even more tips on NFCB’s website.
  • Are you looking for ways to supplement your broadcast fundraising? Are you seeking ideas for connect with your listeners? The Online News Association hosted several sessions at its recent conference, including Membership Has Its Benefits and Email as a Driver of Innovation and Loyalty (Yes, Email). You can listen to audio and view video from these presentations.
  • Speaking of membership models, Membership Puzzle offers you a stunning look at how another legacy medium, magazines, have reimagined membership. The test case is none other than A-list publication National Geographic. What has the magazine learned as it has evolved? “Grow through means of organic passion and commitment from existing members, who spread that passion within their own social circles.” Such lessons could easily be applied to station fundraising.
  • “Pledge drive is last-nerve-frayingly exasperating—but it's also sheer genius.” Slate’s 2009 look at the 10 ways stations get people to give still holds strong, and has plenty of ways your station can still speak to audiences.
  • Once pledge drive is done, it is onward to year-end fundraising. Classy offers 15 resources for your Giving Tuesday plans. “Giving Tuesday—the charitable counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday—calls for special attention this year. In 2017, the social sector raised $300 million online, a record total and a 69 percent year-over-year increase that proves the movement is only gaining momentum.”'
  • And once you've brought in that donor, the Successful Nonprofits Podcast recently talked with Rachel Kottler, Digital Account Manager with Lautman Maska Neill & Company, about how effective programs turn the one-time donor into a monthly contributor.
NFCB provides many pledge drive and fundraising resources to member stations in the Solution Center, the organization's on-demand online directory for community radio nationwide. If your station is not yet a member, you can join today.
Copyright © 2018 NFCB, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp