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Sample Newsletters

Brilliant on the Basics newsletters share best practice and new research, important lessons learned at the participating stations, and new strategies for building membership revenue.
    Please note, the newsletters use the Adobe Acrobat format. To view these files you need the Adobe Acrobat reader, which you may set up as either a plug-in to your browser or as a stand-alone application. If you do not have this program, you may get it free by clicking here.
For summary descriptions of each newsletter report, click here.

Key Concepts
Building the Membership File
Creating a Membership Plan
     Tools for Planning
     Sample Station Plans
"Subscribers": A Different Relationship with Listeners
     Subscription Research Summary
     Implementing the Subscriber Model
Station Sustainers: Connecting to the Organization
Finding Supporters Through Direct Mail
     Wisconsin Public Radio: Acquiring Members by Mail
     Minnesota Public Radio: Direct Mail Masters
     Exploring a Direct Mail Co-operative

Station profiles
WXPN: Member Clubs
WDUQ: Upgrading Basic Systems
WAMU: High Productivity Membership
WOI: Building the Repertoire

Newsletter Summaries

Building the Membership File
Pledge revenue should be only one part, perhaps a third, of an effective membership program. The balance comes from building a file of active, satisfied donors, who will deliver dependable annual gifts, year after year. This report presents an in-depth analysis of listener support files of seventeen Brilliant on the Basics stations, highlighting both clear success and work to do.

Creating a Membership Plan
BRILLIANT ON THE BASICS is premised on the notion that achieving superior performance across the thousands of transactions that comprise every station's listener support program will produce significant gains in net revenue.

A key step in achieving such performance is careful, disciplined planning that scrutinizes each component of the listener support effort, looking for opportunities to improve. Easy to say; hard to do. Hard because it is tough to set aside the time for planning. Hard because a fully realized listener support program is complex in its mix of activities, time lines, and cost/benefit calculations.
    Tools for Planning This report outlines how Brilliant on the Basics is helping stations sharpen their planning.

    Sample Station Plans How Wisconsin Public Radio and WSHU, Fairfield, Connecticut mapped their plans for the year.
"Subscribers": A Different Relationship with Listeners
Colorado Public Radio undertook a detailed examination of individual giving that challenges us to examine the value we place on our service and the manner in which we as for support of our institutions. It led Colorado to a new "subscription" model for listener support. Station Sustainers: Connecting to the Organization
Listener studies, such as Audience 98, repeatedly document how listeners' relationships with our programming shape their financial support. The more people listen to us, the more loyal they are to our stations' service, and the more important our programming is in their lives, the more likely they are to give. The message that programming causes giving is a powerful one.

Less well understood are ways that givers' relationships with the station organization, mostly through the membership department, also shape listener support. How we establish the giving relationship, how we speak to the importance of listener dollars, how we manage the decision to renew, and how we build a long-term sense of personal responsibility-it is increasingly clear that these, too, are powerful factors.

This report, based on work at WGBH, Boston, explores the stewardship of one kind of relationship, the "sustainer," that fosters multiple occasions of giving by our mid-range supporters. The impact in levels of support, cost efficiencies, and stability can be substantial.

Finding Supporters Through Direct Mail
BOB is exploring work that only a few public radio stations have employed to date, but that hold significant promise for the years ahead. One of the most intriguing approaches is the recruitment of new supporters through the mail rather than on-air pledge drives.

Several factors make consideration of direct mail timely. Our programming success is creating an ever-larger "target." Better understanding of our audience and better database management heighten the efficiency of mail appeals. More stations have the financial scale needed for the costly initial investments.

Perhaps most interesting, BOB stations are learning that members recruited through the mail are more likely to renew their support, building the long-term stability and cost effectiveness of the listener-based revenue stream.
    Wisconsin Public Radio: Acquiring Members by Mail. Wisconsin Public Radio has one of public radio's most advanced operations for finding new members through the mail.

    Minnesota Public Radio: Direct Mail Masters. Minnesota Public Radio operates the largest radio-only membership program in public broadcasting and the largest direct mail operation as well.

    Exploring a Direct Mail Co-operative. This report centers on the prospects for a direct mail co-operative, something that would be different in three important ways:

    Most public radio stations rely almost entirely on on-air pledge to acquire new individual supporters. Direct mail member acquisition is largely unexplored territory.

    Virtually all listener-support activity now takes place at the individual station level. A co-operative for direct mail would be a new way of doing business.

    Making progress would be along the lines of spending more but achieving a higher return. Moving forward is a classic case of spending money to make money.
Station profiles

WXPN: Member Clubs
WXPN, Philadelphia, has seen impressive gains in membership revenue over the past year. One of the station's techniques is several "membership clubs" that both encourage initial giving and move supporters to higher levels.

WDUQ: Upgrading Basic Systems
WDUQ, Pittsburgh, has overhauled many of its basic membership systems during the past couple of years. A profile of their current operations.

WAMU: High Productivity Membership
One part of productive membership operation involves achieving more: more listeners who give, more givers who renew, more dollars per gift, more gifts per year. A more subtle part of the goal involves achieving less: less money spent for each dollar raised. It is the combination of the two-more and less-that is transforming the productivity of our listener support work and accelerating the dividends of public service for which it pays.

Within the Station Resource Group, Washington, D.C.'s WAMU sets the pace for efficiency in listener support. WAMU posts some of the largest amounts of listener support reported by stand-alone stations. It does so with a cost-per-dollar-raised significantly below the rest of our group.

WOI: Building the Repertoire
One of our early discoveries was the "uneven" deployment of various fundraising techniques. Some stations with strong on-air pledge drives are weak on new member renewals. One station that put a huge effort into lining up high-value premiums to entice large initial contributions made little effort to generate additional gifts from listeners who started at more modest levels.

An early conclusion of the group was that simply getting in place a more comprehensive array of listener support activities-more occasions for giving, much more emphasis on off-air activity-would produce significant returns for many stations.

This overview of listener support activity at WOI shows how one station is working to achieve a more diversified program of giving.

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