Public radio's how-to clearinghouse for fundraisers
Development Exchange regroups into specialties
Originally published in Current, March 2, 1998
By Steve Behrens
The Development Exchange Inc. has been near death at least a couple of times in its life, but since the Gingrich scare of 1995, public radio has been demanding more and more of its help to get better at fundraising.
"A lot want to get better, not a year from now, but this month," says Eichten, who is restructuring DEI into a series of specialized "centers," while planning its annual conference for July and settling into new Minneapolis offices after the group's move from the D.C. area.
Reflecting the demand for its services as well as the work of former president Anne Llewellyn and Eichten, DEI has built up its number of licensee members from 62 in 1994 to 160 today. Dues range from $600 to $2,500 a year, depending on the stations' fundraising revenue.
At the same time, it has been overseeing $1.1 million in CPB Future Fund grants for research projects.
Eichten came to DEI last October from Public Radio International, where he had worked five years, rising to senior v.p. of marketing. Earlier, he had done marketing and fundraising for the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, United Health Care and the Canterbury Downs race track, all in the Twin Cities area.
He had to find a place for DEI in the spinning sphere of public radio fundraising, where the growing demand for expertise had attracted a small legion of consultants.
"What has been clear from the beginning is that people do not want an organization that is a competing consulting organization." Instead, he sees DEI as a "network of consultants" that will work with a variety of other groups on projects, including those underwritten by the Future Fund.
DEI will try to "transcend" ordinary station-by-station consulting and develop projects that serve broader numbers of stations, adds Vice President Barbara Appleby.
Created six centers
To do its job, DEI has begun organizing into a series of "centers," such as the Center for Membership Support, with specialities within the fundraising field:
- Membership Support: Appleby, former director of membership at Minnesota Public Radio, is developing activities with Regina Yeager, a part-time consultant who is director of development at WUNC-FM, Chapel Hill.
- Major Giving: Director Robert Stein, a consultant based in Winchester, Va., is already developing workshops in conjunction with Rocky Mountain Public Radio and Southern Public Radio.
- Corporate Support: Cathy Ives, development chief at New Hampshire Public Radio, is leading the center part-time, working with consultants including Gary Swartz, Jim Taszarek and Chris Lytle.
- Marketing: Eichten expects to name a director this summer, around DEI's conference. The center will specialize in tune-in publicity, audience growth, branding, outreach and promotion.
- Professional Growth: DEI added plans for a Center for Professional Growth on the urging of CPB and the Station Resource Group, Eichten says. The separate professional organization, the Public Radio Association of Development Officers, is talking with Eichten about having a role in this center, says PRADO founder Paul Damberg. DEI has asked PRADO to rethink DEI's annual awards program, according to Eichten, and is conferring with the National Society of Fund Raising Executives "to see how we might plug in with them."
The centers are starting from the same place, he says, but will be free to develop in different directions appropriate to their needs.
For communication within the field, they'll have the help of DEI's first web site, which may go online this month, and an Internet mailing list or "listserv" for online discussions. There will be tested pledge scripts and renewal letters--"all sorts of material you can download and go to work"--as well as news and job postings. How much of it will be accessible by non-DEI-members is still the subject of "a great debate" within the staff, he says. Web users will need a password to see some parts of the web site.
Eichten says his predecessor at the Development Exchange, Anne Llewellyn, "picked it up and made it a going concern."
She not only raised the membership, but also reinvigorated the annual conferences, says Anne Hovland, chairman of DEI and v.p. of marketing and development at Minnesota Public Radio. Llewellyn developed the useful concept of a "donor continuum" from marginal to wholehearted involvement in a station, and directed attention toward public radio's lack of major-donor fundraising.
Llewellyn also brought in a number of CPB Radio Future Fund grants that are powering much of DEI's activity. Four CPB-backed projects aim to develop better membership fundraising techniques and collaborations:
- Membershop project: two grants totalling $433,600 to develop plans for a membership service bureau for 25 or more stations [related story].
- Initiatives in Database Marketing: $436,000 to use customer profiling and segmentation in developing models to predict how prospects and members respond to various fundraising efforts. Five big-city stations are participating.
- Precision Membership Project: $239,800 to develop direct-mail letters and adopt techniques used in other customer-service businesses. Eleven or more university-licensed stations are participating.
- Membership Techniques Best Practice: $50,000 to analyze the results of membership fundraising techniques and other factors at 15 stations. According to Appleby, this project, which brought in Target Analysis techniques already used in public TV, led to the Future Fund's current Best Practices Challenge, which is operated directly by the Target Analysis Group.
In addition, Eichten is continuing to manage the Underwriting Partnership, a project that he started at PRI, which the Future Fund has supported with $361,000. Eleven stations that have had great success in underwriting are working together to see how they can further increase underwriting sales by $2.2. million this year.
With Eichten's creation of six "centers" within the Development Exchange, he's recognizing the specialization that's needed for further growth in public radio fundraising, according to practitioners.
"He has a very keen view of the role development needs to play and has an understanding from a fresh perspective," says Paul Damberg, past president of PRADO. Development has a new position within stations, he adds. "We used to be off in our own little corner, and no one talked to us and we were supposed to do our own thing."
Now the field is shifting away from one-person development offices like his at KUMD in Duluth, Minn. Stations are looking for stronger fundraising and demanding experts in capital campaigns, underwriting and other specialties.
"What we have created in public radio is very, very small shops at every station, where there is little chance of mastering techniques," says Mark Fuerst, a consultant working with DEI's Membershop project and former g.m. of WXPN-FM in Philadelphia. Many one-person development offices burn out and leave public radio for higher salaries in other nonprofits, he says.
Public radio, he says, needs to raise the quality of its fundraising operations to the level of the programs it puts on the air.
DEI announces speakers for conference in July
Keynote speaker for the annual Public Radio Development and Marketing Conference will be Judith Nichols, a certified fundraiser and author of Growing from Good to Great: Positioning Your Fund Raising Efforts for BIG Gains and editor of the newsletter Philanthropy Trends That Count. Coming back for repeat engagements are radio sales trainer Chris Lytle and database marketer Arthur Hughes.
The conference will be held July 16-18  at the Capital Hilton, near the White House in Washington, D.C.
Also speaking will be ratings researcher David Giovannoni, with results from the Audience 98 study and PRI host/producer Ira Glass. Pre-conference sessions will be held July 14-16.
Admission fee is $390 for people from member stations and $690 for non-members. Contact: DEI, 1645 Hennepin Ave., Suite 312, Minneapolis, Minn. 55403. Phone: (612) 677-1505.
To Current's home page
Related story: DEI's Membershop project wins expanded aid from CPB Future Fund.
Outside link: DEI Worksite, the Development Exchange's web site, launched May 1998.
Web page created April 12, 1998
Updated June 6, 1998
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