Radio & Not For Profit Organizations

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I am particularly fond of radio. I have been passionate about it as long as I can remember and remarkably, it is doing better than Marconi & Rogers thought possible. Entertaining, informative programming and an interactive component has allowed radio to become even bigger than life giving it many ways to reach audiences, on air – on line and on the street.

According to the Radio Advertising Bureau, the radio industry had another year over year increase in revenue with more people listening to radio than ever before.
The continued stellar increases in revenues and users of radios digital sector underscores the fact that the Radio industry is finding additional ways to monetize these streams and that advertisers as well as not for profit organizations, perhaps your charity, are taking advantage of these new platforms to reach our listeners.

The various “parts” of radio provide more opportunities for you and your organization. Coverage could include your event being part of a news item, a passing comment in-between songs, an interview, a formal on air “schedule” with recorded public service announcements and/or perhaps be part of the outlets internet and social media presence in a number of different ways. This begs the question of who is looking after your media strategy?

A great idea is contagious and it can be shared with people in hundreds of different ways. We like it when don’t have to do all of the work. Even better when it’s a unique idea that really targets our audience and perhaps allows us to “own it”, especially if it is an annual event. You are only limited by your imagination so please give some thought to your “big idea” and where it fits best, what kind of attention it could attract and perhaps sponsors that would like to be a part of your organization and/or event.

I heard a clever promotion with our local symphony promoting attendance and fundraising by having their member musicians play “hit” songs on our radio station that listeners had to identify to win tickets to their next performance. We loved it as it was a fun way to bridge different genres of music and perceptions as well as allow the orchestra to reach a new audience. I hear attendance is up. Coincidence?

This is pretty simple stuff. The local church bake sale is not likely going to get the same mass media attention that Ride for Dad, Relay for Life, the Symphony or other significant events will. It doesn’t mean the bake sale isn’t important, it just won’t put you at the front of the line with media and you will have to rely on a more street level approach with posters, tent tops, community bulletin boards, event calendars, your internet site, and social media.

To be heard or seen on line, your organization may want to consider the need to purchase advertising. Most electronic media offer excellent not for profit rates that make promoting your event affordable and guarantee that you will be on the air! Otherwise, while we do our best and help as much as we can, you could be standing in a very long line with other organizations.

Orson Welles was a big fan of radio and used to refer to the “magic” inside that little box!

So, sit down with your team, your media partners and lets make magic!

Start-ups & Turnarounds

deerheadsI’ve had a number of questions recently from some newer not for profit organizations as well as a few mature ones who are at a crossroads. While both are looking at different ends of the elephant the questions are similar when doing a start-up or reinventing an organization.

I usually start by asking “What do you stand for”? Then I ask if you have a lawyer and accountant on your board but that’s another story for another time.

When I ask that question of audiences and organizations I usually get that deer in the headlight “look.” Another question to consider and equally important is, “what do you want to be known for”?

Some organizations have done the serious work required to answer these fundamental questions to ensure that their companies or organizations are built on strong purposeful and caring foundations. Others spend a lot of time coming up with clever mission statements that fall short of the vision. More often than not organizations requiring retooling started out missing some of the key fundamentals.

There a hundreds of books that deal with start-ups and turnarounds however most have an old world view of organizations where only a few speak to a new business or organizational paradigm so be careful what you wish for. Too often mission or vision statements are just “happy talk” and in conflict with the day to day actions and culture of an organization.

Fortune 500 companies do something different than all others. The best not for profits get the best marks from Charity Navigator and as importantly the IRS & CRA for their ability to run their organizations efficiently and effectively. It’s not just about the bottom line or raising more money. I am more convinced than ever that communication, good and bad, brings out the best or worst in any organization and it’s pretty easy to see who walks their talk.

Alignment is difficult and requires hard work from everyone. When an organization is built with integrity and where careful consideration has been given to every aspect and detail of the organization for the well being of their constituents and staff alike – they are congruent and magic happens.

A back to basics approach might start with a quick check list to see how you are doing. So take as much time as required to figure out “What you really stand for” and “what you want to be known for”? Does everyone in the organization believe it? Does everyone understand what to do and what they are responsible for? Is there mutual respect and trust? How do you measure your desired outcomes? Is there alignment throughout the organization and so on…

While business plans can be valuable they can also be shallow make work projects that exhaust human resources when they are not embraced and championed. Engagement and passion not realized can easily turn into disillusionment and turnover leaving an organization in constant chaos. That is not to say that a road map or plan is not important. For any organizations there are a number of places to go that will help get you get started and hopefully avoid some potholes along the way.

The Mutart Foundation along with the Alberta Government, Culture and Spirit created a number of workbooks to help design the best not for profit boards and job descriptions for its members. There are many other templates and suggestions available however this is a good one and may prove helpful during a start-up or reorganization. After all if your board isn’t sure what the organization is all about or what is expected of them how can you expect it to be successful?

If your board of directors, staff and volunteers look like they could be in the picture above, you clearly have some work to do. If you are certain that everyone knows what you stand for, their place in the organization and what is expected of them and as importantly – is passionately engaged in this work – you really can change the world!

Fund Raising for Non Profit Organizations

centennial_building_outsidewater_51I’m amazed at how many not for profit organizations knock on our door as well as all other media outlets like clockwork with clever awareness and fund raising campaigns. Some are packaged and ready to go where others are great ideas requiring the personal touch that only our team can add to make it “ours”.
Then there are those organizations that have lots of vision and poor execution as they don’t know where to start, who to ask and what kind of campaign to do? We see so many organizations that think the only way to be successful is to find a grant and spend a disproportionate amount of their time and of professional grant writers chasing and ever challenged pool of money. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t chase grants that are available especially should you have a great story however, it is not the only path to for funding.

I’m reminded of being approached years ago by the Variety Club of Vancouver recognizing that our radio station didn’t do much for their organization and that they needed us and our audience to be more involved with Variety. Granted we did the occasional small fund raising campaign for Variety and sent our announcers to host their annual telethon but admittedly there wasn’t much of a connection with them.

Variety wanted to expand their fundraising programs and wisely realized that they could not do it all themselves without exhausting their internal resources or increasing their operating costs. Therefore they were looking for more long term partners to share the load and enlist the help of more third party fund raising. They had identified a number of key projects on their wish list and their pitch to us was simple and straight forward.

Variety had a number of projects in mind but one in particular that dealt with kids of all abilities complete with artist renderings and approximate costs. Thus the CFOX-Variety Kids Water Park was born and to this day remains a permanent landmark in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

CFOX was all about kids of all ages and their families and taking on such a high visibility community project gave us credibility and endeared the station to our audience, even if they disliked our programming. We became known as the station that played great rock and cared about our listener’s kids. Not a bad combination.

All media outlets have their own partnerships and unique fund raising efforts. The ones that take years to fulfill like our kids park and are the best ones in my opinion as they build momentum year after year and your community can see the park being build, use the new neo natal intensive care unit or new wing of your local hospital like we did with the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation or pick an example of something similar where you live. The best news is that the local charity has the full on commitment of a dedicated, engaged and passionate media partner.

So what ideas are percolating at your organization that would excite a media partner to take it on and keep your organization and a great endeavor top of mind in your community?