Fundraising within a university environment is complex. There can be control issues; there can be staffing issues; there can be issues with competing priorities. There can be a lack of understanding of the differences between alumni fundraising processes and procedures and proven public radio and television fundraising practices.
As a station, you want to connect and communicate with your members/donors on a regular basis. For the most efficient and effective fundraising you need to track their giving types (new, renewal, add-gift, or lapsed) and their giving methods (pledge, direct mail, web pledge, telephone). You want acknowledge gifts quickly and assure donors that their gifts are going to support the programming, not to the University.
As a licensee, your university wants to know about all the gifts – who gave, how and much did they give, a reasonable expectation. Universities are keenly interested in tracking whether the donor is an alumni, and if so, what year they graduated, if a board member, a sports booster, or member of the faculty/staff. They have the fiduciary responsibility to make sure that donors are properly acknowledged and receipted for tax purposes and to make sure that the fair market value of premiums is provided as required by the IRS. For the most part, they want to maintain a single database for all gifts to the University. Reasonable expectations on the part of the university should not preclude the station managing its own database and producing fundraising materials as needed.
Since audience research shows that it is public media programming that drives community-based giving, it is important to create a close link between the program service being supported and the donor. The station should send out appeals on its own station-branded stationary and have its own unique web pledge page to clearly signal that the gift is going to the station, not the university. The station needs to be able to produce its own mailing lists, e-mail blasts, fundraising letters, and acknowledgments as well as generate the unique fundraising reports required by CPB, PBS, NPR and Greater Public Benchmarks.
In order to provide the best customer service, stewardship, and cultivation, the station should maintain its own database and provide the university with an excel spreadsheet download of required data on a monthly basis. Most software will allow for a user defined field to include the university’s donor number along with your own unique member number. It is important that your file ties to your deposit receipts by batches for credit cards, checks, EFT transfers and cash. By providing the monthly downloaded file, the station supports the university’s goal of a single database that contains all University transactions, while maintaining station data and the ability to manager solicitations, customer service and stewardship/cultivation according to proven practices.
The two pledge forms above illustrate the differences between a station-based approach vs a university advancement office-based approach. The university version collects alumni information but no address and phone data. The station version is much more comprehensive and collects data the station needs as well as offering special giving opportunities. While each is right for its intended purpose, one is not right for the other and vice versa. To view the live pledge forms visit WCSU or WNIJ.
When it comes to soliciting major donors, the relationship may become even more complicated. Some universities prohibit the station from approaching any of the institutions known or potential major donors. Others prohibit the station from fundraising during its own annual fund drive. Negotiation is the key. Calendar schedules around pledge drives are the easiest to accomplish, however make sure that your on-going renewal solicitations are not included in the fundraising ban. Offer to coordinate asks with the University advancement office, or insure that a major gift to the station and/or the station endowment fund are included in the available offers; especially if the major donor has already given a gift of any size to the station.
Your station may have already achieved this balanced, quid pro quo relationship with the licensee. Or you may be hitting your head against a brick wall.
As universities cut support for their licensees, charge fees for services, and/or require licensees to become more aggressive fundraisers, the case for managing your own fundraising operation including data management, web pledge forms, and solicitation/acknowledgment grows more compelling.