If our discussions during the PMDMC University/Institutional Licensee Cohort meetings are any indication, General Managers have a lot of internal work to do in order cut through the red tape and increase productivity. You may, or you may not be aware of all the obstacles your staff face on a daily basis.

It could be time to have a discussion with your staff about what stands in their way of doing an outstanding job. I’m sure some of these areas will come up.

  • Membership staff told they cannot take ACH transfer transactions for gift payment – is this a university policy or is someone in the business office or the foundation telling your staff this because they think it will be too much work, or because they’ll have to set up a sub-account to track those payments? Unlike credit card transactions, which can come to a screeching halt when the card expires, ACH payments go on until the donor stops them. If the athletic department uses ACH, or tuition payments use ACH, why can’t the station? Find out what’s going on if your staff has this issue.
  • Major donor staff are denied access to wealth screening data and/or denied the ability to acquire their own wealth screening data – while the university/foundation may think it’s a good idea to keep the big dollar donors to themselves, many donors have no relationship with the University other than through the station. Segment your file and see what percentage of donors are alumni and what percentage or exclusive to the station. Make your case and gain access to much needed data.
  • Looking into separate 501(c)3 status could solve a lot of issues – staff are frustrated because some foundations won’t allow the station to apply for grants (Google and Facebook among others) because the Tax ID belongs to the University and only one entity can get the grants. If the licensee won’t share wealth screening data, an independent 501(c)3 could get it for you. Having an independent 501(c)3 would have allowed stations to participate in the PPP loan program, and would assure the station in a better position should the relationship with the university deteriorate. If station underwriting sales staff aren’t allowed to, or are restricted from approaching larger corporate prospects, the 501(c)3 could make the approach rather than the university employee.
  • Other less common but frustrating experiences included
    • Not being allowed to seek underwriting from various university departments, including performance venues.
    • Not being allowed to solicit underwriting from other area universities or colleges
    • The station website is a sub-section of the University website and consequently hard for donors to find
    • Web pledge pages are generic and not optimized to make it easy for donors to give – page abandonment is an issue
    • Administrative fees are not in line with the level of service (or lack thereof) being provided.
    • The university/foundation don’t understand the difference between university fundraising and station fundraising – i.e. annual campaign vs multiple pledge drives, premiums vs no premiums, major focus on major gifts vs membership level gifts
    • Marketing materials must be approved by university administrative/marketing units
    • All contractors must be hired as part time employees which involves tons of paperwork rather than a simple 1099
  • From the general managers perspective, the lack of control in the hiring process is an on-going issue. Positions must be approved by the university even when the budget is available, job descriptions are generic and don’t reflect the actual job, university follows civil-service procedures which take too long – sometimes up to 3 months to advertise and fill a position, and HR can decide independently to close the position and re-open, not because there weren’t qualified candidates, but because they wanted a bigger pool from which to choose…the station needs bodies on the ground now

As the concluding exercise, small groups were asked how to best resolve issues and while the wording wasn’t identical, each group determined that building relationships at all levels was key to success. Among the suggestions for accomplishing this task were to:

  • Solicit members of the Board of Regents to record testimonial spots in support of some aspect of the stations work, and then continue to cultivate and inform them regarding the stations work
  • Appoint one of the senior VPs to the stations Advisory Board
  • Cultivate advocates among senior administration, teaching/research professors, and staff
  • High level of staff participation in university events
  • Present station reports and data that reflect key areas that the university administration values

If your key concerns aren’t reflected here, be sure to contact U:SA and share your concerns. Your input can help shape the direction of research, reporting and other areas of U:SA station services.