Foundation Project

Station Report

Where We’ve Been & Where
We Might Go

By Marc Hand

The first stage of the Foundation Project was a comprehensive interview with virtually all SRG member stations on a variety of issues associated with foundation funding. This survey took the form of telephone meetings with SRG member station managers and often included development directors. The focus of the conversations was to:

  1. Explore the history each member has had with foundation fundraising, the role foundations have played in the overall revenue picture of the stations, and specifically the type of projects that have been supported by foundations.

  2. Talk about local projects stations plan to pursue that may be appropriate for foundation support.

  3. Detail collaborative regional or national projects that the members would like to see developed for presentation to major national foundations.
In addition, I was able to compile a list of the foundation contacts we collectively have within the SRG membership and found considerable expertise and history that many stations have with both local and national foundations.

In this report you will find: Station Experiences
SRG’s survey of member stations produced a clear sense of the range of local successes and the history of relationships with foundations among SRG members. Not surprisingly the survey found both strong successes and cautions in station’s local experience with foundations.

The majority of SRG stations that have raised money from local or regional foundations have secured funding for:
Program support, ranging from national productions to local news, environmental and other news or information series.

Capital projects, for building of new studios or stations or helping to upgrade studios to digital.
A smaller number of stations have also received foundation grants for:

Unrestricted underwriting for specific programs or program series.

Outreach and education projects, direct mail campaigns and, in some cases, for support of events.
Stations also have concerns and issues with foundation fundraising that have combined to limit a broad-based aggressive effort focused on foundations. These issues include:
Time and money constraints that, for many stations, have dictated a focus on the efforts that produce a more immediate return - membership and underwriting. Many stations see foundation fundraising as a long-term effort that may or may not produce positive results.

A concern that foundation money rarely supports general operations, and instead forces the creation of special programs or projects that the station must ultimately support when foundation money ends.

The tendency to focus on the mission of a particular foundation and create projects that pull stations away from their core mission.

Many institutional or joint licensees must coordinate their foundation approaches with development offices that are raising money for a range of other institutional priorities. In most cases these institutions are hesitant to approach one foundation for multiple projects. As a result radio is often assigned a lower priority than other proposal from the organization.
While there is a mixture of success and concerns in their approach to foundations, there was general agreement that this is an area that could produce more revenue. Foundation fundraising will remain a lower priority for many SRG members unless stations can find the resources, staff or expertise needed to pursue local foundations actively without detracting from other fundraising efforts.

Emerging Options
The interview process yielded broad options for the next steps in the Foundation Project.

Large scale national projects. One potential Foundation Project focus is large scale national projects primarily in the areas of improving the financial capacity of SRG stations and increasing their delivery capacity. These projects are national in scope, would have an impact on most if not all SRG members, and would be coordinated by SRG.

Target constituency collaborative projects. The second major theme that emerged from the conversations is a number of target constituency collaborative projects that involve distinct groups within SRG, but not necessarily the entire SRG membership. These projects have tremendous potential, but will be difficult for stations to develop without considerable support. SRG can offer the support needed in the development of these projects and in raising money for the projects from foundations. Project examples include: a range projects involving the classical music stations; an exploration of the issues facing institutional licensees; the development of a data base management system for multiple public radio stations; the development and pursuit of new technologies (Internet); and the development of programs in key topic areas (health and health care, environmental series, and other programs that tie local stations to other local institutions); how to build local (multiple stations in a single market) and regional collaborations (building statewide projects, for example in California, the Northwest, etc.), and educational projects linked to local schools (music education, science, the environment, etc.).

Individual station initiatives. Many stations are interested in pursuing local foundations for local projects. Some stations have the staff and skills needed to pursue these projects, and many would like direct assistance in mounting local foundation efforts.

Recommended Focus
These options for the direction of the Foundation Project were discussed by the SRG consulting team and the SRG board. These discussions resulted in a decision to focus the initial phase of the Foundation Project on the following task areas:

Pursue a limited number of national scale projects with major national foundations.

Facilitate and help develop four to six target constituency collaborations that would benefit target SRG member stations, and ultimately may have an impact on other SRG members and non-member stations.
We initially wanted to provide direct assistance to individual stations pursuing local foundation fundraising. We have decided to focus on the above two activity areas initially, and as we develop additional resources we hope to be able to support the local foundation development efforts of SRG members. Focusing on the two target areas detailed above will:

Make the best use of SRG’s existing strengths of multiple station relationships

Help to build key partnerships within the SRG membership

Provide stronger leverage within the regional and national foundation community by bringing multiple market projects for foundation support

Offer the ability to build collaborations between foundations that may be more attracted to projects that are larger than local in scope

Provide the biggest impact for the effort.
Next Steps
There are several action items that I would like to take up as our next steps in the Foundation Project. These are:

Complete a planning process for the national projects. We will need to complete planning for the national projects that will be directly linked to the broader SRG planning process that is underway. Out of this should come a clearly defined project or set of projects we will pursue with national foundations.

Narrow the list of target constituency collaborations. We will begin to refine the much longer list of collaborative projects stations have suggested and concentrate on a group of four to six projects. We must move from the current general concept stage to a clearly defined action plan. We will work with station groups to identify station leadership in the target project areas and define the SRG working groups who will participate in the projects.

Determine our approach to foundations. As a parallel to refining the focus of our projects, we must design our strategies for pursuing foundations. We will need to:

Continue to build our list of key contacts and foundation resource people

Identify and pursue a lead group of national foundations that may be willing to work closely with SRG in the development of these projects

Identify and pursue non-SRG contacts and resource people both within and outside of public broadcasting

Define our position in relation to other national organizations that are also competing for national foundation grants (NPR and PRI) as well as individual SRG members that are national program producers

Identify other tools should we use in developing our relationship with foundations (a foundation survey, links with non-broadcasting institutions, highly visible individuals who can help champion our cause)

Advisory board. The concept of an advisory or resource group surfaced in some of my conversations. There are a number of resource people within or associated with SRG stations who would be tremendous assets to a regional or national foundation effort. These include some of the staff at joint licensees, board members of some stations, SRG managers, or people from other non-SRG member groups (NPR, PRI, Pacifica) and the development offices of some of the institutional licensees. As we outline the Foundation Projects we will explore the idea of building either an informal network of advisors for foundation fundraising, or we may establish some form of a foundation advisory group.

Fund Raising Capacity

Foundation Project

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