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Use Proven Resources - Success Stories: Major Gifts

Stations that have participated in one of CPB's major giving programs feel energized and ready to advance their major giving programs. We want to capture this enthusiasm by sharing successes and new ideas. Do you have a major giving success story? By letting us tell your story on this page, you will encourage other stations to continue their major giving efforts. Simply write up your story and .

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Topics of Interest

NEW!!! Leadership for Philanthropy: A KBCS $60,000 Gift Story and So Much More...

Steve Ramsey, General Manager at KBCS in Bellevue/Seattle recently received the largest gift in station history thanks to skills learned during the CPB-funded Leadership for Philanthropy project. And the path to this gift was as unique and special as this donor.

Since he began participating in LFP, Steve and his staff have been stepping up their efforts to be in contact with all major donors and prospects, including making the usual thank you phone calls, letters and invitations to tour the station. He consistently worked to find ways to connect with each donor on a personal basis. Yet connecting with this particular donor has been a challenge. Despite generously giving them $1,000-$3,000 for years, he has never accepted Steve's invitations to a phone conversation, station tour or event.

At the same time and as part of the LFP project, the station team worked to complete and consolidate a strategic plan (PDF, 38KB). After months of work, they stripped their vision for the future down to the essentials — the most compelling work that would enhance their service to the community. They posted their vision all around their station and on their website.

Part of that plan was to increase coverage. After receiving FCC approval to increase their signal by 40%, reaching an additional one million potential listeners, he proposed the concept of signal expansion to this donor through a letter. And for the first time, the donor reached out to Steve. Through his office the donor informed Steve that he was interested in the project and would be in touch. And the waiting began. Steve didn't hear from him for the next three months so he sent another letter inquiring about continued interest. The donor then emailed Steve and asked for some specific information including a budget for the project, coverage map for the signal expansion, and a formal proposal. In that proposal delivered around Thanksgiving, Steve asked for $60,000. It wasn't long before the donor called to inform Steve that he agreed to the amount requested.

The gift would be coming from a donor advised fund at a local community foundation — and with that knowledge a bit more became clear about this donor. This donor has many other philanthropic connections in the community — he sits on boards and is very aware of important philanthropic needs in Seattle. As Steve points out, because of those philanthropic connections, the donor may have been giving or directing gifts to the station in other ways as well. KBCS has submitted numerous applications to foundations in the community, so it is very likely the donor knows a good deal more about the station than Steve ever suspected. All this points to the value of conducting research on donors and prospects.

Clearly, this gift shows the confidence that the community has in the station. Steve believes that this gift will help them in many other asks to other donors and foundations. More importantly, it will give him the confidence to ask for that funding.

KBCS is expanding their prospecting work and seeking help from their staff. As one example, Steve has been able to connect with a local family foundation member thanks to a connection through one of their music hosts. They've been cultivating this foundation for some time, but it was a tough nut to crack as the foundation is very selective. After an initial meeting 2 years ago and subsequent emails and phone calls, Steve invited the foundation representative to the station for a tour. At the end of that tour, Steve was invited to apply for a grant. One of the reasons Steve believes that they've been invited to apply was because their strategic plan was posted everywhere at the station for anyone to see. This representative immediately saw what the station was trying to accomplish thanks to their clear vision, impact plans and financial plan posted right on the wall. Steve is hoping that they will receive funding for a number of years to help them achieve their goal.

Steve offered some great advice to stations embarking on a stepped-up major giving program:

  1. Stations need to understand their impact in the community. It's not about what his opinion might be about their service. It's about the individual donor's understanding of station value in the community. When you look at things through a donor's eyes, you can learn valuable information about how a donor is using your service. Steve has found this insight really powerful. This was a revelation to him having been in this business for 30 years. A common approach is to ask the prospect/donor, "What do we do that matters to you?" and then REALLY listen.
  2. It's important to assess your infrastructure to support major gifts work. Does the station have the data necessary to help you identify prospects? Do you know who consistently gives to the station and the amount they give? Can you do wealth screening to identify best prospects? LFP has helped KBCS develop their internal structure around this. Make sure you have the staff and resources to support this work.
  3. Expect a major culture shift. Working in an externally focused manner (required when you are doing major gifts work) is an entirely new way to think. It's not about what the station needs, it's about what the community needs. You shouldn't assume that YOU know what should be done with your service without input from community. Your stakeholders (including donors) can be extremely helpful in guiding the service.
  4. Finally, have no doubt, this is time consuming and hard work — Many managers are shy and are going to be reticent to do this, but you just HAVE to pick up the phone and get started. The payoff potential for your community is huge.

KPBS Turns News Beats into Investment Opportunities

A classic point of tension in major gift fundraising is that donors often want to restrict funds to feel a sense of ownership of a project while CEOs prefer unrestricted revenue to maintain budget flexibility. Joint licensed KPBS in San Diego has pioneered a way to give both philanthropic partners what they need or, as General Manager Tom Karlo puts it, "to link people's passion to something we want to do."

KPBS has established ten funds (PDF, 18KB) covering such areas as investigative reporting (PDF, 18KB) health, environmental, science and technology (PDF, 17KB, and border reporting (PDF, 28KB), and broadcast technology needs. It invites major donors and family foundations to invest in these funds at the rate of $80,000 per year for a three-year period.

There are as few as one donor to a fund and as many as four. Donors are recognized on-air, though not adjacent to segments made possible by the funds. The recognition is similar in content and frequency to an underwriting announcement, taking the form of "Environmental reporting on KPBS is brought to you by _____ of San Diego." They also receive regular reports on the programming produced with help from these funds, a means of stewardship that gives them a more specific idea of what their gifts have accomplished than more generally recognition.

The concept was the brainchild of KPBS Associate General Manager Stephanie Bergsma in 2005. The funds concept was first formed around reporting "beats" and funded actual reporting positions, but in recent years KPBS has moved toward funding the reporting that occurs within these subject areas — a change that has given the station more flexibility and that is intended to avoid the perception of donor control over reporters. The reporting funds include acquisition of national programs within the subject area, such as PBS's NOVA and NPR's Science Friday under the Science and Technology Fund.

KPBS is very cognizant of the potential firewall issues presented by such a funding mechanism. On-air recognition is separated from stories produced under that fund, to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest. Reporters participate in station social events where they come into contact with donors. To help them deal with questions that may arise during these interactions, KPBS arms its reporters with talking points (PDF, 14KB). Twice, funding for a content related fund has not been renewed. In both cases KPBS has maintained the content position, both to dissuade reporters from feeling beholden to donor satisfaction and because the content area is central to the KPBS mission.

The centrality of mission is key to the funds strategy. All ten funds represent areas in which KPBS wishes to operate and that it would, to some extent, regardless of funding. Thus, the station avoids "mission creep" by steering its donors into general areas of service that it determines.

Five years into this model, KPBS is raising $1.5 million using this technique, and these funds have allowed the station to add fifteen positions in local news content. KPBS is working to expand the idea to areas not directly related to reporting and programming, such as a research function within the station.

"The older generation gave unrestricted funds," Karlo says, "but baby boomers want to hang their hat on something. We've been very successful while allowing donors to fund something for which they have a passion."

With New Position, WKAR Realizing Success

WKAR has been experiencing great success since we've invested in a new position, the Major Gifts Officer, held by Seth Martin. Our station considers a major gift to be over $10,000, so anything less than that will not be in the great tally of recent major gifts and bequest expectancies below. In addition, it does not include planned gifts that have been realized this year. The list only includes future gifts that we have documented, or cash gifts from living donors. Here's our impressive list:

Documented Gifts (Expectancies)

  • Gift 1: $50,000 TV/Radio
  • Gift 2: $30,000 TV Endowment
  • Gift 3: $25,000 TV/Radio
  • Gift 4: $50,000 TV
  • Gift 5: $375,000 TV/Radio endowment for national programming

Gifts Received

  • Gift 1: $25,000 deferred gift annuity
  • Gift 2: $30,000 cash for national programming
  • Gift 3: $30,000 TV/Radio endowment for national programming
  • Gift 4: $15,888 cash for national programming

Submitted by:
Cindy Herfindahl
Director of Development
Seth Martin
Major Gifts Officer

MontanaPBS Secures $500,000 Gift

Major Giving is a fairly new area of fundraising for MontanaPBS — one of the youngest public television services in the country. Over the last year and a half MontanaPBS has worked at building its Friends board, building staff capacity to start cultivation of major gifts and identifying areas of investment for our donors.

Some of the investment areas that MontanaPBS identified for major gift cultivation are a technology fund for expansion of our signal across the state, a local production fund and an endowment. We also identified a mission critical operational expense — the delivery of our signal via satellite around the state — that we are currently approaching the state for, but that we knew we needed a backup plan to handle, if necessary.

With this in mind, the Development Director and former Station Manager approached a long time friend of MontanaPBS with a request — a request we felt was in keeping with this person's interests and means and one we felt was a reasonable ask. This person was around when MontanaPBS first began, and the relationship had been well stewarded over the years.

The station manager was able to bring his close relationship with this person to the table, while the Development Director laid out the case for support. Each person described the amazing growth of the service, our signal delivery needs and our plans for the future. We talked about the contribution we make to Montanans and the amazing stories we hear from people every day about how they love and need our service.

We asked if this person would be willing to donate $50,000 dollars to MontanaPBS to use as needed — preferably for one of the restricted areas we identified, but also as operational dollars if necessary. The answer? — "Why don't we add another zero to that?" After we picked our mouths up off the floor, we repeated the amount — just to be sure — $500,000? "Yes", said the donor — "Look how many people it will help".

The donor wishes to remain anonymous, but has given us permission to use the donation in whatever way is necessary. And, the donor encouraged us to use it as a match to leverage additional dollars when needed.

At this point, we have let our board members and staff know of the gift (which is now officially a gift and not just a pledge — yay!), but are holding off on a public announcement for awhile.

This was a perfect example of someone who was just waiting to be asked. There were hints in a few of the more recent interactions with this person — comments made, body language. Once we decided on the approach it was just a matter of calling the meeting.

This first step toward major giving was amazing, and I know there will be more. The building blocks are in place, our board is beginning to become more active, and we are buoyed by the knowledge that it can be done. For MontanaPBS, major giving is a very exciting frontier.

Submitted by:
Lisa Titus
Development Director

2006 PBS DevCon Award Winner: Community Idea Stations

TITLE | Dive into the Deep Water, and Swim, Swim, Swim!

GOALS | Last fiscal year (2004-2005), we focused primarily on increasing the ranks of our Commonwealth Circle (our group of $1,000+ donors), using special events, tours, and personal meetings to talk about mission and invite key prospects to join us. At the end of the year, we had 13 new members. This fiscal year (2005-2006), we concentrated on upgrading current Commonwealth Circle members either to the next giving level, or "half again as much," depending on which was the most appropriate "ask" for each donor. We also set out to change and strengthen the way we worked, implementing MGI accountability measures and integrating MGI methodologies into cultivation, solicitation and stewardship strategies. At the time, our stations were in a tumultuous period of growth and change. We were working with a new, very involved Board, and we had initiated a voluntary severance program and dramatically restructured corporate leadership. What better time to embrace big goals and implement new working strategies?

PROCESS | One of the most satisfying and gratifying aspects of our work this year has been the emergence of a strong, focused, mutually supportive membership/major giving team. Our Membership and Major Gifts directors (Sue Wood and Mary Jackson) worked together more closely than ever before, adapting major gifts messaging (impact stories, mission-based statements, the importance of "investing" in public broadcasting to strengthen our community) in Membership mass mailings. Mary and Sue worked closely together to create these messages. This has had remarkable results in Membership. Our message points: "Strengthening communities. Empowering families. Informing citizens," crafted by our development managers, appeared in every letter sent to every donor. Membership emphasized mission and impact in all its correspondence with our membership base, and when donors moved through the pipeline and became eligible for membership in the Commonwealth Circle, messaging remained consistently focused on impact. Major Gifts could build on the work begun by Sue and her Membership team.

We did not, however, emphasize mission only in correspondence. We continue to use our "Open Sesame" tour to emphasize mission and impact in the community with everyone who visits with us at our stations, and our entire staff has become proficient in speaking eloquently about our work and its impact in the community.

Also, this year, our Major Gifts director (Mary Jackson) implemented meticulous and rigorous accountability measures, tracking revenue generation and moves management by solicitor. She prepared briefing papers for every donor call and held briefing meetings prior to each visit so that staff were extremely well prepared to listen well and constructively, to answer any possible objections, and to ask for gifts with confidence and sensitivity. We (Lisa Tait, VP for Development and Mary Jackson) met weekly with the President and CEO, who was charged by our Board to devote nearly 100% of his time to major gifts work. The Major Gifts Director researched, prepared and presented prospect lists and established weekly goals for making phone calls, setting up meetings, and visiting with donors and prospects. Our CEO visited top donors and prospects in tandem with the VP for Development or the Major Gifts Director, which improved our ability to listen well and bring home valuable information about our donors. Both the VP for Development and the Major Gifts Director made cultivation, solicitation and stewardship calls either alone or with one another, when appropriate. After each call, the Major Gifts Director held a debriefing meeting with the solicitor and key staff, evaluated success and determined next steps. This "push" in major gifts fundraising was accompanied by an equally focused effort to dramatically increase Board giving, emphasizing with each Board member the importance of "leading from the front."

RESULTS | Major Gifts staff learned that increased accountability and formalized tracking not only of revenue, but of staff activity creates a laser-like focus, enthusiasm and excitement for the work of major gifts fundraising. We learned that implementing proven strategies creates success. Careful planning, weekly meetings, weekly reporting, written briefing papers and formalized briefing and debriefing sessions resulted in our most successful year ever. We increased major gifts revenue by 43.89%. Board giving increased by 197.23% And we inspired ten Commonwealth Circle members to upgrade their annual gift to the next level: Five moved from $1,000 to $2,500, three moved from $2,500 to $5,000; one moved to the $7,500 level, and one moved to the $20,000 level.

IMPACT | The fact that we implemented new major gifts/membership strategies while simultaneously creating new message points and mission-based impact statements packed a powerful punch. New on-air spots promote the message points, as do new print ads. Our community is more aware of why we matter and this heightened awareness provides fertile ground to make the case for major gifts support. Basically, "diving into the deep end of the pool" and reworking all aspects of major gifts fundraising while at the same time crafting more powerful impact statements created a unified effort that empowered Major Gifts and Membership staff, as well as the entire development team. This year, we truly became an integrated development department. What can other stations learn from us? If any station is waiting to dive headlong into major gifts, or has reservations or uncertainties about techniques or methodologies, our team would collectively shout, "Just do it!" Define who you are. Define what you want to accomplish, and set intermediate goals to get you there. Embrace the hard work of change, revising strategies, breaking molds, and do away with the angst about "who gets the credit." Become an integrated development team. It works, and there are real, measurable results. Just look at our numbers!

2006 PBS DevCon Award Winner: Idaho Public Television

TITLE | A Leap of Faith

GOALS | This past year, our goals for major giving at Idaho Public Television were to: create a culture with our staff, four advisory boards and our members for the need and importance of obtaining major gifts throughout the state; to raise the expectation of annual giving to the $1,000 level or more with our new major giving society; to maintain and build relationships with members giving at the $500 to $999 level in order to sustain and prep future donors in the major giving pipeline; and to make a concerted effort with staff and board resources for gifts of $5,000 or more.

PROCESS | Idaho Public Television is a statewide television network that obtains 60% of its funding from private sources. A variety of revenue streams are delicately balanced to obtain this funding. The major giving society at Idaho Public Television was started 15 years ago for individuals giving level of $500 or more and named the Cornerstone Society.

This past year we launched the Leadership Circle as our new major giving society, for giving levels of $1,000 or more. Orientation of the staff at Idaho Public Television on this new giving level and its need was done by the Director of Major Gifts at a staff meeting. Letters were sent out to all Cornerstone Society members announcing the launch of the Leadership Circle and grandfathering in those members giving at the $1,000 level. This letter was signed by the General Manager. Those not already giving at the $1,000 level were invited to upgrade with a letter from the Director of Major Gifts. The new logo and name was used to update break elements, on-air spots, all renewal mail, and thank you letters. Leadership Circle members, new or re-newing, also received a thank you call from the Director of Major Gifts. A new brochure was created and ads were run in our monthly program guide announcing this new giving club with an invitation to join. As a result of these efforts, our Leadership Circle membership increased over 30% from the previous year.

Increased involvement from our advisory boards in our fundraising efforts has been an important part of establishing this new giving culture. With the help of our MGI consultant, we conducted several sessions this past year throughout the state to provide training for our three Friends Boards and our Foundation Board. This was done to emphasize the importance of their role in major gift fundraising and how they could be of assistance to us as Askers, Ambassadors and Advocates. This helped us accomplish two important needs. With the help of our board members, we were able to identify current members who have the ability to increase their gifts as well as folks in the community who despite not being members, might give because of their interest and ability. It also gave our board members a sense of purpose and ownership in our major gift efforts.

Ongoing staff efforts this past year to identify and cultivate candidates capable of increasing their gifts have been implemented through the MOVES program. The Director of Development, Director of Major Gifts, and the Station Manager in Pocatello meet once a month to discuss progress made with MOVES candidates. Each of these staff members is responsible for cultivating and building relationships with assigned candidates in order to move these members through the giving pipeline and to greater gifts for IdahoPTV. We also defined a major gift — for MOVES efforts — to be $5,000 and above. This is the benchmark we use when asking for gifts to fund local productions and regional challenges.

Another part of our major gift process this past year was to identify regional and statewide Festival challenge candidates throughout the state for our annual pledge drive in March. In 2006 we obtained a new $5,000 challenge from a major donor and were able to increase another existing challenge by $7,000. We did this by showing the donors how their challenge increased pledges and dollars raised during Festival from members in their geographic location. These matches have become an integral part of our fundraising efforts.

Relationships with major donors have also been cultivated and new donors recruited throughout the state with a number of special events. Our fall started off with "Friends" events in Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, and Coeur d'Alene in which we showed previews of upcoming local and national productions. A new local production was premiered in Sun Valley in September and major donors and prospects were invited to the concert and a reception. We also did a wine event in October to raise money for the Foundation followed by a Shakespeare event in the spring to acknowledgement and cultivate of new donors.

RESULTS | It is critical to listen to the donor while visiting with them and have a clear understanding of their interests and desires. They need to feel their money is making a difference in the lives of the people in their communities. It is also important to gain their trust, to follow up with them and keep them informed on what the station is doing. This is an ongoing process with donors and one that cannot be abandoned after they have given.

We have found donors also need a compelling reason(s) to give. We have had huge success with the area challenges, in which local pledges at or above a certain amount are matched by the challenge monies. We hope to expand the challenges next year to other communities.

We are also implementing a new system to track new members recruited and if giving levels of members increase donors as a result of attending special events.

We have learned to be more specific with the board members regarding our fundraising needs. A visit or call from a peer is so much more effective with community members we don't have relationships with, than a cold call from us. We have been orienting the board to help with those visits and calls. With continued reinforcement from our staff and the MGI consultant training, we hope to see more involvement from our board members in our fundraising efforts.

Finally, part of our fundraising success for fiscal year 2006 in the major gift area were the efforts made by a former supreme court justice who wanted to see a local production done on a historic trial that took place in Idaho in 1907. We gave him the goal necessary for production, and told him the fundraising responsibility to make it happen was his. He proceeded to do all the "asks" among community members, law firms, and organizations. His efforts have brought in over $70,00 for this program so far. For us, this was a prime example of the effectiveness of a respected peer who can lead the way as a giver and a getter.

IMPACT | These successes have brought an increase in major gifts to Idaho Public Television. This expands and further varies our revenue pool so that we can continue to provide quality local productions and purchase national programs for the benefit of our state and local communities. We hope by outlining our experiences, activities and challenges over the past year, that we can help other stations achieve similar success in their major giving efforts.

2006 PBS DevCon Award Winner: KQED

TITLE | KQED Annual Major Gifts: Happily Ever After the Campaign

GOALS | After completion of KQED's successful 6-year $75 million Campaign for the Future, KQED had achieved the profile of a major cultural institution worthy of philanthropic giving. During the Campaign (1998-2004), we maintained a strong annual major gifts program, the Signal Society. In fact, throughout the six year period of the Campaign, annual major gifts of $1,000 and above increased by 45% (and were not included in the Campaign total). Our challenge was to maintain this momentum. The KQED Strategic Plan for 2005-2009 includes planned growth in two development areas: (I) Build a long-term sustainable financial operating model, including increased annual major donor revenue (gifts of > $1,000) from $1.9 million in FY 2004 to $8 million in FY 2009; and (II) Increase emphasis on KQED created, owned, and/or branded content. KQED aims to increase total major gifts by $1 million each year through 2009, including an increased emphasis on gifts directed to support local KQED productions.

PROCESS | The Campaign concluded on March 1, 2004, and on October 1, 2004, KQED launched a new major gift club, the Producer's Circle, for donors making annual gifts of $10,000 and above. To maintain strong revenues even as it upgraded the highest-level donors to the Producer's Circle, the Signal Society grew the size of its volunteer committee, strengthened systems to empower successful committee results, and focused solicitations on impacts in the community.

The Producer's Circle infrastructure was built with the components that made both the Campaign and the Signal Society successful: a strong case; volunteer leadership; new benefits; and an investment in top staffing for the program. Our case shifted from a focus on acquisition of content to a focus on educational and outreach impacts and increasing local production, specifically funding a new five day strip of local programs on KQED TV each week night, Monday through Friday, at 7:30 p.m.

We formed a Producer's Circle Committee comprised of Board members and additional non-Board donor/volunteers. We are extremely proud that our Board members and volunteers were involved every step of the way from recruiting the Committee and developing benefits to personally taking responsibility for stewarding, cultivating and soliciting support for KQED. At this writing, a total of 18 Board and Non Board volunteers have between 6 and twelve assigned donors/prospects each they are working with to steward, cultivate and solicit.

In addition to the benefits afforded to all donors of $1,000 or more (a monthly email newsletter, a new bi-annual major gifts printed newsletter, and invitations to an annual President's Reception and Fall Preview) Producer's Circle, donors are listed in our monthly printed program guide, have the option of being recognized on-air, and are invited to the bi-monthly Producer's Circle Event Series featuring highly-regarded Public Television and Radio talents such as Robert MacNeil and Anne Garrels. The extremely well-attended Series serves as an excellent vehicle for volunteers to steward and cultivate their assigned donors. Every event has resulted in a renewal and/or new or increased gifts at the Producer's Circle level, and two multi-year $300,000 additional restricted gifts have resulted from the Event Series this year.

Four new Producer's Circle staff positions put into place over two years have allowed us to increase donor engagement and solicit new, larger gifts to KQED local productions. In addition we have participated in the CPB Major Giving Initiative and as a part of that capacity building project, KQED major gifts staff worked with an outside consultant and our membership col-leagues to identify our highest-capacity current members whose community activities are related to our new local programming. When invited to learn more about specific programs in their targeted area of interest, a number of lower-level donors have attended events or meetings, and have upgraded their support to a major donor level at KQED.

RESULTS | The Producer's Circle immediately provided a new benchmark for major donors. In its first year, the Producer's Circle raised $1,900,000, equal to the entire prior year's major gifts revenue. We have increased the number of donors giving at the $10,000 level from 45 to 87, or 93%, in two years since the launch of the Producer's Circle. Despite some Signal Society donors upgrading to the Producer's Circle level, the Signal Society increased its enrollment in the first year of the dual-level program and achieved its own solid revenue goal of almost $950,000. In FY06, the Signal Society has raised over $300,000 more in the first three quarters of the year than in the entire previous fiscal year. In the second year of the program, now two months before the close of our fiscal year, the combined major gifts program is on track to raise the goal of $3,700,000, a growth of nearly $1 million dollars per year since FY04. We are thrilled that the Signal Society program has grown substantially, simultaneously with the launch of the Producer's Circle. In the next year, we plan to devote more resources to rating and screening membership and Signal Society donors to target them for upgrade to the next higher giving level.

IMPACT | The amount of new revenue generated by KQED's new dual-level major gifts pro-gram is equivalent to the budget of two new local productions on TV. Board members are more engaged in fundraising now than even during the Campaign, since the goals seem attainable and realistic to them. A significantly increased number of non-board volunteers are also engaged in fundraising through the new Producer's Circle and expanded Signal Society committees. The KQED major gifts staff has learned that success breeds success when we set attainable goals, celebrate our successes and tie our fundraising to tangible results for the station and our community.

2006 PBS DevCon Award Winner: South Dakota Public Broadcasting

TITLE | Ask and You Shall Receive

GOALS | The Friends of SDPB wanted to increase major giving. In the past, major givers were not extensively courted and many obvious prospects were not cultivated. We realized that we needed to work on these areas. We had a FY 2005 goal of $20,000 (very low) and a FY 2006 one of $100,000 (which we came very close to meeting).

PROCESS | After just coming off a successful Kresge-match endowment campaign, we realized that personal contact was the key to increasing major giving. With that in mind, we joined the PBS Major Giving Initiative and began the process of improving staff skills. Also, we made major giving a major part of the job (at least 25 percent) of the Development Director Theresa Spencer, who has honed her skills with the help of the MGI. Spencer works closely with the volunteer Board of Directors to train and empower them to cultivate prospects and make the ask. In addition, she directs efforts to identify prospects. She acts by advising the board, joining board members as they meet prospects and major donors, and meeting with donors and prospects herself.

As part of the effort, we have been holding cultivation events in conjunction with quarterly board meetings (which are held in various areas of the state). Supporters and board members have been instrumental in presenting about four additional cultivation events each year. Events are usually low key dinners or hors d'oeuvres events that allow board members and donors to present the case to prospects in an informal setting. In addition, the connection to the community and willingness to participate in these activities has become one of the criteria we keep in mind when seeking new board members.

For planned gifts, we started with something simple — using legacy messages on air and put a simple ad in our program guide: "Please Remember the Friends of SDPB in your will." In addition, we made sure financial planners had us on their minds as they worked for clients, by sending them information on the network and the gifts acceptance policy to 948 attorneys and financial planners across the state. We also initiated a planned giving society for those who plan to give the Friends of SDPB a planned gift.

For all efforts, we have developed clear, concise brochures and more detailed case statements pointing out why we are worthy of major philanthropy. We have carried the case over into other areas such as pledge pitches.

RESULTS | The results have been steady and very encouraging. Moneywise, we have increased unrestricted major gifts by 50 percent in the past three years. We have increased unrestricted major donors from 23 in FY 2004 to 40 in 2006, a jump of 74 percent. From FY 2004 to FY 2005, we increased unrestricted donors by 35 percent, but retained 65 percent. From FY 2005 to FY 2006, we increased unrestricted donors by 29 percent and increased the retention rate to 80 percent. The effort has helped board members learn to talk knowledgeably and effectively about the network and helped both staff and the board with major giving strategies.

Development Director Theresa Spencer put her cultivation skills to work to acquire a planned gift. One of our major donors, at $5,000 a year, died in 2001. He left his sizeable estate to charity, but left the distribution of the money up to his assistant. Over the next few years, as the estate work continued, Spencer visited often with the assistant on the telephone and in person. The result was, that when the estate was finally settled, the Friends of SDPB received $100,000 in FY 2006.

What did you learn? Asking for the gift is tough and it takes patient training and practice before volunteer board members are confident in their skills. Also, it pays — literally — to have someone on staff who devotes a lot of time to keeping the effort on track and who can help new board members develop their skills. We learned that a major giving program cannot be an overnight success, but requires patient cultivation.

How might you build on this next year? In FY 2007, we will continue efforts to position ourselves as a worthy recipient of major gifts through cultivation for both annual gifts and planned gifts. We expect to help plan more cultivation events and train new board members to work with this effort. As cultivation efforts continue, we expect to ask for and acquire more major gifts. We also will be increasing our prospect research to identify SDPB supporters who have the means to make major annual gifts. On the planned giving side, we expect to offer longtime members (25 to 30 years) information about planned gifts and gently cultivate selected prospects for planned gifts. Development Director Theresa Spencer likely will spend even more of her time on the major gifts efforts.

IMPACT | Increasing major gifts will help the network deal with decreasing membership numbers and possible instability in other funding sources such as state funding. In addition, major annual giving means that these donors are making an investment in the network that is more likely to continue with planned giving. Planned gifts will increase our endowment, leading to a steady and ever increasing source of income.

Other stations should take note that it takes hard work, face to face cultivation, and committed board, volunteers and staff involvement to make major giving a success.

2006 PBS DevCon Award Winner: WEDU

TITLE | From Magazine Subscriptions to Philanthropy — Transforming the Major Donor Experience


  1. Create an environment within the station that is friendly to a major gift philosophy and where donors would be inspired to imagine what could be.
  2. Increase the revenue from the Broadcasters Circle while simultaneously transitioning to a true annual fund and away from a membership cycle.
  3. Build on the success of the station's first ever Capital Campaign.
  4. Begin the quiet phase of an endowment campaign building toward the public phase which would coincide with our fiftieth anniversary in 2008.

PROCESS | Broadcasters Circle: The Broadcasters Circle (BC) had functioned with a magazine renewal cycle, approaching our most valuable donors up to six times a year to renew or add a gift because the station was in need. We sought to create a donor pool that would be inspired, feel valued and trust us. The following is how we endeavored to do just that and have met great success in the process.

  1. Transitioned from membership cycle to an annual fund through fall letter to all major donors introducing enhanced giving level benefits and inviting donors to become more involved with "your community-owned PBS station."
  2. Followed up with personal contact with each donor by assigning staff on Development team to every donor, instituting a twenty-four hour thank you policy, and enlisting Dick Lobo, president and CEO, in making thank you calls.
  3. Engaged incoming Board chair to lead the Board annual fund campaign which attained 100% participation.
  4. Sought out new leadership donors through special VIP Andre Rieu packages, many of whom with continued stewardship have made additional leadership gifts to the station this fiscal year, a rarity with event focused gifts.
  5. Created unique experiences for leadership annual fund donors including going on a field shoot with the Emmy award winning local program A Gulf Coast Journal with Jack Perkins for a $10,000 gift. (We recently featured our former Board chair and his wife in the Premiere program guide on their day in the field.)
  6. With so many of our Capital Campaign major donors being new to WEDU, special attention was paid to stewarding these donors into the annual giving program through high touch mailings and visits, again with great success.
  7. Engaged high touch direct mail company in cooperation with membership to upgrade mid level donors to the annual fund and to approach lapsed BC donors.
  8. Coordinated with the Special Events department to send follow up letters to attendees of high level events inviting them to join the BC and to send advanced notice of select events as a special perk to BC donors.
  9. Introduced BC themed pledge night with donors manning the phones.
  10. Began donor spotlight ads in monthly program guide highlighting a diverse cross section of donors and updated/refreshed on air BC spots.
  11. Instituted new station wide policies and procedures for handling BC donors including how gifts are recorded in Team Approach, customer service rules and recognition.

Capital: Recognizing that our Broadcasters Circle (BC) donors have the capacity and propensity to support various station initiatives, funding for capital and endowment are handled in the same department as the BC.

  1. 1 After the Capital Campaign officially closed amid an active hurricane season, the development team identified additional and ongoing capital needs in cooperation with the programming and production staff.
  2. Enlisted diverse fundraising techniques in securing $250,000 for a mobile field production truck including a "Build a Van" private party at Board member's home, Web page for general public support on the WEDU website and Foundation grant applications.


  1. Created an investment policy with an experienced volunteer Finance Committee comprised of respected Board and community members, which proved key to securing a $500,000 endowment gift from a local Foundation that rarely funds endowments.
  2. Secured Community Foundation of Tampa Bay $100,000 endowment challenge grant by raising the required $300,000+ with the help of a Board member who is also the incoming Chair of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

RESULTS | Our department's motto has been, "If you treat major donors like major donors, they will act like major donors." The membership renewal cycle had been exhausting our BC donors.

In our calling we could find no model within the PBS community for annual funds, yet we believed our donors would be receptive to the new approach. They responded with record levels of giving and engagement.

IMPACT | Creating a responsive and creative environment for our donors has sparked their imagination — one new BC donor is looking at the feasibility of his company replacing the station's lighting fixtures to reduce energy costs. Detailed record keeping of donor interactions and cross departmental communication has been key to providing a transformational experience for our donors.

WEDU, Tampa Receives $1,000,000 Gift

WEDU in Tampa has received a $1 million gift from the Joy McCann Foundation, founded by Joy McCann Culverhouse who had previously given to the station's capital campaign. Joy is well known throughout the region for her generosity, but WEDU is only the third institution on Florida's west coast to receive a $1 million gift.

WEDU President and CEO Dick Lobo says the grant will partially fund children's programming and literacy outreach, a high definition digital edit suite, a pilot program in a new heath series entitled "Smart Health," and will provide the remaining money needed for a mobile field production truck. In addition, $500,000 will create a local program development endowment fund and will serve as a challenge grant to the new endowment campaign. Thus, Lobo said, the grant "will touch every aspect of WEDU and impact all of what we do in the future." This is the second largest gift WEDU has received in 2006, and the largest in its history.

Submitted by:
Susanna Grady
VP Development

KVIE Matches Station Need to Donor Interest for $5,000 Gift

KVIE Public Television in Sacramento recently landed a $5,000 gift from an elderly longtime $250 member. His giving potential was uncovered when board members reviewed a list of leadership donors elsewhere in the community. One board member knew him, and she brought him to a luncheon at KVIE. Following the luncheon, she told major gift officers she felt it was a missed opportunity because of the prospect's hearing problems.

Hearing trouble? Major giving is all about matching donor interests. The major giving staff tailored a letter proposal for him to fund KVIE closed captioning services, which the board member used to land the $5,000 gift.

Submitted by:
Kevin Smith-Fagan
Director of Major Giving

Florida Event Leads to $100,000 Gift to Detroit Public Television

In early summer, 2006, Kerry Burke, manager of major gifts, and Dan Alpert, station COO, secured a $100,000 capital gift from two long-time major donors of Detroit Public Television who had averaged only $2,000 over the past 15 years. The couple had previously been averse to personal meetings, although Kerry did have an arms-length relationship with them.

A station event in Florida hosted by a DPTV board member proved pivotal when Dan and his wife met and visited with the couple, forming a personal relationship. Research showed that while the couple had a small foundation with assets of $200,000, they traditionally made station gifts from their personal wealth.

Dan and Kerry invited the couple to the station, developed a presentation, and rehearsed it, playing to their respective strengths: Dan's endless knowledge of the station and Kerry's earnest passion and delicate sense of humor. Dan asked the donors to make a $100,000 personal gift to the campaign. They asked for a week to consider it, then they said they would be pleased to make their first gift of this amount.

"We like you," they explained, "we believe in you, and we are happy to do it." Kerry credits her time with Bob Marovich and the training she received from the MGI team for giving her the confidence to successfully solicit large gifts.

Submitted by:
Kerry Burke
Manager of Major Gifts
Detroit Public Television

Idaho PTV Raises $94,000 for Historical Documentary

When former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Byron Johnson brought an idea for a documentary to Idaho Public Television's Director of Broadcasting, Ron Pisaneschi, he listened carefully and then expressed interest. "But we'll have to raise $100,000 to make the program and properly promote it." Justice Johnson offered to help, and Ron brought Development Director Kim Philipps and Major Gift Manager Deb Furey into the picture. They set up fundraising guidelines, cleared prospects, provided research, and got out of the way.

Justice Johnson has raised $94,000 of the needed amount, and proposals for the remaining amount are under consideration. The documentary will recount the trial of William "Big Bill" Haywood, a union organizer accused of planning the assassination of Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905 in retaliation for strike-breaking efforts in the mines of northern Idaho. Clarence Darrow defended Haywood, helping to make the trial a national story. Haywood's acquittal helped to move Idaho from frontier justice to a modern legal system.

The partnership between programming, development, and an ardent volunteer will result in a program that will reach a national audience next year.

Submitted by:
Kim Philipps
Development Director
Idaho Public Television

Alaska Public Television Station KAKM Receives $25,000 Gift

The gift came a few days after an informational KETRA seminar was held at the station for Leadership Circle members. Several weeks prior, a special mail out detailing an upcoming KETRA seminar went out to all those who have given $500 or more within the last 2 years. KAKM's Major Giving Officer planned the seminar with a noted attorney. It was meant to present the benefits of KETRA and made no remarks about the station, until the guests requested more information on station status, towards the end of the seminar. Whether the seminar alone may have been the highest factor in determining the gift, we do not know. Perhaps the station's rising levels of stewardship and relationship building offer another lead. All in all, the station's use of MGI's material in building our new approaches to Major Gifts is beginning to bear fruit.

Submitted by:
Anne Marie Moylan
Major Gifts & Planned Giving Officer

KNPB Reno Acquires Brand New Member at $15,000 Level

KNPB had been busy pushing its Major Giving level called the Silver Circle. With more prominent use of on-air testimonials, using station ID opportunities to thank our Silver Circle members in small batches, inviting prospective donors into the station for a presentation (soft sell) by the President and CEO, engaging board members in donor prospecting, and using our Silver Circle receptions as cultivation events for prospective donors, the station had been busy raising the visibility of its Silver Circle and it is paying off! We are happy to announce a gift at the Philanthropist level of the Silver Circle came from a brand new member. Not only had this been the result but also more incidences of people renewing at higher levels. Making sure the public is aware of the verifiable benefits your station provides, along with the dedication of a Board engaged in development is a sure recipe for success!!

Submitted by:
Angela R. Cao
Director of Major Donor Programs

New Annual Donor at the $10,000 Level for WTIU, Bloomington

A piece of good news from WTIU in Bloomington, IN. A donor has stepped up to the plate with a contribution that totals $10,000 to be divided between WTIU and WFIU. This donor is also picking up various expenses here and there i.e. the purchase of 20,000 paper restaurant placemats that promoted the station and some of our programs. They were used by local restaurants during our most recent fund drive. This is a yearly commitment.

Submitted by:
Judy Witt
Development and Major Gift Officer
WTIU, Bloomington