Your Programming Is More Inclusive, But What About Giving Opportunities?

Hat tip to which featured an article that seems to indicate it is better to diversify the donor base rather than continue to ask the same pool of donors to give more.  The article discusses giving to public radio stations which have a slightly different appeal process than most non-profits and more closely tie donating to membership than many performing arts organizations.

The piece uses the example of WABE, located in Atlanta, GA which upon noting that the average donation amount made by all listeners was $14/month decided to ask their existing monthly donors to increase their giving to $15/month.  This ended up backfiring on the station.

But the $15 ask turned out to be “too high,” Barasoain said. Though the team was happy with the total revenue the drive brought in, the bigger gifts came at the expense of suppressing the number of donors by an estimated 12%–16%, he said.

During WABE’s previous two fall drives, on-air pitches requested gifts in any amount. The total number of pledges for the fall 2019 drive dropped 34% compared to fall 2017 and 20% versus fall 2018.

In the 2019 drive, “we were tapping the same group of donors to give more and more money to the station,” Hyman said. “And it’s just not sustainable long-term.”

The station immediately pivoted and lowered its pledge-drive asks.

In fall 2020, the team pitched gifts of $10 per month. The number of pledges increased 11%, and revenue decreased less than 2% from fall 2019.

The station has since expanded the ways in which they solicit support to include telemarketing and direct mail as a way to supplement their on-air fund drives.

The article discusses the efforts of WFAE in Charlotte, NC and KEXP in Seattle, WA which have removed minimum monthly giving levels for the sustaining member category to create a sense of participation. There is evidence that the monthly giving helps keep people feeling engaged on an ongoing basis and improves retention.

KEXP in Seattle prioritizes “participation first,” said Erin Lightfoot, director of annual and digital philanthropy. “We’ve always really highlighted … ways that everyone can participate in supporting the station no matter what their financial capacity is, and also being extremely grateful for that.” During on-air drives, pitch announcers vary the requested giving levels.

“We do try to vary it a lot in order to make sure that we’re really inviting everyone in no matter what their capacity or their comfort level is with gift-giving,” Lightfoot said.

Something to think about in terms of making giving feel more inclusive as a complement to programming feeling more inclusive.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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