Like many public radio stations now, WBJC-FM uses premiums to encourage people to make donations. Also like many organizations, they are ambivalent about using them. The key for the station is to manage premiums carefully. WBJC-FM is an all classical, user supported station which has been in operation for more than 50 years. It broadcasts 24 hours-a-day across Maryland, the District of Columbia and portions of the surrounding states. Donations are crucial to their survival.
Yvonne Allen, Membership Director for WBJC-FM, states the dilemma clearly: "Public Radio stations are trying to get away from premiums because they cost money and stations need that money for operating costs," she says. "But we get a lot of contributions," and without premiums, "I think we wouldn’t get as many."
Key to good management is choosing the correct premiums. "With premiums you have to really think about your listening audience. You have to gear your premiums strictly to that audience, what they are listening to, what you are playing. If you are offering something that has no connection to what your station does, then I wouldn't use those premiums; but if you look at the age of your listeners, their education, their preferences, what they tend to do in your area, then that is what you gear your premiums to." WBJC-FM offers classical music CDs, tickets to classical music performances, and certificates for meals at local restaurants.
"When we purchase premiums, we buy the largest amount at the level of our most popular contribution." She advises, "don't offer them on all levels, just do it at the higher levels. Then you won't have to purchase as many, because there are fewer contributions coming in at the higher levels."
To receive a premium, WBJC-FM members have to give more than the basic donation level. In all WBJC-FM offers 7 levels, starting at $40, with no premium. The second level, at $65, is the first one at which donors receive a premium. The rest of the levels climb by steps (including $91.50 which is the station’s frequency) up to their top level of $750, which includes all premiums on the list.
WBJC-FM selects one list of premiums per fiscal year. They start to offer the new year of premiums in August, in a direct mail campaign. Then, with their only on-air fund drive, the DJs begin to describe the premiums and interest picks up. "On the air, premiums help doing fundraising but it’s not as important in the mail-out. Members don’t choose them as often," in response to the mail out.
Once the fundraising drive is over, it’s time to send out the premiums.
First, using FundRaiser Professional, "we process the donations. Then we print out labels and send premiums out," says Allen. " Because our giving is increasing, the number of premiums is larger. We have interns that come in and package the premiums. That gives us time to process donations and still the premiums are going out. We segment which premiums are going out and just print those out. FundRaiser Professional gives us the ability to track inventory and tells us when we need to order more."
They have chosen to manage premium delivery in-house for several reasons. An outside fulfillment house, is "really expensive. We needed to cut down the budget and find ways of combining and removing things that were costing us a lot."
"We did use a mailing house for a long time, but we found that they lost or misplaced a lot of our premiums. So our general manager brought it in-house."
Overall, at WBJC-FM, "we try to keep things clean and simple. Our listeners gravitate towards that. We don't try to be extravagant. We try to keep our offerings and our budget simple."
Premiums: Please and Thank You! by Sasha Daucas
Premiums Management in FundRaiser by Larry Weaver