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5 key factors to solving the dilemma of premiums for your public radio station

4 key factors in establishing a successful premiums program for your community radio stationLike many public radio stations, WBJC-FM uses premiums to encourage people to make donations. Also like many organizations, they are ambivalent about using premiums.
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."

WBJC-FM has been running a success premiums program for years, and has just  finished another successful fund drive that used 'thank you gifts' to help boost response. They have found that there are 5 key factors to creating a good balance between the costs of the premiums and the incentive they provide to donors. Yvonne shares  those tips here. WBJC-FM is an all classical, user supported station. They use FundRaiser Professional to help manage many details related to their premiums program. 

Key Factor #1   Choose premiums carefully with your audience in mind

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," says Yvonne.  For instance, some successful premiums that WBJC-FM has offered are classical music CDs, tickets to classical music performances, and certificates for meals at local restaurants.

Key Factor #2   Offer premiums only for higher levels of donations

"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.  WBJC-FM has several levels of donations, and doesn't offer a premium for the bottom level. The second level 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, which includes all premiums on the list.

Key Factor #3   Change your premium offerings yearly

WBJC-FM selects one list of premiums per fiscal year. Choices are thought through by a carefully selected group of people who know the station and its audience well and are aware of budget restrictions. Keeping the group as stable as possible has given them the opportunity to gather experience about what works best.

Key Factor #4   Use premiums primarily for live fundraising drives

WBJC-FM starts to offer the new year of premiums in August, in a direct mail campaign. Then, during an 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.

Key Factor #5   Send your premiums out quickly and correctly

Once the fundraising drive is over, it’s time to send out the premiums. For this you need to know who gets which premium, what their mailing address is, and how many premium items are in inventory. Processing all that takes focus. Donor management software with special 'premium handling' features can be a huge help. At WBJC-FM, they use FundRaiser Professional.

First, "we process the donations. Then we print out labels and send premiums out," says Yvonne. "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, with the help of the Premiums Module."

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."

For more information on how FundRaiser can help you manage your premiums

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