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Get the latest, most relevant information about the business of public media. Read breaking industry news and learn best business practices. Find out about upcoming PMBA conferences, toolkits, and roundtables. Discover educational programming from a variety of public media organizations as well as opportunities to enhance the professional capabilities of your staff in areas such as management, finance, accounting, and human resources.

April 9, 2015

The Most Common Mistake People Make in Calculating ROI

Your company is ready to make a big purchase — a fleet of cars, a piece of manufacturing equipment, a new computer system. But before anyone writes a check, you need to calculate the return on investment (ROI) by comparing the expected benefits with the costs. Analyzing ROI isn’t always as simple as it sounds and there’s one mistake that many managers make: confusing cash and profit. 
April 6, 2015

Preparing for the Millennial Workforce

It is quite possible that in a span of a decade, roles and organizational hierarchy, as we see them today, will cease to exist. The signs of a networked non-linear organization are already evident and those entering the workforce today will be the first to experience such organizations and make their career in them. The concept of a higher role needs to be viewed as an enhancement in terms of value offered to the firm, its clients and the individual. The organizations should, therefore, focus on making their workforce ready to take on such roles
April 6, 2015

For Doc Funders, Broadcast on Public TV Remains Key

Foundation funders have plenty at stake in PBS's pending decisions about scheduling and promoting its independent film series POV and Independent Lens. Broadcast distribution remains the cornerstone of outreach strategies behind foundation-backed independent films, according to grantmakers and others who work to build philanthropic support for public media.
April 1, 2015

Finding TV and Radio's Biggest Fans on Their Home Turf

Recently, Nielsen released the Audio Today report profiling the listening habits of the 243 million Americans who use radio each week. The report also included a profile of the heaviest users across four media sectors. And an interesting headline emerged: heavy radio listeners and heavy TV viewers are, for the most part, mutually exclusive. Heavy TV viewers watch nearly double the amount of TV each week as heavy radio listeners, and conversely, heavy radio listeners listen to nearly double the amount of radio each week as heavy TV viewers. Employment is the driving force behind these differences; indeed the majority of all radio usage nationwide comes from the employed audience while they are away from home. 
March 25, 2015

Developing a Tactical Fundraising Calendar for Your Organization

The tactical strategy for your fundraising should not be random, and it shouldn't be based on a "we'll figure this out as we go along" mentality. Your best bet to ensure maximum revenue is to lay out a tactical fundraising calendar as part of your overall fundraising plan. 
March 20, 2015

Pilot stations are beta-testing PBS’s premium content service for members

A limited beta test of PBS Membership Video on Demand (MVOD), a premium TV content service for contributors to stations, began at several broadcasters. Once up and running, MVOD will give stations a hook to draw new members with a perk of exclusive access to certain PBS programs.
March 20, 2015

NPR’s new news chief will seek to boost partnerships with member stations

The new top news executive at NPR hopes that increased collaboration with the network's member stations can produce stronger local and national journalism. NPR announced the hiring of Michael Oreskes as senior VP for news and editorial director. He begins in the position April 27. Oreskes will report directly to NPR President and CEO Jarl Mohn, under the new management structure Mohn implemented in October 2014. 
March 17, 2015

Five Tips To Better Manage Nonprofit Finances

Neela Pal, consultant at Fiscal Management Associates, writes: "In my decade working in the sector, every nonprofit I have encountered has been preoccupied with bringing in more money. Much rarer, however, is the nonprofit that carefully scrutinizes how existing dollars are being used. Here are five tips on how to maximize the limited financial resources of a nonprofit organization, without raising another dollar." 
March 13, 2015

A Moving Target: The regulation of online fundraising platforms

The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) posted a document on its website titled "Internet and Social Media Solicitations: Wise Giving Tips." True to its title, the document laid out advice on issues relating to fraudulent and deceptive solicitations, charities' control over the use of their names on fundraising platforms and transparency in fundraising platform policies. But in what seems less a tip and more of a warning, it mentioned that certain fundraising platforms might be subject to state registration and reporting requirements.
February 11, 2015

The CFO's Overhead Dilemma

The CFO’s Overhead Dilemmaby the Public Media Business AssociationPublic media’s finance professionals must strike a delicate balance when dealing with “the overhead myth.” As a system, in general, our administrative and fundraising overhead costs are high relative to many other nonprofits. Charity Navigator’s Financial Ratings Tables acknowledges that public broadcasting and media’s high expenses are a function of the business: These charities use expensive air time to raise money, requiring a higher investment in their fundraising efforts and thus raising fundraising costs. Among these charities, the median fundraising expenses percentage is higher than the median of all of the charities we rate.In addition, many stations have unique operations that impact ratios and appear to drive up overhead expenses. For example, a station that has for-profit subsidiaries that contribute profits to the station’s mission based work also has to address the fact that those subsidiaries can make overhead look even higher. In other cases, a CFO may only use the overhead ratio for managing certain grants. CFOs know the importance of working with their general managers and fundraising professionals to shift the conversation away from administrative and overhead expenses to a focus on the impact the station in making. Our industry in particular is continuously evolving and requires stations to invest significantly in the product in order to keep it relevant. A singular focus on tracking and reporting a nonprofit’s administrative and overhead costs is considered by many CFOs to be outdated.As much as CFOs are anxious to debunk “the overhead myth,” the reality is that many potential donors are looking at these metrics and paying close attention to overhead. Funders and donors are smart, and they do their research by looking up a station’s GuideStar ratings or reading a station’s 990s. This is the type of information the donor community researches, so when a foundation looks up causes, public media often looks inefficient. Whether or not they employ the overhead ratio as a key metric, CFOs have many reasons to closely monitor overhead. It is important to monitor what is reported as functional expenses in audited reports because of the stigma associated with nonprofits that report higher administrative, marketing, or fundraising expenses. Even beyond using the information to gain philanthropic and corporate support, close monitoring of overhead and fundraising expenses enables the CFO to understand, report, and strategize for diverse revenue streams.CFOs make sure to monitor expenses by functionality. Programs such as direct mail, telemarketing, pledge, and sustainer programs are monitored for effectiveness and efficiency, including expenses and the cost to raise a dollar. This analysis is a fairly straightforward exercise in a data-driven culture. High-touch major giving efforts that result in significant annual fund gifts, capital campaign gifts, and planned giving promises require a different type of consideration. Different metrics are necessary for these efforts as the cost to raise a dollar can present a skewed perspective. A metric such as the average major donor net revenue per full time employee (FTE) is a more useful way to look at major giving. This is an example of how CFOs are developing meaningful metrics and using them to educate funders, management, and other current and potential stakeholders. In many cases it is important to track, review, and present metrics across fiscal years for impact. For example, an investment in donor acquisition frequently shows a net loss in a single fiscal year. However, over multiple fiscal years this is an important file building activity for a strong membership program. Sustaining memberships are another area that needs to be analyzed over multiple fiscal years to get the full financial picture. This often seems to be an area of misunderstanding between the finance and development departments, sometimes exacerbated by a renewed focus on overhead.Another area where station leadership and decision-makers need to take a long view is digital. When looking at digital initiatives, financial indicators can be lethal. The decision to invest and maintain a digital presence is something that is embraced by the public media system and key for positioning survival in the years to come. However, there is not a sustaining business model in place as of yet. Stations are investing in digital as a long-term strategy, with the full intent that eventually digital will be self-sustaining. These investments can only happen with the support and vision of station governance and leadership who look at long-term impact and innovative methods to meet the station’s mission. Transparency and communication at all levels is important. Including general expenses by category in your annual report and on your website offer the opportunity to be transparent and begin the conversation about why your business is run a certain way and what it really costs to meet your mission. Make sure that management, your major giving team, and key customer service representatives understand the nature of these expenses and can talk about them with your donors.As you build trust with your stakeholders, potential funders, and management, then you can shift focus to impact. Public media needs to communicate impact measurements internally and externally and ultimately, make impact part of the funding culture.CFOs continue to work with stakeholders to get their buy-in on the goals, help them understand the reporting mechanisms, and educate them about how reporting ties to the organization’s strategic goals. Although many overhead expenses are justified and unique to public media, the finance department continues to find ways to reduce overhead expenses through new efficiencies. Researching and establishing shared administrative and fundraising services is an opportunity to scale back on the duplicative efforts stations utilize to reduce expenses and free up additional resources for mission based work. There are many exciting possibilities which would allow stations to remain relevant to the community while outsourcing certain operational functions or consolidating our back-office and fundraising activities – much like the technology collaborations (i.e., shared master controls) that have already taken place.Special thanks to the following PMBA Board members for contributing to this article: Esperanza Flury, Assistant General Manager & CFO, WXPN; Ron Hetrick, Senior Vice President, WITF Public Media Center; Mark Leonard, Vice Chair, General Manager & CEO, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications; and Jun Reina, COO/CFO, Capital Public Radio. Carl Pedersen , VP of Finance and Technology, Nashville Public Radio, also contributed.originally published in Greater Public’s February Edge Newsletter