Idea Thursday: A Strategic Plan to Listen

Hello Members

We all know that strategic plans are important, recently the Texas Tribune (a 9 year old non-profit media organization) publicly released its Strategic Plan which got us thinking. We know that our members are familiar with the importance of creating a Strategic Plan, and many of our members have created strategic plans, including the NCRA/ANREC (see here). But what we want to suggest in this Idea Thursday is would engaging with all stakeholders in creating your plan, this including staff, Board, volunteers, donors, and the community at large.

Community at large

The Danish researchers who wrote ( The Journalistic Connection - The news media revives its relationship with the citizens [in Danish]) looked into 54 newsrooms across 9 countries and found that among the 9 core innovations being rolled out was listening to the community. Another key innovation was cooperating with with the audience to create content. Engaging with community and collaborating to create content is a key part of community radio and has typically  differentiated us from commercial media.

There was an article at the American Press Institute (API) which looked at the initiative by the Journal Star who noticed a disconnect with some of the community served. To address this, they went on an in-depth listening tour, including meetings with the community to better engage with estranged parts of the community. They saw a significant increase in readership and engagement as a result of their outreach. Other media are looking at this case study to improve their own relationships with communities.

Non-Profit Competition

The campus and community radio sector can’t take its relationship with its community for granted. Working within the media sector, we are facing an increasing number of other non-profits entering the market. In the Canadian market La Presse has positioned itself to become  a non-profit and rely on the community to support them, there were also explorations made by the Globe and Mail, and small community non-profits have also entered the market such as Apt613.

A recent report from the Public Policy Forum appears to suggest community ownership of news may be the way forward for local news to survive. When coupled with their other research indicating that local newspaper coverage has dropped by half we are seeing a significant drive to address this shortfall. This effort from media organizations to move into the nonprofit sector will mean a greater degree of competition for donor-dollars, and for the attention of our community.

Donor accountability

This greater level of competition for donor dollars is not just from non-profit media but from all charities and nonprofits. As a result of increased competition the donors are demanding a higher level of transparency and accountability. ProPublica for example takes the step of posting their financial and tax information on their website.

Greater transparency and communication is also being demanded by millenials. Although we know that younger people typically donate less what we also know is that those donations increase with age. Already in the US a third of the workforce are millennials. Millennials value the public good, and have a greater access to a range of diverse non-profits all of whom are competing to convert these young earners into lifelong donors. Forbes has some great suggestions for engaging with millennials donors. As millennials value experiences more than objects, your financial accountability and strategic planning should also highlight more than just the value of objects, but demonstrate what you do that’s memorable. Planning to engage with donors more holistically could reveal what they value most.

To Conclude

The market is more crowded, we are demanding more accountability, greater choices and more innovation. Creating a strategy for your station to succeed still needs to include Board, staff, and volunteer input. What may be important to include now is listening to your audience, your entire community, and the donors to see what’s missing, what’s needed and what’s valued.

How does your station plan to engage with all stakeholders? Please share your experiences!


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