PRX Fundraises Again

Public Radio Exchange (PRX) concluded its second major fundraiser for its podcast collective Radiotopia on November 19th. While the effort offers some vital lessons for running a successful fundraising campaign (including partnering with a company, in this case Slack, to aid with stretch goals and attracting donors), in the context of my research, it is more interesting as an illustrative example of how podcast companies can earn revenue under a “premium” operating philosophy.162

While this year’s campaign did not garner as many backers as PRX’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaign last year (19,642 contributors as opposed to 21,808)163, it was remarkably successful in its primary aim of attracting recurring donations (82% of all contributors signed on as recurring donors164). Indeed, this was exactly why the campaign was conducted on CommitChange, a fundraising platform designed for non-profits. The shift from Kickstarter, which facilitates one-off donations and requires a Kickstarter login, to CommitChange, which lets PRX accept recurring payments and establish a database of Radiotopia donors, is part and parcel of a larger strategic shift for PRX: creating a community of listeners who can sustain growth over the long-term.165

Acting essentially like a membership or subscription service, the campaign emphasized how donors can become integrated members of the Radiotopia community, receiving updates and extra content, invitations to storytelling workshops, and opportunities to evaluate pilot episodes of new shows. As PRX’s Director of Marketing, Maggie Taylor, explained in a blog post: “It gives us an opportunity to consistently connect with donors and fans, further cultivating and strengthening our community. It also means we will never start at zero again.” With its campaign, Radiotopia has eliminated the dependence on an intermediary like Kickstarter or iTunes and established a direct, potentially sustaining, relationship with its listeners.

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