How does a museum exhibit "support" the broadcast of All Things Considered, exactly?
September 17, 2011 12:05 PM   Subscribe

What exactly does it mean when one non-profit entity (such as programs on public broadcasting) is supported, sponsored, or "made possible" by another?

I've noticed recently that programs on PBS and public radio will often advise that they are "sponsored by" another non-profit entity, often in addition to corporate or foundation funding sources.

I could imagine that a large NGO might have a fund devoted to supporting media related to their cause, but this isn't that. This is more like "This Old House, brought to you by the Local Women's Shelter!" or "Sound Money provided with assistance from Barely in the Black Childrens Theatre production of Urinetown!"

Some of these sponsors are clearly small organizations with barely a pot to piss in and presumeably must spend every penny on their core mission in order to continue existing. I can't see any possibilty for in-kind donation in most cases.

So what gives? Is this purely symbolic support? If so, what is the quid pro quo?
posted by werkzeuger to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect that even medium-sized, local non-profits have money and possibly staff positions set aside for marketing and development. Your local shelter probably doesn't have anything like that, but a local organization dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women most likely does. I also suspect that PBS and NPR give advantageous sponsorship rates to non-profit partners.
posted by Nomyte at 12:32 PM on September 17, 2011

This is a way for a small non-profit to advertise on public radio, which typically has lower sponsorship rates for non-profits. So in the case of your title, the museum is advertising their exhibit on All Things Considered, but since it's public radio they call its called a sponsorship.
posted by zamdaba at 12:44 PM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to be the communications manager for several local nonprofits. Our local public radio station has something called a day sponsorship available as part of their fundraising package and I imagine that pretty much every public radio station has something similar. How it works is that the nonprofit organization doesn't buy the sponsorship time by itself. Instead, interested donors - board members, usually, or other major donors - can buy a day sponsorship or (ideally) a package of day sponsorships for their particular nonprofit. Then the communications person at the nonprofit (me, back in the days when I had a real job) works out the wording within the NPR parameters. IIRC they generally give you 40 words or so and everything has to start with sponsored by and you cannot use the words Invite or mention paying for anything - the message had to be all inclusive. Typically, we would ask our board to buy day sponsorships when we had events coming up, so our message would be something like, "Sponsored by the Blah Museum, who will be opening an exhibition of Preserved Fungi with a public reception this Friday from 7 to 9 pm; RSVP to 867-5309." Other nonprofits often just use it as an awareness tool - those are the general ones, like "sponsored by the Mountain Home for Displaced Raccoons, who have been serving this community since 1957." It's a good way to get the word out to local people - NPR listeners are generally a highly desirable demographic.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:44 PM on September 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

And I forgot to say that each day sponsorship involves them reading your message several set times a day, just like regular radio advertising. Thus, the package of day sponsorships, in which your message would be repeated on a few different days, spreading it out.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:46 PM on September 17, 2011

Sorry to keep going on - my kingdom for an edit window! Anyway, if it isn't clear, none of these day sponsorships or the local nonprofits you're talking about are actually "sponsoring" the show at the national level. The show itself and NPR in general has no idea that Mountain Home for Displaced Raccoons even exists. Local NPR affiliates buy the hosting rights for the show (I could have this wrong, never having worked for radio, but I believe it's correct) and then work out their own funding, so the money from the local nonprofit donors is going straight to the local radio station, not to the program. The announcements are made by the local station that is currently offering This Old House or All Things Considered. If you go 50 miles to the next town, This Old House will be brought to you by a completely different sponsor.

This kind of local sponsorship (which is, yeah, advertising) is not at all the same as the kind of national sponsorship deal that you will also hear on those progams. Stuff like the Katherine D and John T MacArthur Foundation is a direct sponsor of the program and has nothing to do with the local NPR affiliate.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:53 PM on September 17, 2011

Thanks for clearing this up.

I asked this question because it occured to me that if I heard that a charity I supported was using its funds to pay for a TV show, etc. I might be kind of upset, and I think others might feel the same way. I'm not certain, but this feels like a somewhat (past ten years?) new development in fundraising/PR.

posted by werkzeuger at 4:26 PM on September 17, 2011

And to the "made possible/sponsored by" thing: an NPR station manager explained to me years ago that part of their license was that they couldn't broadcast advertising, but that they had a duty to tell you who was paying for the broadcast so that you knew what the possible biases were, and by the way, those sponsors were available at 1-555-555-5555 and sold various products, but that wasn't advertising, just being open about sponsorship.

Which is why you hear the sometimes hilariously weird phrasing about who pays for broadcast rights on NPR affiliates: they're trying to stick to some notion of what advertising means based on their relationship with the FCC.

But, yeah, it's purchased advertising.
posted by straw at 5:03 PM on September 17, 2011

From the FCC:
...acknowledgements should be made for identification purposes only and should not promote the contributor's products, services, or company. For example,logos or logograms used by corporations or businesses are permitted so long as they do not contain comparative or qualitative descriptions of the donor's products or services. Similarly, company slogans which contain general product-line descriptions are acceptable if not designed to be promotional in nature. Visual depictions of specific products are permissible. We also believe that the inclusion of a telephone number in an acknowledgement is within these general guidelines and, therefore permissible.
Three example violations:
  • Price information
  • A call to action
  • An inducement to buy, sell, rent, or lease

posted by djb at 8:35 PM on September 17, 2011

This kind of local sponsorship (which is, yeah, advertising)

I remember a guest on Fresh Air saying something similar once, and Terry Gross' quick correction: "No, it's underwriting" and I can see the distinction, there's a great difference between a calm voice at the end of the program naming its sponsor and an endless series of 30-second audio productions loud, hard-sell voices encouraging you to buy their products. It's what makes public radio listening such a relief and respite from commercial programming. Too bad there's so much more sponsorship announcing these days.
posted by Rash at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2011

As a former NPR station manager, yes, it is technically underwriting, not advertising, which is an FCC distinction as quoted by djb. FM stations on the "left" of the dial (up to 91.9) are reserved for noncommercial use only, which means that as a condition of the license the station must abide by the FCC's rules regarding underwriting.

This dates to the beginnings of public broadcasting in the US, and so is not new, but on public TV particularly approx. 10 years or so ago the FCC relaxed some of it's rules to allow "enhanced underwriting," which gets much closer to traditional advertising in form. PBS typically takes much more advantage of this than NPR, however, because cable has cut into their audience much more. There's not much competition on radio for the specific type of audience that NPR targets.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:18 AM on September 18, 2011

« Older 1950s lamp styles please!   |   Favorite museum websites Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.