An Open Letter to Ira Glass

Dear Ira Glass, Like millions of others, I’m a big fan. And like too many of those others, I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t support This American Life. I listen to the podcast at the gym, and delight in rigor of the reporting, the creativity in the telling, the things I learn, the things I laugh at, the things that make me cry. And I should support the work you do because, frankly, it matters to me. But I don’t.

And I don’t because it’s not something I think about. And this I lay squarely at your feet.

My need is to have This American Life doing all the things it does so well. Your need is to have the wherewithal to do those things. And because, frankly, you need is more urgent than mine, you must create the nexus where what we both need crosses. That, in fundraising parlance, is when you solicit me, when you make the ask.

And, on the podcast at least, you don’t do that more than once a year and often less. And when that ask is made—once—I’m never anywhere where I can do something about it then. And there are no reminders, so after a “yes, I will do that as soon as I get back to my desk,” I don’t actually follow through.

But not asking is only one of the issues. When you do ask, you are so clearly uncomfortable about asking me for support, it gives me pause.

You say you don’t want to bother me but why would I be bothered by having the opportunity to make a difference and be a part of helping to create amazing radio?  Wouldn’t I, rather, feel privileged to be able to be a part of something that means something to me? And it must have meaning…I download the podcast weekly and listen. More, it gives me food for thought and conversation.

As a (potential) donor, to you or any other organization my big request is that you make it easy for me to give to you. That means I need for you to remind me. And show me what my gift does. And talk to me from my perspective.

I won’t give just because YOU need the funds. I will give because I want to enjoy the fruits of what you do. It is, sadly but inextricably, always all about me. In your case, learning about me is easy. I listen, therefore you can assume that you are giving me something I crave. Ask me to ensure that what I want will continue. Not that you will be able to make great radio, but, rather than I (the donor) will be able to listen to great radio.

I am also bemused that you only want to raise “enough.”  Admirable I suppose. But frankly I want to know that you have more than enough–that you will always be able to follow opportunities, do the work you want to do. I’ll remind you that “nonprofit” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring in more than you spend. It has nothing to do with profit but, rather, what you do with that profit. And what you do—what I want you to do—is to plough it back into your programs. Or create a reserve so you will never have to do emergency fundraising.

In short, I’m asking you to ask me to support something that matters to both of us. To be, in a small way, a part of what you do. Give me the opportunity to join with you and partner and to do so, not at the smallest level I can, but at the largest I can manage. And yes, that might be the $5 you ask for—but it’s not about the money, really. It’s about commitment. Yours to your listeners, and your listeners to you.

 

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising results and improve their capacity to do the work that means so much. Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the newsletter and ask for your free 30-minute consultation. And yes, I did talk myself into supporting This American Life by making a donation at www.thisamericanlife.org/donate.

 

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About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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