Milwaukee-based Journal Broadcast Group, which operates four radio stations and two television stations in Tucson, recently announced the formation of a partnership geared toward promoting local charities.
Journal will focus on one charity organization a month, starting in January.
"It has been my goal to use our airwaves to strategically make a difference in the community," said Bobby Rich, who acts as operations manager and morning-show host at KMXZ FM 94.9 (MIXfm) in addition to his new role as Journal's Tucson director of community partnerships. "Journal Broadcast Group has always made supporting charitable organizations in each of its markets a priority. By combining the efforts of each of our Tucson stations, we can coordinate to bring an even greater awareness to the needs and solutions available in our area."
Journal's plan is to select a charity (there are nonprofit-status eligibility requirements) as its focus for a month and to work media coverage around the organization through radio stations KMXZ, KGMG FM 106.3, KQTH FM 104.1 and KFFN AM 1490, and television partners KGUN Channel 9 and KWBA Channel 58.
"In the hard times like this, everybody understands a lot of nonprofits are struggling right now," said Steve Alley, president/CEO of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, which acts as an umbrella organization for about 500 local charitable outlets. "To be able to draw attention to a particular area is always helpful, because a lot of times, the stories about these nonprofits, and the great work they're doing, don't get out. I think there's a capacity to help, to give, that this community has that can be energized by that type of message: 'Here's something you can give to, and this is something worthwhile.'"
Alley is hopeful the efforts of Journal and other media outlets can do more than lead to a spike in donations, and instead help organizations maintain a more consistent cash flow.
"About 18 months ago, Information and Referral Services was close to going out of business, and there was a push and boost they received, but it didn't solve the longer-term issue for them," said Alley. "It's a help in the short-term, but part of what we need to remember as a community is ... what these organizations are dealing with are long-term. They need support not just when the media comes calling, but throughout the year. I think that's one of our challenges as nonprofits, to keep it out in front of people throughout the year so that it doesn't get to the point where people are announcing they're going out of business (and that) they need your help now.
"The more you can get that common message out there, the better. Most nonprofit organizations don't have marketing budgets, so this is a gift from that standpoint. They might have the money to do it once, but not follow through after that."
Journal's $1.5 million dollar figure comes in the form of media-buy contributions.
"The community's agencies hold all of us together, especially during these difficult times," Rich said. "My hope is to help them help others."
Of all the traditional media platforms, radio may be best-suited for fundraising purposes. Print and television can certainly be beneficial in terms of story coverage--a recent Arizona Daily Star special editorial section focused on the need to contribute to charities in light of difficult financial times, and print and TV can always run good feature stories on, say, shortages at the Community Food Bank or an upcoming Red Cross blood drive--but both TV and print have news responsibilities. They aren't promotional hubs, while radio, meanwhile, isn't nearly as constricted by journalistic restraints. Its ability to consistently connect locally allows for more leeway in terms of charitable-fundraising ventures.
With the holiday season at hand and the economy in especially difficult straits, annual charity events, like MIXfm's traditionally successful Diaper Drive, will carry more weight.
Lotus stations KFMA FM 92.1 and KLPX FM 96.1 have drives planned throughout December. KFMA will participate in a raffle at Charlie's Comic Book Shop to benefit Casa de los Niños on Dec. 6, hold court at Old Chicago to collect goods for the Marana Food Bank on Dec. 12, and will join sister station KLPX on Dec. 19 for the fourth annual toy drive at Dunkin' Donuts on Grant and Swan roads to benefit La Paloma Family Services.
At Citadel, KIIM FM 99.5 is in Penny Pitch mode again.
"It's a series of benefits for Arizona's Children Association," program director Buzz Jackson said via e-mail. "It begins with a $5 ($10 on the day of the show) concert from country artist and CMA nominee James Otto at the Cactus Moon on Dec. 11. Then we do a live broadcast from the Foothills Mall food court Dec. 17-19 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, collecting people's spare change. Our goal is 1 million pennies for Arizona's Children Association--and over the past dozen or so years, we've raised almost $300,000."
Sister Citadel station KHYT FM 107.5 is signing up participants for the 27th annual Sun Riders Toy Parade the weekend of Dec. 13.
You can track down more information on various holiday charity endeavors--those mentioned here and others not mentioned--through respective station Web sites.