Prometheus Radio Project

Philadelphia, PA

The Prometheus Radio Project builds, supports, and advocates for community radio stations which bring together and empower participatory community voices and movements for social change. To that end, we demystify technologies, the political process that governs access to our media system, and the effects of media on our lives and our communities!

Project Description: 

The Development & Communications project would entail directing a fundamental change in fundraising policy, moving Prometheus towards a more grassroots fundraising strategy. This project would also include developing and maintaining systems for Prometheus’ donor and paid technical service relationships. It also entails creating communications tools, such as a regular and targeted donor appeal, for soliciting a broad base of financial support from those that access our services.

* How you determined the need for this project

Prometheus has been most successful at raising funds for our operations due to our successful work in changing federal communications policy. This fundraising has tended to subsidize the station support services that we provide, because before stations are on the air they have very little they can contribute to support our organization. As a result, we have not developed the mechanisms of soliciting support from the stations that we provide many services to for free. Now that many of our stations are on the air, we need to begin asking them to do their part to raise the money we need in order to continue offering the services that we provide for them.

* Why this project is timely

Now in our tenth year, Prometheus is reaching for a level of institutionalization that requires sustained support directly from our constituents. While we have done a great deal of grassroots fundraising over the years, we have not been able to devote sufficient time and attention to it’s systematization to have efficient, successful systems that reliably meet our grassroots fundraising goals.

* How the project would increase community engagement

This tool would engage the community (i.e. community radio station) that Prometheus supports in the long-term sustainability of Prometheus as an organization. This will make Prometheus more accountable to the communities that it serves, and will be designed to develop more meaningful relationship between Prometheus and these constituents.

* How the project relates to other activities or elements of your organization or community

Another key aspect of this project will be to further engage our board of directors in fundraising. Right now, our board does great work as individuals helping our organization to succeed, but the board is not organized in its role in fundraising. A key element of this position will be board development, and helping the board to establish systems for greater participation in the fundraising process.

In this position, the Americorps volunteer will assist Prometheus in developing systems for tracking appeal and grant schedules and deadlines, creating and implementing communications strategies necessary for engaging a large base of donors, and developing the financial management skills for integrating fundraising strategies within an organizational budget.

Project Tangibles: 
Knowledge of regulatory frameworks for media policy is important to the survival of any broadcast outlet in the U.S., including low power radio stations. This VISTA member will aid Prometheus in researching issues relevant to community radio in technology, politics, media and law and creating and implementing educational strategies for communicating these issues to a popular audience. In doing so, the tangible products resulting from this project would be policy papers and education tools reflecting regulations that favor grassroots media producers.

Supported Projects

Research and Technology VISTA

Katie Ingersoll

The VISTA will assist Prometheus Radio Project in researching and evaluating data to better understand the current regulatory landscape in the world of community radio.

First, the VISTA will survey stations and review FCC data to create a “snapshot” of the regulatory landscape for community radio in 2011. Issues addressed may include encroachment from full power stations, interference from digital radio signals, anticipated new eligibility requirements for low power stations, and the impact of rule changes surrounding the relative priority of low power stations and translators. The snapshot will inform out advocacy, helping us to prioritize our efforts and support our statements to the FCC. Documents produced by the VISTA will be made available to other media justice organizations, to better inform their work in field of public media and technology.

Second, the VISTA will launch a new effort to involve stations in their own regulatory advocacy by developing and promoting an “FCC Comment Tool” and related resources, such as a guide to FCC participation and an online forum on regulatory advocacy. Together, these efforts will support an informed and active community radio sector.

Development and Communications VISTA

Ian Smith

The Development & Communications project would entail directing a fundamental change in fundraising policy, moving Prometheus towards a more grassroots fundraising strategy. This project would also include developing and maintaining systems for Prometheus’ donor and paid technical service relationships. It also entails creating communications tools, such as a regular and targeted donor appeal, for soliciting a broad base of financial support from those that access our services.

Goal 1: Help build and solidify Prometheus’ ability to engage community radio stations and community radio supporters in opportunities to support Prometheus financially and in a regular and sustainable fashion.

Goal 2: Create a more sustainable source of funding by developing technical services and products that Prometheus can offer for a fee.

Ian’s work as been essential at building the capacity of the organization at a key time of growth and transformation of Prometheus.

Towards goal #1 of increasing regular, constituent contact, Ian has: shepherded the development of a new database merging 4 into one, developed a system for maintenance, trained all staff, coordinated a monthly eNewsletter, coordinated an annual mail appeal, implemented CiviEvent for pre-registration for events, and implemented a paper sign up sheet system for events. As a result, our database list grew by 7,456 new contacts, including over 600 from the US Social Forum where Ian’s sign up system was first used. We now have over 1000 facebook fans who receive regular updates thanks to Ian’s merging of our email, web, and facebook communications. A database consultant worked with Ian to build the CiviCRM database after which he largely implemented the above with input from Prometheus collective members.

Towards goal #2 of building grassroots fundraising support, Ian has helped develop a work plan and donation calendar for the Development Team which has guided our work throughout the year and made reporting on progress much easier. He designed and launched our new Sustaining Funders program. He also designed and launched out new major donor program by identifying potential donors and inviting them to key events and creating a donor packet. Ian assisted in writing a number of grants and grant reports for Prometheus, helping to gather statistics on the effectiveness of our programs and the demographics of our constituents. He did these in conjunction with our Development Director.

Towards goal #3 of developing web donor tools, Ian has built a number of custom donation interfaces to our new database and build contact and other forms on our website. As a result, the new website will integrate seamlessly with our database, cutting out costly duplication of data. We can now track what appeal or route online donations come from and better assess the success of our specific fundraising efforts. Ian was trained by our web developer to create these forms.

Regulatory Research VISTA

Brandy Doyle

Prometheus has always done work to make the workings of the FCC more transparent and to bring a wider array of voices to the table as the FCC considers the media future. A VISTA will allow the organization to reorganize this often harried work into a more systematic operation for Prometheus.

The regulatory research project involves researching legal and technical issues as they relate to communications regulations, for the purpose of informing regulatory rule-makings. This would include topics such as Low Power radio, media ownership, spectrum policy, and the analog to digital transition.

Goal 1: Make FCC regulations and lawsuits relevant to media reform accessible to a broad audience

Goal 2: Prepare outreach plan for future FCC filing windows

Goal #1 for our second VISTA was to “Make FCC regulations and lawsuits relevant to media reform accessible to a broad audience.” Brandy Doyle has developed a working knowledge of FCC regulations and telecommunications law that she’s used to educate both the general public and other staff members on the rules that impact community radio. She has written a number of brief, plain-English articles about complex regulatory subjects, including digital radio, radio spectrum policy, and broadcast media ownership. Brandy led the effort to develop a comprehensive plan for the organization’s regulatory work, including a 20+ page document on regulatory work – the most comprehensive the organization has ever produced. This plan proved instrumental gathering input from the entire staff collective in decisions about future regulatory priorities. As part of her goal to make regulatory procedures more accessible, Brandy designed and led a series of public workshops in different settings. In April Brandy held an educational workshop at WMNF Community Radio in Tampa, Florida on media ownership and FCC rulemaking process. In May, Brandy co-presented on “Community Journalism: Its Relevance in Radio and How to Bring it to your Newsroom” with Terri Klemetson, news director at KMUD, and co-presented “The D.C. Report: Community Radio, Politics And Policy” with Pete Tridish at Grassroots Radio Conference. Also in May, she facilitated a discussion with Davis Media Access about the challenges and benefits of community radio/public access television partnerships. Brandy has been aided by her coworkers in the regulatory policy team who have taught her how to research FCC dockets and given her context and information to make sense of them. She has also received support from the rest of the staff.

Because of her own interests, skills, and experience, Brandy has chosen to taken on a number of general writing and editing projects for the organization. Brandy has worked with the communications staff to think through a more comprehensive press strategy, not just a press strategy for outreach, as described in her VISTA assignment, and has played a role in improving our process for media advisories and press releases. Another responsibility Brandy has taken on has been to help coordinate aspects of our new website launch. She’s also taken on responsibility for responding to requests to volunteer at Prometheus, a role that rotates amongst collective members.

All of Brandy’s work has been conducted with an eye towards sustainability. The documents she has helped to produce continue to be re-used on our website and in policy briefs for FCC staff and public education. Brandy has provided an invaluable long term contribution to our organization. - Danielle Chynoweth, VISTA Supervisor

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