My public radio station (WBUR - Boston) has started a new service to purchase items online and part of the proceeds goes to fundraising.
http://www.wbur.org and click on the link
I have an uneasy feeling about this. I can understand selling books or music that relates to ongoing programming, but DVD players and an Oster blender?! This is straight on commerce, and seems at odds for a public radio station, especially one that is basically a news outlet. They are now in competition with stores.
On the otherhand, why not raise funds this way? People are getting a good deal on stuff they want, and contributing to something they believe in. It’s the capitalist way, not relying on on-air fundraising or gov’t support.
Is this a proper fundraising tactic for a public radio station? How does this relate to non-profit status? Is this corrupting the unbiased reputation of public radio or just a better mousetrap?
Well, “non-profit” doesn’t mean “no profit at all ever”, it just means that they do something different with the profit they do make, namely plow it all back into the business, instead of pocketing it and using it to buy themselves new cars and vacations to Hawaii.
NPR isn’t a church.
As long as they pay unrelated business income tax on the items that are unrelated to their nonprofit mission, then yes, it is allowable for a nonprofit organization to sell things like blenders. The law is slightly more complicated, with words like regular and substantial, but I don’t have time to post a source, as I have to get to my job as a nonprofit fundraiser. You could look up UBIT on google or check out Bruce Hopkins’ The Law of Nonprofits.
Thanks for the info on non-profit laws.
I guess I’m more disturbed by the impression that Public Radio is getting off course. I don’t want my NPR station to be competing with local appliance stores. That’s not their role, and I think it dilutes their standing as a non-commercial media establishment.
I want the stations to be self-funded, and not rely on gov’t support. I’m just not sure this is the way to do it.
It seems like their is some parallel to SDMB and what are methods of raising funds that are acceptable to the user base.
Ah, do I detect more than a little bit of, “my heroes are revealed to have feet of clay”? I know where you’re coming from–we expect NPR and PBS to be nobler somehow, “above all that” capitalism stuff.
But tell me this–what’s the difference between buying a blender at the NPR store, and receiving one as a “pledge gift”? Tell me, when you got your WBUR tote bag or your WBUR t-shirt or your coffee table book on Sister Wendy, that you didn’t “purchase” that item. See?
Non-commercial TV and radio have to pay rent, same as everybody else, and the money’s gotta come from somewhere. Viewer and listener pledges have never served to underwrite the whole cost. The bulk of the money has always had to come from corporate sponsorships, like Mobil and Exxon. Or from Le Classique Music Shoppe, “For All Your Classical Music Needs”, or from “Bob and Betty’s Lunch Wagon, serving breakfast 24 hours a day”.
I remember discussions back in the 1970s and 80s when those corporate sponsorships started getting really intrusive. It was like, “Well, Mobil can have Masterpiece Theater because we understand that all those sets and costumes cost money, but why do we have to see the Johnson & Johnson logo at the end of Mr. Rogers?” People were purists back then, and I guess they’re still purists now.
But one thing that has changed is the amount of federal funding available for NPR and PBS. The well’s gone dry, folks, that’s all there is to it, so the purists who want to continue to support non-commercial TV and radio may have to swallow their scruples and buy that new blender at the NPR store instead of Wal-Mart.
I’ve been paying dues to public radio and public TV since before many posters were born. I’m not planning to stop, but I do have some gripes. One is that it’s less and less “non-commercial.” Since Mobil gets mentioned for their donation, I’d like to get the same treatment. “Buy December’s calendars – they give you 2 extra days every month!”
A second bitch is that it seems to have moved from being controlled by “the public” to being controlled by a certain group of people. I bet they think its their media empire. I don’t know the in’s and out’s, but I suspect that they mostly hold liberal political views. I also suspect that there’s no easy way to replace them with conservatives, or Reagan would have done so.
These last two points are just guesses. Does anyone know the facts?