WXRY-FM: Amplifying the Voices of Our Community

I’ll never forget the day that WXRY (FM 99.3) came on the air. They had been promoting the station for a few weeks in print ads that billed this new listening option as “The Independent Alternative.” They caught my attention with the assertion that this was the music that my generation listened to in college (i.e. early to mid 1990s).

Considering that WXRY launched on St. Patrick’s Day with a 24-hour marathon of only music by Irish rock band U2 (my personal favorite), it seems appropriate that the station is now a client of the 24-hour pro bono marathon that is CreateAthon.

What many people didn’t realize when it first began, and some may still not know, is that WXRY is an independent, nonprofit, public radio station. When you hear “public radio,” you more often think of NPR or a university-owned radio station. In fact, according to WXRY’s President and General Manager Steve Varholy, nonprofit public radio is the fastest growing segment of radio because of the quality and independence of the programming. They have the freedom to play what they want to play when they want to play it.

WXRY is owned by The Independent Media Foundation, a local 501(c)(3) foundation, and it is programmed by a small staff of professionals and volunteers who are longtime residents of the Columbia area. In a landscape that is increasing dominated by corporate-owned media conglomerates, it is refreshing to have a truly local voice in town, especially one that is committed to the community and not to shareholders.

Naomi Sargent of Columbia Opportunity Resource during a taping of The Buzz, one of WXRY's regular segments promoting community activities and involvement.

Naomi Sargent of Columbia Opportunity Resource during a taping of The Buzz, one of WXRY’s regular segments promoting community activities and involvement.

WXRY’s business model is completely different from any other radio station in town, and intentionally so. Their mission is “great radio that builds and serves your community.” Their goal is to get real community voices on the air and to serve as a catalyst for growth and renewal in the Columbia area by shining a light on all of the great things that are happening in our city.

Our work for WXRY during CreateAthon will focus on the development of materials to help them expand their FM frequencies and service area as well as build additional studio and office space. Meeting these goals will enable the station to continue to increase its engagement not only on the air, but also in person.

During CreateAthon, just as I do every other day, I’ll be streaming www.wxryfm.org at my desk and rocking out to the best alternative tunes of yesterday and today, knowing that by supporting this nonprofit media outlet, I’m also supporting all of the other nonprofits in my community whose voices they amplify.

CreateAthon Case Study: District 5 Foundation

When we concocted the idea of CreateAthon all those years ago, we were careful to identify the kinds of organizations we believed would be best suited for our 24-hour pro bono model. That list was pretty simple: a candidate had to be a private, 501© 3 organization, as opposed to a governmental agency, church or school. So when we got an application from the District Five Foundation last year, we weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Wasn’t it a school district program? Wouldn’t that break the rules? Upon closer inspection, we learned the Foundation was indeed a private, nonprofit organization in good standing, comprised of parents who were dedicated to raising money for all manner of important educational initiatives that otherwise would not be publicly funded.

Color us intrigued.

We learned that in just a few short years, the group had raised upwards of $60,000 annually to deliver some really impressive programming, resources and experiences to District 5 faculty and students. Their goal was to up their game, reaching the $100,000 fundraising mark annually. 

The communications issue was two-fold: 

1. Nobody understands why a Foundation is necessary in the public school system (aka “I pay taxes, enough already”).

2. Nobody understands why a gap in public school funding is everyone’s issue, and what’s at stake if we don’t fill that gap (more well educated students yield a better workforce, better leaders, and a stronger community).

We understood the intellectual value of what these folks were trying to do, but we knew the message could be a real yawner. What absolutely set us on fire, however, was the passion of the parents who were in involved in this gig. So we got our 24-hour game on.

Here’s a quick look at how we addressed their objectives.

Nomenclature and identity: After the necessary research, we determined the organization needed to be called what it was. No time or budget for cutesy conceptual names.  The ever-magnificent Maria Fabrizio developed an identity that put FIVE front and center.

Brand strategy: We developed a comprehensive message platform based on the thesis that District Five Foundation is the only organization that can move beyond the confines of public education budgets and deliver the kinds of advanced learning experiences students and teachers deserve.  It’s all about getting past barriers and making things happen.

Website: Our fellow Weconians, truematter, rose to the challenge yet again and led the way toward a web site that distinguishes the Foundation’s work and makes it imminently clear how people can get involved. 

Development strategy: We helped the Foundation diversify its development plan by developing engagement opportunities for four different giving audiences. We also outlined tiered giving levels, with engagement opportunities for specific audiences and initiatives.

Social media: Keely Saye and team worked their digital marketing magic, delivering a buyer persona study, content strategy, keyword research and editorial calendar to fuel social media growth and web site traffic/engagement.

A year later, we’re told the CreateAthon work has significantly helped the organization raise its profile within the community and attract new levels of support. Specifically, the Foundation is on track to exceed its fundraising performance from last year, which will allow it to bring more, different, and better educational opportunities to students and faculty.

We think that deserves a high Five. 

In Pursuit of Purpose

We had to see it coming: Aaron Hurst, founder of Taproot Foundation and the guru of the pro bono movement, has moved beyond inspiring us to share our professional skills as a means to social good to building an entire economic sector around doing work that matters.

Aaron’s new gig is CEO of Imperative, a cadre of social entrepreneurs, product developers, economists and all-around brilliant creative minds. They’re on a mission to create a fully functioning Purpose Economy by 2020. The bottom line? Helping people and organizations uncover, activate, and monetize work that leaves a mark on this world — and making a good living doing it.

I got a preview of this big fat idea last winter, when I attended the first-ever Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted in NYC by Taproot. Our last exercise was to figure out – in 15 minutes, no less — how to transform the pro bono marketplace into a $20 billion economy by 2020. We burned up some post-it notes on that, let me tell you.

Those close to Aaron knew he was already at work on the Purpose Economy, writing a book while making the transition to Imperative. Ever watchful for news of the book release, I noted the announcement by Imperative just this past week of the Purpose 100, a compilation of people throughout the world who are deemed to be “transforming our innate need for meaning into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.”

In a culture obsessed with the “awards season,” it’s refreshing to see people recognized for their bravery, creativity and tenacity in pursuing something larger than themselves.

I encourage you to spend a few moments with this list and consider the ways in which these remarkable human beings have channeled the talents, experiences and relationships they’ve cultivated in their lives into a force for good.

Then get out a sheet of paper and start looking for your purpose. It’s there, just under the surface, waiting for you.

Riggs Partners Receives Ten Awards at InShow

Riggs Partners Receives Ten Awards at InShow

COLUMBIA, SC (November 18, 2013) – Work developed by Riggs Partners was recognized for the 19th consecutive year at InShow, a juried competition showcasing creative excellence from across the state.

Riggs Partners’ winning entries included:

The agency also received a special judges award for the Palmetto GBA Annual Report.

InShow is presented by AIGA South Carolina, a chapter of one of the industry’s oldest and largest professional organizations. InShow was created 19 years ago by the Columbia Communicating Arts Society to showcase the very best work in the Columbia market. In 2004, AIGA South Carolina took over, expanding the event to a statewide competition.

“InShow is always highly competitive, and we’re so proud of our team for their success in branding, design and interactive for such a wide variety of clients,” said Cathy Monetti, founder and partner of Riggs Partners. “Plus, to receive a special judges award is the cherry on top.”

The value of pro bono

A recent article in the New York Times speaks to the importance of not working for free because it devalues all creative vocations, rendering our work worthless to a culture that often defines value monetarily. As a part-time freelance designer, I tend to agree with this premise in a practical sense. Why should I give my time, effort, and skills to someone at absolutely no cost? For exposure to new audiences? A chance to beef up my portfolio? The possibility of future work? While such offers sound appealing and may at times even benefit the creative, they are ultimately the equivalent of asking for a free 5-course meal at a fancy restaurant in exchange for a positive review on Yelp. Spending all your 9 to 5 efforts on a project for next to nothing in return could therefore be considered an insane waste of time.

Why then do we do it once a year, for 24 hours straight? Because pro bono is not just working for free, it’s consciously giving for free: giving of our time and talents to deserving nonprofits who’s jobs are to give of themselves every day; steadfastly giving back to our communities what they have so graciously given us — a chance to make the world a better place. As I reflect on CreateAthon and all the good that was done last week, I realize that not all work done for free is worthless or a devaluation of our creative talents. Pro bono work can in fact have far greater value when done for the benefit of other do-gooders. It’s this spirit of giving back, this CreateAthon, that continues a cycle of good in our community. This is our ever-so-small contribution to the continuing rotation of the great world around us. And for the joy set before us, we will do it again and again.