October 29, 2015

Beyond the Idea Accelerator with Teresa Peltier: “The Change Jar”

As the grand finale to NTEN’s Leading Change Summit, a covey of 15LCS attendees pitched and developed changemaking projects during the Idea Accelerator.

The Summit may have ended, but many of these projects are just getting started. Today, we want to introduce you to “The Change Jar,” an idea pitched by Teresa Peltier.

What is your big idea?
The Change Jar is a microdonation campaign that highlights the importance of public media during the election season, in order to explore new audience networks and test new fundraising models.

The Change Jar will allow the user to chose his or her local public media station, set an automatic microdonation level, select an automatic payment schedule, and connect with his/her preferred payment vendor.

When feeling frustrated by commercial media or inspired by a local station, the user simply opens the app/mobile site, and taps the change jar to add a few cents to the pot. Or, he grabs the change out of his pocket, and drops it into a real-life jar.

On Election Day 2016, community members will automatically send their change to their local station or drop off the value in their jars. They’ll know that when they gave their change, they also helped change the conversation in their community!

How did the idea get started?

Our CEO and our Development Director shared a great story with me a few months back…

One of our listeners felt so frustrated by the negative political messaging he continually heard on commercial media (and so grateful for the respectful, in-depth coverage he heard on public media), that every time he changed the channel away from a negative message, he took the change out of his pocket, and put it in a change jar. He also stressed the importance of public media not accepting underwriting dollars from campaigns and political advocacy groups.

When the election season ended, he donated all the change in that jar to WSKG.

How did the idea evolve during the Idea Accelerator?

I came to the Leading Change Summit with a set of fairly broad strategic ideas. I planned to work on these gradually. Though I looked forward to the opportunity to practice my pitching skills at the Idea Accelerator, I didn’t anticipate offering an exceptionally interesting idea.

However, during the Summit’s opening remarks, I was really inspired by Michael Smith. He came out asking if we were “Fired up!” and I left that night fired up to work on a tangible, community-driven idea. The member story above immediately came to mind.

Throughout the Summit, I tailored my work session choices—pilot programs, systems assessments, continuing engagement—to building the idea and gathered as much feedback from my hub-mates as I could. They were especially helpful in crafting my pitch on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, I came to the Idea Accelerator with a solid inspiration and opened myself to critical feedback from public radio lovers (and haters!). Accelerator helpers not only refined the basic idea, but they also gave inspiration for advanced elements down the line and perspectives on how the app could help any nonprofit fundraise. The experts onhand also provided a lot of guidance—they found all the holes, made sure I had an MVP, and gave me repeated chances to pitch the idea and hear thoughtful feedback. Thanks to the hard work my teammates put in, I even had time to mock up some basic app designs.

The Change Jar Wireframes

Who could use this?
In its original form, The Change Jar app is designed for public media stations who air and produce news content. I’m looking for pilot stations to help WSKG test the app; if you work at a station, please reach out!

However, the concept behind the app and the in-real-life campaign have lessons and models for any nonprofit. I hope that the app has legs beyond this election-specific effort for public media organizations and for other nonprofits who want to reach donors and make change in new ways!

What does this project need?

This project really needs two things:

  1. A great app developer looking to build his or her portfolio or help the public media cause!
  2. More public radio and television stations who want to pilot the app in their local communities!

What’s next for this project?
We hope to launch this project in our local market in Upstate New York as soon as possible. With a group of pilot stations, we can take it further and faster and craft lessons for all of public media. Who knows— maybe someday, you won’t hear your local station asking for donations and offering tote bags; maybe you’ll just tap your Change Jar when you hear something good!

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Teresa Peltier
Teresa Peltier is the Director of Digital Strategy and Organizational Planning at WSKG Public Media in Binghamton, NY. She enjoys kickstarting change online, in the community, and in the office. Teresa is a mentee in the Public Media Women in Leadership program and a former member of the PBS Digital Advisory Council.