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Behind the Screens: Meet Betsy Gerdeman



Having worked at PBS for a few years in the 90s, Betsy returned to PBS last year to lead the Development Services department. In the interim, she held development positions at local PBS stations KLRU, WETA, and KLRN, as well as The National Cathedral, and Interfaith Ministries.


1. Describe your role at PBS.
Senior Vice President, Development Services. This department provides tools, services and training to all PBS stations to leverage all resources from PBS (content, educational tools, digital assets) for local financial sustainability through corporations, foundations and individuals.


2. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned so far working in public media?
No man is an island! We are all in this together- stations, PBS, NPR, CPB. Working together, our public media service for America will be stronger.


3. How does working at PBS differ from your previous positions, or from your prior role at PBS?
I have worked in several areas of the nonprofit sector, 3 PBS stations and was at PBS in 1997-2001. The work at PBS differs from the work at stations because we need to take into account all stations- joint licensee, state network, small stations, major markets, etc. in our decisions. Also, I am one step removed from the donors and that was the best part of working at a station, knowing and engaging the donors. PBS is different from other nonprofits because we have the potential to touch all Americans! Not just a community, not just the young, but everyone. We are a national treasure!


4. What’s your favorite mobile app?
Either United — because I travel a lot!
Or The Daily Show — Jon Stewart is the Jester in this crazy King’s Court of American Politics.


5. What’s the one website you can’t go a day without?
New York Times


6. In your opinion, what are the upcoming membership and development trends
How many pages do I have?! Very top-line—87% of all charitable revenue comes from individuals, 13% from corporations and foundations. Donors at all levels- $50 member to $5 million donor see their gift as an investment and want to see how the funding ties to the mission and purpose of the organization and the impact it has on the community.

PBS has a great story to tell of our mission and our service. We need to be able to articulate that purpose clearly for all donors. And more and more we need to be able to measure the impact we have, whether it is early learning through PBS Kids, supporting teachers with Learning Media, our work in the arts or news and public affairs. The largest demographic of all donors is the Baby Boomer—the PBS sweet spot.

We should be seeing significant increases in our support. There is huge opportunity here for our stations. And with the rise of data analytics—we have the potential to know our 3 million members almost deeply as our major donors and can engage them in new ways.


7. What’s one fact about you that would surprise most people?
I was a Juvenile Probation Officer in a former life! Right after college, I went into social services, but the work was too painful. Fundraising for good work was one step removed.


8. What do you do when you aren’t working?
Landscape design/gardening, spending time with friends and family, reading.


9. Describe PBS in a word.
Essential

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