Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top 40 gives way to Pandora

While listening to a presentation by Trident United Way on their new strategic focus I remembered how my older brother used to put his transistor radio in just the right spot (strangely, it was above his bedroom door on the far left of the door frame near the ceiling...he held it there with a small hook).  Positioned just right it would pick up WLS in Chicago.  WLS turned up its wattage at night and with our radio there, in just the right spot, we would get it.  Even so the DJ would fade in and out.  The music would come to us in gentle waves across the dark cornfields and moonlit hog farms.  By day those fields and farms were blanketed by low wattage local radio stations broadcasting farm reports.  WLS gave us Top 40 radio and no pork belly futures.  It was the keeper of "cool."  The definer of "hits."

Last week I tried Pandora, an internet radio-like station that fine-tunes its offering precisely to your likes and dislikes.  It has a thumbs up and thumbs down feature so you can rate each song until you get a stream of tunes that perfectly fit your tastes.  Hearing Trident United Way's new strategic focus on Education, Health, and Income made me wince.  For a moment I heard a snippet of Casey Kasem of Top 40 fame.

The greatest threat to United Ways, community foundations, and any other channeler of charitable dollars to specific nonprofits is that donors will use the power of the internet to find their own philanthropic siren songs.  They will reach out and find the causes they care about and make their own decisions, thumbs up or thumbs down, on who or what they want to fund.  We can either facilitate that, like the internet's Pandora radio, or we can make our suggestions so good that it is worth it to struggle to put your radio in just the right spot. 

I understand that you can still hear Casey Kasem's Top 40 each week on some low wattage stations.

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