LMC Media Raises Operational PEG Funds with Annual Community Gala

Updated: Jan 10, 2024

Located in Mararoneck, NY, Larchmont-Mararoneck Community Television (LMC Media) is a nonprofit organization that supports three PEG Channels for public, education, and government programming on two cable systems, online, and through its streaming apps on OTT and mobile platforms. Founded in 1983, LMC Media, like many PEG Channel operations across the country, has been searching for ways to diversify revenue streams and cover operational costs, which are increasingly affected by PEG funding restrictions. In this pursuit, they decided to explore a gala fundraising model which proved so successful during its pandemic-era launch that they’ve continued it rely on it for a sizeable chunk of their annual revenue ever since.

Mark Litvin, board president of LMC Media, spearheads the annual event, which has raised more than $80K each year since it was established. The funds are used toward payroll for LMC Media employees.

Litvin worked in the nonprofit space for his entire career and retired from New York City Center, an Off-Broadway performing arts center, in 2018. An annual gala in the arts and culture world is almost routine, he explained, because it helps people learn about and appreciate an organization while allowing that organization to make money.

Before he joined LMC Media, the station had no fundraising efforts – and he had never been in charge of fundraising. But Litvin’s family had enjoyed LMC Media for years, and he wanted to give back to the community. He said other people support LMC for a variety of reasons.

“For some, it is the educational aspect we provide, ushering in a new generation of media makers and teaching residents of all ages how to tell their own stories in their own voice,” he offered. “For others, they support the access we provide to local news and information. And there are others who support us because they value the services our PEG channels provide to local nonprofit groups.”

The event was launched in 2020, but as LMC Media began developing a fundraising program, COVID-19 hit. Litvin pivoted – and the first gala became a virtual gala. Anyone who donated received a link to watch a 40-minute program, which included a 20-minute video presentation.

“It actually worked out well,” Litvin said. “People appreciated being able to do something without leaving the house.”

The next year, it became a sort of hybrid event. Attendees could watch an exclusive video in a local movie theater (with COVID spacing) or watch it at home. Finally, in 2022, the event was back to what should have been its original format. The gala began in a local movie theater, where another original video was screened and an honoree received an award. Then, the party moved to a local restaurant for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. LMC Media repeated that format in 2023. The videos are produced by LMC Media’s executive director, Matt Sullivan, and generally focus on media history in the region.

Litvin offers words of encouragement to other PEG channel operators who might question their community’s willingness to support their work. “There’s a lot of active nonprofits [in our area], and other charitable organizations have a gala in the fall as well. I was quite happy this year that we were able to maintain the level of giving that we’ve established.”

For LMC Media, planning for its annual October gala generally starts in January. Litvin said the lead time is necessary to decide on a theme, arrange for honorees and begin outreach to get high-end donors on the invite list. There is generally a gap in activity during the summer, when residents tend to leave on vacation. The on-air bulletin board is used to help promote the event, and trailers for the event and film premiere are shown on its LMC Media’s channels and live stream. The gala is also aired/streamed in the days after the event.

Picking an honoree for a fundraising event is “tricky,” according to Litvin. “We avoid anyone holding public office. Typically, the honoree will be someone who is recognized broadly in our community, has been instrumental in helping LMC in some way or the community at large, and has many friends who might be capable of supporting LMC.”

For 2023, the gala had seven honorees, which is unusual. The gala’s theme was media education – past, present and future. The honorees included former media teachers and two high school teachers from the area, plus high school graduates who completed our Young Filmmakers program.

If an event like a gala sounds appealing for your PEG channel operation, Litvin has some advice. “First, look at your community and find the wealth,” he said. “There’s money everywhere, so find out the profile of your community.”

Get a sense of what your market will bear with regard to ticket prices, and establish a budget to determine the type of event you want to produce. It doesn’t have to be formal; depending on your area, a barn dance can be just as effective as a gala. “Use your event as an organizing principal to gather donors to give support and learn about your organization,” he added.

Once you’ve gauged your community and decided on an event, create a committee of board members and philanthropic community members who will be active in your efforts to raise money. Remember, the bigger or more complicated the event, the longer lead time you’ll need.

Then, you need to get the word out. A save-the-date announcement via the post office or email is a great tool. Building that database of supporters (and their friends) is critical. “It’s all about execution,” he added. “Volunteers are great, but when you absolutely need to get something done, you’ve got to pay people.”

Litvin concluded with one tip he learned some time ago that he likes to share with other organizations in the PEG channel industry: “If you want to raise money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.”

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