The Broadcasters Foundation of America: 'People helping people,' says President Jim Thompson

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With local advertising still in the doldrums, broadcasters have been hit as hard by this recession as anyone else, leaving many people who have served this industry well scrambling to pay their bills and stay afloat.

That’s where the Broadcasters’ Foundation of America comes in. The foundation isn’t in the position to help every TV or radio employee that might find themselves in need, but it’s working hard to assist as many families as it can.

“This has been the perfect storm year,” says the BFA’s Jim Thompson, who’s been running the organization for a little more than a year now. “We have more needs than ever but it’s harder than ever to get people to contribute in this difficult economic environment.”

To that end, the foundation’s Web site traffic is up 100%, says Thompson, and its had as many requests for help in the past three months as it’s had in the previous year. You can read some of the heart-breaking stories of families the foundation already has helped here.

As a result, the foundation is turning toward creative solutions to raise funds. Recently, a member held a poker night at his home and raised $5,000, says Thompson.  At the NAB Radio Show in Philadelphia last month, Red Lasso, a company that allows bloggers and Web site producers to grab clips from radio and TV broadcasts and publish them, sponsored a cocktail party where attendees could get a photo taken of them with the Philadelphia Phillies World Series trophy (another one on the way?). That event raised $4,000.

The foundation also works with publications: B&C and Multichannel News, in fact, contributed a portion of the proceeds from their recent Hall of Fame dinner to the BFA. (Disclaimer: our publisher, Larry Dunn, is on the foundation’s board.)

Not everyone qualifies for aid from the Broadcasters Foundation, but it’s always taking and reviewing applications from those seeking need. If you or someone you know has fallen on unexpected hard times – if you or a family member has fallen ill, for example – the foundation may be able to help you. Send an email briefly describing your situation to info@thebfoa.org or write in at 125 West 55 St., 21st Floor, New York, NY 10019. After that, you will be asked to fill out an application and provide some proof of your hardship.

The foundation also is seeking to broaden its pool of donors, says Thompson. The ways to contribute are many: become a member of the organization for an annual contribution of $150. You can also make a one-time donation or get your corporation to donate to the organization’s Angel Initiative.

The Broadcasters Foundation also has a few events coming up that corporations can attend and support. The Golden Mike Awards at New York’s Waldorf Astoria in February serve the dual purpose of honoring industry luminaries and raising money. And two events will take place at this year’s NAB in April: a charity golf tournament co-sponsored by the NAB and the BFA and the Ward Quaal Pioneer Breakfast.

If a financial contribution is absolutely out of the question, the organization is always seeking volunteers. “There are only a couple of us here,” says Thompson. “This is a very lean operation.”

“We’re all about people helping people,” says Thompson. “Charity is something you hope you never need, but you never know what the future may bring.”

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