What Can We Learn From Morning Edition?

Radio.jpgI come from a background in public radio, and still find myself connected to (and rooting hard for) my local station in these tough economic times. I feel a special affinity for the fund raising portions of all things public radio: I vividly remember an on-air tear filled collapse during the stressful final hours of a pledge drive at a local Virginia NPR affiliate in my childhood, and I’ve worked on both the receiving end and the programming end of pledge drive chaos.

So it’s really not a surprise that I was both interested and amused by June Thomas’ Slate.com list of 10 most effective fundraising strategies that public radio employs. Her list seems spot on to me, calling out the impulse towards fundraising by guilt (major turn off) and complementing the ways in which Public Radio has come to really know it’s audience and know how to motivate them. Public Radio listeners are flattered, they are cajoled, and they are even threatened (at least with the idea that some one like Ira Glass might call their house), but at the end of the day they do seem to give.

My question is, can other groups pick up on some, or all, of these tactics? An amazing thing happens in public radio: everyone hates the pledge drives (trust me... everyone hates them on both sides of the radio waves), yet people. still. respond.

Maybe this is because there is a certain intimacy and connectivity that comes from radio: you often feel like you are sitting in on a personal conversation when the medium is done well. That intimacy certainly does breed an unusual dedication that listeners have to public radio -- I often think some listeners relation to the shows that they love borders on the fanatical. Other causes, then, need to pick carefully from the top ten list: I can guarantee that there are very few large groups of people that will keep coming back after by an entire week and a half of constant badgering, but I also have noticed that I was more likely to give to a campaign if they were offering some sort of gift that they thought I might like... and would even give a little more if it qualified me for some conspicuous consumption product.

Alan Smith

Posted at 1:00 AM, Mar 11, 2009 in Philanthropic Strategy | Technology | Permalink | Comments (3)


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