How to Use Air Checks to Make Each Drive Better Than the Last

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive, aircheck, pitching

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When we surveyed stations last year about their on-air fundraising practices only 30% said they used air checks from on-air drives. Programmers use air checks to review and improve everything else on your station. Since fundraising is programming, we should use air checks to make drives better too. 

Air checks are the best way to experience your membership drive the way a listener does, which is exactly what you need to do to create a listener-focused pledge drive. Air checks are the best tool we have to make our drives sound better (keeping listeners with us) and perform better (turning listening into more givers and revenue).

When you do listen to air checks, here are some good ideas about when and how to listen, and how to use what you hear to improve the sound - and fundraising effectiveness - of your drive.

1. Listen to air checks after every drive.

And don't wait too long to do it! It's best to listen soon after the drive so the experience is still fresh in everyone's minds.

Don't look for your best or the worst pitch-breaks. Instead, find a handful of typical examples of how your drive sounded. This is what your typical listener heard.

And, of course, listen to the same air checks again right before your next drive to reinforce what you're aiming to improve.

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IRS Rules You Must Follow for Contests and Drawings

Membership, pledge drive, tax law

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Raffles or drawings can accomplish fundraising goals for a tax-exempt organization while also providing entertainment for the organization and participants. But these fundraising events require a bit of tax planning to keep IRS issues at bay (and note that separate laws apply to state-level and federal income tax exemptions).

The IRS views raffles and drawings similarly to lotteries: participants pay for the chance to win prizes, and the host typically determines winners by drawing tickets at random.

When hosting a raffle or drawing, tax-exempt organizations may need to:

  • Obtain information about the prize winners
  • Report prizes to the IRS
  • Notify the winners of this reporting
  • Withhold federal income tax on the prizes
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What You Should Know About How Most Stations Run On-Air Drives

Membership, pledge drive, General Management

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On-air fundraising practices are the very lifeblood of public media. That's why we at Greater Public take a moment every so often to scan the landscape to discover what most stations are doing and not doing; how much, how often, and when. 

We've just released our 2018 On-Air Fundraising Practices Survey. This snapshot includes responses from 101 public media stations from all over the country and reveals how most stations are running their on-air drives. It shows us what practices are nearly universal, and which ones may be trending. 

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Here is a glimpse of a few of the findings we captured in this year's survey:

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Creative New Ways to Engage Listeners During Your Next Drive

PMDMC, Membership, Social/Mobile, pledge drive

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Informed by recommendations and case studies from Paul Jacobs of Jacobs Media, and Frank Auer of WGBH.

On-air drives remain one of the biggest fundraising opportunities for public media and certainly the biggest driver of new donations to stations. But how can you keep listeners tuned in, engage them more effectively, and get more of them to give? Try experimenting with one of these ideas:

1. Connect with Millennials using relevant language and giving options.

Engaging Millennials is a buzz topic. While there is no single Millennial profile, Jacobs Media Strategies found several relevant takeaways about public radio listeners from this generation as part of their Millennial Project.

Non-commercial radio is a key concept for Millennials. They like that “it’s not trying to sell me anything.” The medium is viewed as trustworthy and credible. Also:

  • A connection to the world that offers lifelong learning.
  • Civil, not sensational.
  • Educational and challenges preconceived notions.
  • “The least partisan way of staying informed about things that matter.”
  • “Intellectual thinking with community-focused programming.”
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How to Approach Fund Drives at Music Stations During Natural Disasters

Membership, pledge drive

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In difficult times, the power of music is vital to our listeners as a reflection of our lives, as a respite from difficult news, as an inspiring and energizing force.

However, when it feels like the outside world is turning upside down, with a political environment that’s as divided as ever, and now major natural disasters impacting millions of Americans, fundraising for music can be decidedly tough, especially for a distracted audience.

Conducting fund drives while  natural disasters unfold requires a great deal of sensitivity. Settling on the right strategy and finding the right messaging mix is essential.

We know that some donors will reallocate money they might have donated to their local station to disaster-relief. That’s understandable. But it’s important to continue to educate your listeners - with sensitivity - about the importance of supporting the music programming they value. Our set of scripts for music stations to use in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma can help you give context and balance to your messaging efforts.

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How to Approach Fund Drives at News Stations During Natural Disasters

Membership, pledge drive

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2017 has already dished up a dizzying array of news. As the fall drive season starts, our country is facing multiple natural disasters, including one of the worst in recorded history. These events are front-and-center in our listeners' minds, as they should be.

Handling drives as natural disasters unfold requires a great deal of sensitivity. We know that some donors will reallocate money they might have donated to their local station to disaster-relief. That’s understandable.

But catastrophic events are also an opportunity to educate listeners about our vital role  providing news and information when disasters happen. Even if some listeners decide not to give to your station this fall, make a strong case for the value of your service for when they do return or finally join as a new member. Our on-air scripts for fundraising during a natural disaster can help you find the right language.

First, do not apologize for fundraising right now. Your station provides an important service that listeners depend on.

Here are other messages to focus on right now:
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Three Great Ways to Grow Listening Among Your Audience

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive, Engagement

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Informed by recommendations from Michelle Owens of Vermont Public Radio, Craig Oliver of Greater Public, Jody Evans of Public Radio Program Directors, and Izzi Smith of NPR

Listening is the most elemental unit of the public radio economy. The past year has seen record increases in listening, and many stations are converting that increase into new revenue, updated case statements, and new content for future audiences. The importance of listening is simple: Those who listen more have a better ability to understand and internalize the value of public media and the public funding model. Decades of studies have indeed shown that station revenue is listener-sensitive; more people listening means greater opportunity for fundraising success. Better fundraising leads to more investment in great programming, which brings in more listeners and so on.

Here are some great ways to grow listening over the long-term.

1. Understand that listening actually decreases during a drive and plan accordingly.

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The Healthy Station's Secret to Getting More Donors

Membership, pledge drive

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What’s the most effective way to get more donors? This is among the questions we at Greater Public hear most frequently from our colleagues in membership. And they’re right to ask.

Increasing the number of people who actively give money is the most reliable path to building and sustaining public radio’s financial health over time.

While some stations have had great success strengthening their membership core with sustainers, sustainers aren’t immune to attrition. The pressure on membership as a revenue source continues to increase, and would increase significantly if public media were to face cuts in federal funding. And, simply put, there are so many members who have the potential to give! Why leave them without the opportunity to connect to the content they love?

So how do we get more donors?

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Should I Shorten My On-Air Member Drive?

Membership, pledge drive

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Many of us have discussed the anecdotal reasons for or against shortening our member drives: “So-and-so station tried it and it worked great for them.” “This is how we’ve always secured the majority of our revenue. Why would we mess it up?” Of course, as a fundraiser, it’s your job to go beyond instinct and evaluate this strategy based on a calculated potential for revenue.

At Greater Public, we’ve created a tool that calculates what shortening a drive would mean for your station, based on three key numbers from your Greater Public Benchmarks Trend Report.


Once you’ve assessed this option for your station, keep in mind three “principles to live by” when it comes to shorter on-air drives:

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The Changing Messaging of Minnesota Public Radio’s Music-Service Member Drives

PMDMC, Membership, pledge drive, Music stations

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Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) has shifted the focus of their music-station member drives away from drive goals and toward the value their music services provide. MPR fundraising and event specialist Liz Meyers took some time at PMDMC 2016 to explain the details of this changing philosophy, as well as how it has affected the station’s membership bottom line.

MPR is a 45-station network made up of three services: MPR News; Classical MPR; and The Current, the station’s AAA stream. Member drives occur on all three streams at once, and member-drive messaging is tailored for each, but all donors are MPR members, not members of an individual service.

Shifting the Strategy

MPR has deemphasized messaging around money and member goals in its on-air fundraising. The station’s new philosophy is that financial goals are for the membership team to worry about, not the audience. The primary message to the audience has become:

“This is our value. Help keep this service strong.”


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