On-air fundraising interrupts your core programming, but sometimes your core programming has to interrupt your fundraising.
The impeachment inquiry into President Trump is the latest major news event to cause stations to pause their on-air drives to bring listeners breaking news and vital information.
Public media is a public service first, and our primary obligation is to deliver that public service to the audience. This is the key tenant to come back to in any discussion about pausing or postponing a fund drive.
If there is breaking or live coverage of a significant event such as a press conference or live testimony, your audience expects to hear it in the moment from you. To continue fundraising in such moments risks sending the message that raising money takes precedence over your mission of public service.
Pause your drive to make room for special coverage.
Be transparent with your audience: Remind them that you’re raising the money that it takes to bring them reliable coverage of historic news events, and that you’re pausing to deliver the service they expect from you.
When special coverage of a press conference or testimony has concluded, resume your drive and reassure the audience that your service to them is the highest priority. They can rely on you to bring them all of the coverage they expect.
If you need to extend your drive due to such interruptions, simply explain your decision to your audience and trust them to be understanding.
Of course your message need not overstate your actions. The message isn’t “See how great we are for doing the right thing and bringing you the news.” Rather, it’s a simple “You trust this public service and we deliver what you expect.”
If special news coverage is extensive, like the broadcast of a public impeachment hearing, you may be required to suspend your drive indefinitely. Trust in the primacy of your mission and that you’ll figure out how to meet your goal later.
Use the lens of your mission to make judgment calls about local news as well. If there’s a major weather event or other news event with serious local impact, your community is relying on you to provide the context and coverage they need and can’t get anywhere else. If there’s a major local event somewhere else, that impact may not be as severe and you could consider continuing your fundraising.
Your #1 responsibility is to your community. Donors will come through for you when you maintain your unwavering commitment to that end.