Treating On-Air Fundraising as a Campaign IV

In my discussions with prospective CDP stations, I’ve talked with fundraising staff about the ‘whitewater rafting’ aspects of Pledge. That’s my own metaphor for the campaigns we navigate throughout the year—just as you’ve frantically paddled your way through a giant wave, you have little time to rest before the next wave is about to hit.

I’ve been on those whitewater rafting trips dozens of times. So, given the limitations of time and a shortage of full-time staff to align your on-air pitches to specific cross-platform campaign language, I have some suggestions.

One thing to remember is that pledge drives don’t have to be discrete campaigns with goals associated only with telephone or web direct response. By incorporating the multi-platform thematic approach, the station will have a cohesive campaign that can build awareness and reinforce off-air efforts, including mail, e-solicitation, telemarketing and major giving.

For example, if your classical station runs an off-air campaign with the theme of “Supporting Artists in the Community,” brief on-air cases and thematic spots would provide specific examples that would bolster the theme. When all of the pitchers use the same messaging in each shift, you have reach and frequency working in your favor to reinforce the theme as people open their mail, e-mail, visit the web site or attend events.

At WQED/Pittsburgh, we played off the “Voice of the Arts” theme in scripts that demonstrate how listener support for Classical QED makes the station an inextricable pillar of the arts in the region. After about two years of reinforcing that message, listeners now parrot those messages back to us when supporting the station during pledge.


Five Things You Can Do Right Now

  1. As part of the larger strategic plan, devise a year-long theme around the community’s role in helping us carry out our mission. By focusing efforts on a single theme, you won’t have to keep re-inventing the wheel each pledge drive

  2. Market the concept of the cross-platform theme internally. That will reinforce that every stakeholder on your team has a role in executing your strategy

  3. Use the theme as a jumping-off point to write donor-focused spots and live scripts; ask staff for input and incorporate those ideas into the messaging. Make sure that the viewer or listener is the hero, not the station or hosts

  4. Set aside two hours per week to write or collaborate on scripts for the upcoming drive; share and swap scripts with stations of similar format and market size

  5. For radio, use different color paper to organize messages. Building breaks is a snap when you know that a Case is on yellow paper, a Call to Action is on blue, Premiums on pink, Sustainer on orange, etc. I use as many as a dozen colors/categories in a pledge drive.

Personally, I would like to see national year-long campaign themes for TV, radio news, classical, AAA, jazz and joint licensees to be featured on multiple channels, including on-air pledge. That would save money and allow the station to add variations on the theme throughout the year.

Would that help your station?

Barry NelsonComment