Can we be as clever as NPR?

October 21, 2009 § 1 Comment

I have a love-hate relationship with Public Radio pledge drives, okay hate-love.  I hate the fact that they seem to go on forever.  I hate the fact that I can’t bring myself to change the station.  But I love their persistence.  I can certainly endure listening to twenty-five continuous minutes of pitches and appeals if my favorite voices on the radio can endure hour after hour of making those pitches.  Slate.com recently published an amusing piece about what they call “The cunning genius of the public radio fundraising drive,” and I’m sad to say that it works.  NPR knows its audience and just how to manipulate inspire that audience to give or give more.  I had already decided I would donate this year, but they managed to get more than I had intended.  Maybe it was Ira Glass’ sarcastic prerecorded appeal, maybe it was the fame that comes with having my name announced on the radio, or perhaps that “triple your dollars” matching grant that was about to “end.”  Okay, it was the digitally re-mastered Beatles White album.  But they succeeded in getting a larger pledge out of me than I had originally intended.

NPR has a huge audience.  They don’t sell tickets.  They’re on the radio for goodness sake.  Most arts organizations have none of these things, but can we figure out what our individual donors will respond to most and work to be as cunning as NPR?  Can we tailor our appeals and communicate them in one-on-one correspondence?  It’s just me and my favorite radio host in the car – an isolated one-on-one interaction.  The same could be said about really tailoring e-blast appeals for individuals who may respond best to the free gift, or the matching grant, or the education program.  I don’t think most organizations have the human resources to do this on the fly, but it is something to build on.

–Joe

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§ One Response to Can we be as clever as NPR?

  • Anonymous says:

    I, too, have a love-hate relationship with the NPR pledge drives, but they are very effective. I was almost driven to give money this year because of the persistence of the radio hosts. I only didn’t because I’m a poor graduate student that truly CAN’T afford to give even $1 a week, sad but unfortunately true. I think that the non-profit sector could learn a lot from NPR, I’m not exactly sure how, but I think there are some very clever people in the non-profit resource development world that could figure out unique ways to find more donors.

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