While listening to a recent year-end pledge drive online I heard a seasoned announcer say the following in the course of an hour. “We have volunteers in our conference room who are socially distanced with shower curtains hung between them. I don’t think any of them have taken a call since I joined you 20 minutes ago, so we need you to call now.” “We have to wrap up this match challenge by 4 because then we have an even bigger match we’d like to roll out.” While I liked the word picture of volunteers wrapped with shower curtains for COVID protection, as a listener what is my motivation to give when nobody else is? Why would I want to give to the current match challenge when the next one will be even bigger? And why am I hearing we, we, we?
Jumping into three do’s and don’ts for pledge drive, some may seem pretty basic but as illustrated above, it’s amazing how often simple best practices don’t happen. When it comes to pledge drive, ALWAYS: #1 message each break as if it might be the only one some listeners will hear, #2 understand that the close is the most important part of every break, and #3 create multiple “end-of-hour” opportunities every hour. And NEVER: #1 tell listeners we need you to give, #2 say the phones are dead, or #3 one-up your co-host.
The reality is, your next break will be the only one some of your listeners will hear during all of pledge drive. We lead busy lives and we have many choices for how to spend our drive or down time. And as much as we wish it wasn’t so, for most, radio is a background medium. An out of the gate pattern interrupter is the best way I know to cut through the clutter and grab your listeners’ attention. If your go-to is saying something like, “(Station name and positioning statement) with the latest from For King and Country during Spring pledge-drive. Hello, I’m Rich Anderson and…” Instead, try saying something like this, “We’re talking about things you’d like doubled and things you wouldn’t. You can double the hairs on my head but not my waist size, please. How about your gift to (station name)? Right now, the next five callers will see their gift doubled.” Most people don’t typically like being asked for money so it’s imperative you make your pledge drive content compelling and fun and different. Sounding different stops your break from being a background medium and gets people to listen. And since it might be the only segment some will hear, it’s important that they hear it loud and clear.
Tell me if you can relate. Your break just went way longer than you were expecting and phones aren’t ringing like you’d hoped. You hurriedly start the next song and you have 12 seconds to give a web address and phone number twice. Sound familiar? Don’t ever rush a close because you feel like you went too long. As the call to action, the close is more than just giving a phone number and web address; it’s the most important part of the break. Did you catch that? The close is the most important part of the break and as Jeremiah Beck has wisely coached me, “a strong close can even redeem a poorly executed break.” One of my favorite closes is to talk the phones full. Ask for the first caller and then before the song starts say something like, “Okay, there’s one, who’s going to fill line two? Yes, there’s two! Something’s happening. You’re doing it! Who’s going to grab line 3? Boom!! Alright, how about four?” (Of course you only say this if the phones are ringing as we want urgency with honesty.)
You’ve certainly noticed that the last 5-10 minutes of many hours during pledge drive are explosive as it would seem everybody likes to give when we say we’re down to just a few minutes to make goal. What if multiple times an hour you’re down to just a few minutes to make an intermediate goal? Creating multiple “end-of-hour” moments during every hour of pledge drive is perhaps the single best thing you can do to supercharge your event. What would it look like if 20 minutes into an hour you said, “This is the final song. It will take you and four others with your best gift before the end of this song…” If I’ve just tuned in and I hear that, I’m likely not waiting for the next match or an end-of-hour push.
So why not tell listeners, “We need you to give?” They love us and should want to give what we need, right? Most research suggests that the number one reason people give to Christian radio is because they like what they get, or their family gets, from your station. Bill Thrasher says, “The biggest factor in listener-giving is that they appreciate the work you are doing to enrich their lives.” So, your donors are giving because of what they get from your station and because doing so likely provides them with a good feeling. A distant second is because they believe they should support ministry. But giving because we want them to give doesn’t even show up in the research I’ve seen. Remember, it’s not about we, we, we; it’s about THEM!
Your listeners will appreciate compelling and concise pledge drive breaks. In the heat of the moment, though, when your co-host shares a great case for giving, instead of taking the exit ramp and executing the best close ever, it’s sometimes in our nature to try one-upping our co-host. You know the drill, “Bob, your story reminds me of the time I was fishing in Alaska and the thickest fog ever rolled in over the bay. We couldn’t see one another let alone the rocky shoreline.” If the fog story is that good, let it stand alone in another break. And if you don’t know why not to say the phones are dead, please see my last article in HisAir. J
As I’ve had an opportunity to host pledge drives on many stations, I’ve discovered that a slight change in messaging gets the phones to ring. While hosting an event at a fairly large multi-state network, I found that if we said call now to get (the premium) for an investment of only $10 a month – normally $30 a month, we might get a call or two. If instead we said, limited to the next five who call, we’ll give you (the premium) for just $10 a month, normally $30, but it’s limited to the next 5 who get through – – – we’d get 8-10 people to call. And that number would increase if we heard the phones ringing after we said it and then we’d message, “Oops there goes one, which leaves just four – you and three others…”
Let’s engage in some fun and compelling and effective fundraising in 2021!
Rich Anderson is ready to help you with your next pledge drive, or any fundraising need, for about half the price of the big firms. Rich got his Christian radio start over 30 years ago at the legendary AM 1000 WCFL-Chicago and 103.9 WCRM-Dundee. Rich served as PD/afternoon drive at WJQK-Holland, co-hosted mornings at WMUZ-Detroit, and later started and managed WAYK/WAYG (Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids) while also on mornings. Rich has traveled the country serving major donors for Kids Alive International and conducting radio drives for ShareMedia Services. Rich has a heart for service and has organized and led 17 mission teams to nine third-world countries. Currently Rich consults Smile FM, Michigan’s largest Christian radio network, on all things fundraising – and he’d love to help you too! He can be reached at email@example.com or 269-548-7700.