March 28, 2009

I listen to National Public Radio lots when I drive. Right now, my area stations are doing their on-air pledge drives right now.

And NPR does fundraising well!

The recent on-air pledge drives are about the best I’ve ever heard. The radio pledge patter hit me hard enough that I want to share it with you!

Here are the key points that resonated so much with me: belonging; membership is contributing; the perfect gift; and the importance of donors.

First, it’s all about belonging.

NPR plays broadcast journalist voices and then says: “If you recognize this voice, you belong.” I do recognize the voices. I do belong.

NPR plays the theme music for various shows and then says: “If you recognize this music, you belong.” I do recognize the music even though I don’t remember which show. I don’t care which show, I still belong!

Over and over and over…they remind me that I belong. That I’m an important, essential, critical person. They remind me that my gift makes a difference. They remind me that I make a difference. Me.

I belong. I’m part of the tribe. I’m part of the gang. Giving is about belonging.

Next, all gifts matter because all donors matter.

Yes, all donors matter, and so do their gifts.

One of the pledge drive presenters said “Whatever amount works for you is perfect for us. Any membership contribution makes you a member. You belong.”

How good is that? NPR talks about $1 / week or $1 / day or $12 / month. Lots of different ways of giving. They explain to me what different gifts can accomplish.

Then they confirm my importance, my value as a donor with the statement “whatever amount works for you is perfect for us.” Empowering me to give. Saying that I’ll have impact. Respecting me, not my money.

Giving isn’t a financial transaction. Donor’s aren’t interchangable sources of cash. I’m important; me the donor. How often do you tell a donor: “What amount works for you is perfect for us”?

Membership is a contribution. Using the term “members” and “membership” can be good – cause it’s about belonging.

But be careful, selling membership benefits may well leave me out. I don’t care about the membership benefits. I want to sustain the cause.

Members and donors should be the same thing. Membership benefits don’t matter to lots and lots of people. And if you’re “selling membership benefits,” and I’m buying “contributing to make a difference,” then I’m not buying what you’re selling. You’ve lost me. I may not give because I don’t see myself as a “member buying benefits.”

NPR avoids that trap by using the phrase “your membership contribution.” And it’s great that any membership contribution makes me a member. There is no minimum.

A final thought: It isn’t always about the big stuff, it’s about the little stuff.

A pledge presenter was talking about what he cared about. He wasn’t talking about one of the big shows like “All Things Considered” or “Prarie Home Companion.” Instead, he was talking about little moments that he likes.

He said how it’s great when NPR journalist Robert Segal talks about big news items. And how it’s also cool when Segal talks about psychotherapy for dogs. (What did I hear? Robert Segal is great no matter what he’s talking about. And NPR talks about big important things and curious interesting things and that’s why NPR is so special.)

Then the pledge presenter said how much he liked it when NPR reads the names of donors, like Jennifer and Ted Stanley. And if you listen to NPR, you always hear the names “Jennifer and Ted Stanley” in almost every donor list. I recognize the names “Jennifer and Ted Stanley.”

But the best is yet to come! The pledge presenter said “Who are Jennifer and Ted Stanley and why do they love NPR so much?!” And his voice was loud and excited. And I found myself chanting the same thing. And I’m still doing it today: “Who are Jennifer and Ted Stanley and wow are they ever cool to keep giving to NPR and why do they love NPR so much?”

And you know what? I want Jennifer and Ted Stanley to come on the air and tell me why they love NPR so much. I want to know the donor story of Jennifer and Ted.


About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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