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San Francisco public radio station tests out fundraising for grown ups

by: Michele McLellan |

May 24, 2011

San Francisco public radio station tests out fundraising for grown ups

Recognizing the annoyance factor of the traditional fund drive, KALW takes a different tack and still hits its goal of $300,000.

If you’re a public radio listener (and donor) like me, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time listening in frustration to the non-stop on-air station self-promotion of the typical fund drive. I’ve learned to live with the lengthy interruptions of regular programming as a necessary evil. But it turns out it might not be so necessary.

Just ask Holly Kernan, news director and host at KALW in San Francisco. “We’re raising good will as well as money,” Kernan said midway through the two-week drive, which ended last week.

Instead of interrupting programming, the station conducted a “short-form” campaign of 60- and 90-second spots, many of them humorous, featuring local celebrities. These rotated through with other sponsorship messages, Kernan said.

Public response was positive. Among listener comments reported by KALW:

“I’ve started commuting again and KALW makes it bearable! And the new, short, unobtrusive pledge breaks are wonderful. How respectful—I hope they work. This is my first pledge and the soft sell really hit home.  Thank you for everything!”  —Christopher, Alameda

“I like your innovative programming and that you are local and public. Also, the way you are doing the fund drive without interrupting the programming is great!” —Jodi, El Cerrito
“Love, love, love the new pledge drive format.  I’m hoping it’s even more successful than the old way of doing things. Basically, we listeners just need to be nagged - but you don’t need to nag me for 15 minutes.  It only takes 30 seconds to make me feel guilty!” —Stephen. Mountain View

Listeners responded with the wallets as well. Kernan said KALW thought it might take a hit on donations. But the campaign met its goal of $300,000. About 3,000 people contributed, including 900 new members, the station reported.

Thanks for setting an example.
Hope my local station, WBEZ in Chicago, gives it a try.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

By Michele McLellan, 05/24/11 at 5:03 am

Michele McLellan

Michele McLellan is a writer, editor and consultant who works on projects that help strengthen the emerging local news ecosystem,
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