Nonprofit Branding: Fall Fundraising in PubRadio: Shifting Gears for a Hot Tip

For this week’s blog post I had planned to write more about the importance of a graphic standards policy. But then Roger Gomoll at PRI sent along an interesting summary of a great John Sutton idea… which was tested and validated by Kurt Mendelsohn of KQED.

This is new insight into effective use of what we expect to be a GREAT contribution incentive in Fall, 2011. It comes from folks with long experience and great credentials. So I decided to postpone dealing with branding issues and share the following with readers.

The spotlight for today’s post shifts to the This American Life NEW flash drive – the INTERVIEWS Edition. (We’ll be back to blog posts on more universal nonprofit branding topics next week.)

More Insight & Support for Ira’s New “INTERVIEWS” Flash Drive

The following paragraphs in red discuss using a weekend show’s premium for stellar weekday results, as summarized by Roger Gomoll.

Ira Glass is offering a new “This American Life” flash drive for this Fall Fundraising season. It contains 13 hours of never-before-broadcast interviews, favorite recent episodes of TAL, plus video of the show’s staff on stage. (Find out more on the PRI Infosite.)

Last year’s USB flash drive premium from TAL– which contained 35 of the show’s best episodes, plus video –was not just a hit – it was a hit with a bullet. Many stations reported that they each used hundreds of these attractively packaged premiums. Some reported that these premiums triggered thousands of contributions. One of the largest users of the premium was KQED, a station that serves San Francisco and surrounding areas.

PRI’s Roger Gomoll spoke to Kurt Mendelsohn, KQED’s director of Creative Services, about the experience of using nearly three thousand TAL Flash Drives as contribution incentives. He wanted to know what KQED did to inspire so many listeners to contribute at a level necessary to receive the flash drive.

“On Saturdays, during TAL, the flash drive would be the ‘speed dial’ or ‘speed click’ gift.” Mendelsohn explained that “speed dial” or “speed click” gifts that were time-specific gifts that listeners could receive in addition to regular premiums only if they called or joined during a specific time.

But the really inventive use of the flash drive happened on a weekday. “At the suggestion of our expert consultant, John Sutton of RadioSutton, we decided to try it on a regular weekday as an all-day premium.

When we used it on a weekday, we would roll into an Ira clip at the beginning of the break. The feeling was that if it just appeared without context or setup- listeners would stay to listen. We felt that there was a good connection there and we found that listeners stuck with the pledge break. We also found that the short bits of content got people interested in getting that flash drive. “

Some of the clips used by KQED during the drive were the traditional Ira spots. Others were short segments of the programs that were featured on the thumb drive. Either way, fundraising breaks were successful on a number of levels.

“The audio bits we inserted built on the enormous success with the fantastic fundraising spots that Ira has put together over the years. They’ve been extremely useful to us and we appreciate them. We want more. We love those spots. They just gave the pledge breaks a different and fresh sound. As much as our pledge team prides itself on being able to build a great pledge break, these spots brought everything to a whole new level. We are attracting more new people AND more renewers when something unique comes up like the Ira Glass spots or the flash drive.”


Now, in case you missed the original notice – and assuming you are willing to excuse some redundancy – here is Ira’s note to stations:

Hi pledge drive colleagues!

Ira Glass here. The pledge drive premium we made last year was such a huge hit – the most popular thing we’ve ever offered listeners during the drive – that we made a sequel for this Fall that we hope will do even better. The original was a flash drive filled with favorite episodes of This American Life. The sequel is amazing material that’s mostly never aired on the radio. Specifically, it’s thirteen hours of interviews I’ve done onstage over the last dozen years with various famous and semi-famous people. The list includes:

  • Rachel Maddow, Joss Whedon, Studs Terkel, Michael Lewis, Terry Gross, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Orlean, Chris Ware, Jeff Garlin, Chuck Klosterman, Michael Lesy, Etgar Keret.
  • There are two interviews with my cousin Philip Glass, including a completely unique one where he sits at a piano and talks about his own compositions, phrase by phrase and note by note.
  • Plus a 90-minute video of our whole This American Life staff being interviewed onstage.
  • Plus me being interviewed by Dave Eggers and Terry Gross.
  • Plus seven favorite recent episodes of our show.

In all, it’s over 20 hours of stuff. All on a little flash drive that’s shaped like the This American Life logo.

To help you convince listeners to pledge for this boffo new premium, I’ve produced a full hour pledge show which has long and short excerpts from the interviews, which believe me, make for great listening. I also have a set of 2-3 minute modules you can drop into your program schedule any day, any time. They’re especially well built to run during drive time Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and the reason I know that is because that’s when I pitch these things myself on WBEZ.

We’ve worked hard here to make something unusual and attention-getting, hoping it’ll help all of us make our fundraising goals easier this Fall.

Hope you like it! And email me ([email protected]) or TAL production manager Seth Lind ([email protected] if you have any questions!

TAL’s first flash drive – an entirely new premium concept backed by Ira’s incredibly inventive promotions, was the biggest contribution incentive premium of 2010, generating over $4,000,000 in station revenue. The new INTERVIEWS Flash Drive, evolving from and improving upon that success, may equal or even exceed that $4MM record. But – despite its premium-power – you still have to pitch the INTERVIEWS Flash Drive effectively. And that’s why you can – and should – take the preceding suggestions to your next staff meeting for a solid, collaborative evaluation. Stations with good marketing skills may turn this into a break-through concept!

One thought on “Nonprofit Branding: Fall Fundraising in PubRadio: Shifting Gears for a Hot Tip

  1. Thank you to Ira, TAL, PRI and Visability for putting together a sure-fire pledge drive hit!

    A technical point to the article: offering an Ira gift like this as an all-day thank you gift has been done before and isn’t anything new. Ira’s spots and TAL thank you gifts work pretty much anywhere. We’ve been promoting the practice to many stations we work with for several years to great effect.

    Best, -mw.

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