NPR Fund Drive Timing
April 16, 2015 9:27 AM   Subscribe

It's fund drive time at my local NPR station (WOSU) and something I just heard on the radio got me wondering: do all, or most, NPR stations have their fund drives at the same time?

Fresh Air with Terry Gross just came on but started off with Terry saying something along the lines of "since today is a pledge day, we're replaying one of our favorite interviews...". I know Fresh Air is played at stations all across the country, so are they all in fund drive mode right now? Or does Fresh Air make repeat episodes with special fund drive intros available to stations to use during their fund drives? And if so, are listeners of my local station missing out on new episodes because of this?
posted by noneuclidean to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
Our station experimented with a longer, less invasive drive format this year, so I can tell you that Fresh Air is indeed broadcasting new episodes this week, and you're hearing a special one made just to air during pledge drives.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2015

Nope, they don't do them at exactly the same times. Like, many have a spring fundraiser, but it could be March, April, or May. Same for the fall, end-of-year, and the dreaded "we didn't meet our numbers" fundraiser.

As muddgirl says, shows tend to make special fundraiser episodes that are more evergreen, have host outros to the station staff doing the pitching ("We'll be back with more in a minute, but first, here's an important message..."), and probably have giant holes knocked in them where the station pitches can go. Sometimes, though, the stations will simply drop a whole segment of a regular episode and then use that time (itself broken up throughout the hour or half-hour) to pitch.

Your listeners may indeed be missing out on new episodes, or at least part of episodes, if your station is doing the more traditional fundraiser which stomps all over the regular clock in order to have more time for pitching.

There is a newish fundraiser format, which may be the one muddgirl's station is using, which simply uses all of the airbreak time which usually goes to weather, news, traffic, sponsor messages, and other housekeeping, to instead pitch the listeners to give. It can work very well and is a lot less disruptive. It is, however, really, really, really hard to get fundraising staff to do anything new. Some of them have been using the same tired fundraising copy for decades.

Source: I work with the stations that broadcast the public radio show I co-host and co-produce.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:54 AM on April 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

Our public radio station switched to a one-day fundraiser instead of the week-long affair so that's different (and much bettter IMO) than what many stations do.
posted by mikepop at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2015

which simply uses all of the airbreak time which usually goes to weather, news, traffic, sponsor messages, and other housekeeping, to instead pitch the listeners to give. It can work very well and is a lot less disruptive

My local (WFDD, out of Winston-Salem, NC) is doing this, only keeping the critical components in (local news, weather and AM traffic) and making a big deal about how programming is not interrupted but they really for real actually need people to pledge. If they make their goal by a certain date, they won't do any programming interruptions.

But to actually answer your question - I'm in an area where I can get three different public radio stations, and they are usually a week or two off in their pledge drives. So I can switch from one to another to get the non-pledge programming. And no, not all stations do it at exactly the same time.

I'm a sustaining member of my most-listened-to station, so yeah, sometimes I do switch over to one of the others during pledge drives.
posted by jeoc at 7:17 PM on April 16, 2015

My local station won't begin it's announced drive until almost three weeks from now. So, I don't expect Terry Gross will be promoting the local drive on these airwaves. She seems unique among the few public radio program hosts who embed a pledge tie in to the local station in their own show.
posted by CollectiveMind at 9:31 AM on April 17, 2015

And yes, listeners probably are missing a new program on-air for that day (or those days) of the drive. But since Fresh Air probably uploads each new show to its podcast, it's there if people want to hear it. My guess is that Fresh Air produces special fund drive shows that local stations can choose when their drives roll around. These shows also seem to have different breaks than the regular shows that let local fund drive managers insert more pitching. The only drive that seems to be shared by everyone more closely is the fall drive because, I think, most stations operate on a fiscal calendar and seem to start their drives shortly after October 1st. But the timing of spring, summer and winter drives seems more flexible.
posted by CollectiveMind at 9:42 AM on April 17, 2015

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