I understand why PBS and NPR stations have pledge drives. I realize that they need people to give them money to survive. I have in the past but usually don't any more because I completely hate the pledge drive format. I love the programming these type of stations provide...it is definitely better than most other stations original programming. I just wish I didn't have to listen to them trying to sell themselves.
First and by far foremost, if I pledge or not you are still going to annoy me for the following two to four weeks. When I have donated in the past, it has driven me nuts that I still have to listen/watch the pledge drive crap. If there is some kind of technology that would get me back to regular programming without interruptions as soon as I pledged, I would pledge right away. Then I would be happily to miss lines like "They call it 'Breaking News' but the news isn't broke(sic) here at Iowa Public Radio." That made me want to stab people.
Then you claim all the rest of the year that you are commercial free...which is pretty true. I would counter however that short commercial breaks may actually be less disruptive than you talking up donating for 20 minutes in a row. Seriously, last week I was driving home one night and I didn't hear any programming but instead heard about how Joe Blow in Waukee donated and he is a first time donor, and Jill Shill from Cedar Falls loves NPR and can't live without it (I'd like to test that theory), etc... It is almost as bad a reality TV.
Keep the interruptions to the professionals. I can't stand an amateur getting on there and rambling incoherently. If I want to hear pointless, humorless stories from people who are not good story tellers, I'll talk to the people I work with. The volunteers/amateur people that help out sound so awful that it really makes me want to turn the channel. It sounds like a disaster.
I hate the "Challenges." You know, the type of thing where somebody (or group) says that they will donate $5000 if they get 150 calls in an hour. What kind of pussy pledge is that? That does not inspire me to donate at all. I mean if the large donors are being hesitant and putting conditions on their donations, why should I donate? I mean, I could donate $1 million but some ridiculous condition on it that they can never fulfill...but what good does that do for anyone. Plus pledge counts? How is that a useful stat at all? Couldn't someone who wants to donate $100 just call in 20 times and donate $5 each time...I guess they wouldn't get their crappy prize, but wouldn't it be better for the station during a challenge? But then again if they have credit card processing fees it could be worse...but that just shows the idiocy of call count challenges in my mind. I do respect the couple that always does the "new member" bonus for Iowa Public Radio...pledging $20 for each new member is actually a good incentive (one of the few good things about a pledge drive).
"Thank You Gifts" are crap. I could buy the same thing for about 10% of the pledge amount required. I guess it is supposed to be a token of their appreciation or something...but really they are trying to entice you into buying yourself a gift with their 20 minute infomercial. If the "gifts" (or more accurately purchases) didn't matter, they really should have to talk about them so much. Instead of a set gift (because they never really offer what I would want), why not just build up credit in the company store? If you please $100, you get $5 credit in our store...well I guess that would show people how much they are actually getting ripped off with the thank you gifts. But the nice thing about this is that it could build up over time. Maybe I can't afford to donate $250 now but if I donate $125 now and $125 in six months, I can build the credit to go for the higher gift...just like tickets in an arcade, save them for the bigger prize which entices you to come back and spend more money.
If you are set on giving Thank You Gifts...make it something that you can't buy in the store (and I am not talking about a special colored t-shirt). Make it something special. Have a concert only for people who donate on Thursday...no other way to get tickets. Have enough special events and you could have multiple donations from the same person. Have a special screening of a show or movie, have a member party. Experiences that you can't just go out and buy. Experiences are much more enticing to me than objects. I definitely don't need another t-shirt or a coffee cup. I have too many objects as it is, but I am always up for new experiences.
Don't save all your good programming for your pledge drive. For example, I love the John Denver specials that PBS shows every pledge drive. Sometime I would like to see them without the interruptions...but they never seem to be shown at any other time of year. You always say "Support this programming" but it seems that I would only be supporting pledge drive programming. Just as I am getting into the show, you decide to take a 20 minute break to the call center where I quickly lose interest and turn the channel. Maybe I will turn back, but most likely not. If I like the program so much, why don't I donate and get the DVD? That makes my donation seem useless in my mind...it seems like then I should just buy everything I want to watch instead of supporting IPTV. Aren't I paying them for the programming? I should get to watch it on their station, not on DVD. You may try to argue, that I am really supporting the production of this type of program. True and I do want to support that, but you have been showing the same shows for over 15 years (An Evening at the Pops with John Denver was recorded in 1991 I believe).
There are many other ways to raise money. I am all for donating, but I don't want to support the pledge drive format. I am the same way with commercials - if you have an annoying commercial, I will not buy your product. I don't want you to think that the pledge drive is what made me donate and that it is a model that works. I do not want to encourage the pledge drive. It is keeping me from donating at this time. I really do want to support you, my local stations...please find another way for me to give you money.