Marketing Tip- Public Radio Fund Drives

Everybody Wins

There is a helpful marketing tip of which I have been aware but neglected to mention. If you ever have the opportunity, it could be beneficial to appear on a fund drive for your local public radio station. The result can be a win-win situation for both you and the station. I have never been on, but will be this weekend. I have a few colleagues who speak well of the opportunity. I will admit as many times as other have talked about the value of the experience, I didn’t take the initiative to approach the station about the possibility, they called me in this instance. But if all goes, well perhaps I will be submitting proposals in the future.

If you can provide some sort of desirable item or service they can use as a premium reward for listener support and are willing to go on air to encourage people to pledge some support, you will also have the opportunity to talk about your organization. After all, the better your organization sounds, the more desirable the tickets/membership/sculpture reproduction you are offering appears, the higher the station can value the objects or services you provide today and in subsequent years.

All About Building Awareness

Even if the timing of the particular pledge drive falls during your off season so you are offering subscriptions to an unannounced season or to a very popular annual event whose details haven’t been finalized yet so you can’t talk about specifics, the mere act of increasing awareness of your organization is of value. My appearance on the show may not result in any ticket sales but at the very least it creates goodwill by showing we support a program listeners care about.

That is why I refer to this as a marketing opportunity rather than advertising. First of all, public radio stations have restrictions on calls to action in underwriting so there may be a restriction during fund drives as well. Second, this is a much greater opportunity to tell your story and position yourself in the community than is afforded during a 30 second advertising post. The value of the tickets versus being able to talk about my organization for a couple of minutes between songs over the course of 30-45 minutes is a pretty good trade off.

Different Preparation

Having an expanded opportunity to talk about your organization means a different type of preparation than goes into writing press releases and ad copy. As I said, I haven’t been on yet but it is clear to me that as with any public appearance by a organizational representative doing a little advance research and picking the correct person to represent you is crucial. Not only do they have to be conversational rather than woodenly reciting, “Yes, Bob, we have been presenting the finest in polka and klezmer at the corner of Oak and Main for 34 years,” they have to assist the fund drive by citing the value of public radio to the community.

Obviously, what your organization does has to mesh with the programming on the station to some degree. We don’t do a lot of classical music so I am not going to be appearing during any of the classical music shows. But that works out for me because I will be on during the show that is most closely aligned with the performances we do present. It should go without saying it is also good if you sincerely feel the station is a benefit to the community and can speak passionately on the subject rather than just looking to exploit the opportunity entirely for your organization’s gain.

I’ll be interested to see how things turn out and will certainly report on the results.

NB- It occurs to me that I was remiss in mentioning that in the absence of being able to actively chat about your organization on air, you and your staff could volunteer to staff the phones or provide other assistance. I have never not heard the station host praise the organizations assisting with the phones by name numerous times an hour. Again helps generate awareness and good will for your organization.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


1 thought on “Marketing Tip- Public Radio Fund Drives”

  1. Little Bird, Will You Sing For Me?

    Short entry today because I am feeling under the weather. I wanted to briefly reflect on my experience appearing on my local public radio’s fund drive. First of all, we made the goal for the hour which was $500 more…


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