‘Death, Sex & Money’ rewards new donors with opportunity to break a sweat

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The producers behind WNYC’s Death, Sex & Money podcast are always thinking outside the box for ways to get listeners to support the show.

Though donors can opt for traditional premiums like Death, Sex & Money tote bags and coffee mugs, the show team has found that meetups and special events have helped build enthusiasm and engagement within the show’s community of listeners.  

To meet goal for this spring’s fundraiser, Death, Sex & Money put out a challenge. If 150 listeners became first-time donors in the month of April, the show would host an exercise class as a membership premium.

“There’s something humbling and humiliating about a group exercise class,” said host Anna Sale. “We thought, let’s just get together and do something really fun as a Death, Sex & Money community.”

The podcast’s recent exploration of transitional periods in life, both professional and personal, inspired the idea. In story after story, people said that regular exercise helped them through those transitional moments. “We were having a lot of exercise-focused moments on the show,” said producer Anabel Bacon.

Sale (Photo: Amy Pearl)

Three years ago, Death, Sex & Money hosted a dance party in Brooklyn for members and supporters. On a visit to Portland, Ore., Sale met listeners for a jog to a local ice-cream shop.

These lighthearted events counterbalance the difficult topics the show takes on — taboos like death, sex and money — that people avoid in polite conversation. “What we deal with on the show is really serious stuff, but we also don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Sale.

“We’re a team that thinks a lot about what’s going to get people to interact with us,” said Sale. “Our show is so much about our listeners. If we’re willing to do something a little bit off and a little bit vulnerable, our listeners will join in.”

She liked the idea of hosting a workout class for show supporters because it was “fun, and also ridiculous.”

Having just returned from maternity leave, Sale also realized that a workout party would be helpful in her own transition. “To be able to come back to work and do something so hilarious that will keep me from being too hard on myself really sounded fun,” she said.

Listeners liked the idea, too. In four weeks, the show reached the goal of 150 new supporters. Some listeners donated for the first time knowing they wouldn’t be able to make it to the class. “Just from the qualitative response, you can tell that people were excited about it,” Bacon said.

The workout will be held Thursday at the Greene Space at WNYC’s headquarters in lower Manhattan.

Ninety listeners have signed up for the class; another 65 are on the waitlist. Several members of the Death, Sex & Money team will join the workout, which will be led by an exercise instructor, who also works at WNYC. Emily Mann, who frequently voices sponsorship messages for the podcast, agreed to run the class.

Death, Sex & Money sent out invitations to show supporters in three stages, Bacon said. Sustaining members and new members who donated in April were the first to receive invites. Newsletter subscribers were the next to receive an invitation, then the final remaining spots were offered on the show’s website. Newsletter subscribers who aren’t in New York but want to join the workout can participate in the class via livestream.

Corrections: An earlier version of this article said Sale lived in Portland, Ore. She was visiting the city. It also said new members who donated in April received invitations to the workout event before sustaining members. Sustaining members and new members received invitations at the same time.

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