Stations retool pledge drives to account for rise in sustainers

DENVER — An increase in sustaining memberships has provided a welcome source of stable income for some public radio stations, but it has also prompted some to rethink their strategies for on-air fund drives. Under a sustaining membership, a donor sets up automatic monthly contributions to a station instead of giving on an annual basis. That reduces the pressure during on-air fund drives to convince listeners to renew their memberships, and stations are responding by redoubling efforts to enlist new members during pledge campaigns. Executives from two stations described their approaches in a July 10 panel discussion here at the Public Media Development & Marketing Conference. “Our drives are no longer a renewal machine,” said Jacquie Fuller, on-air fundraising manager for Minnesota Public Radio.

FCC denies stations’ bid for looser underwriting language

A public radio licensee’s bid to boost underwriting revenue by skirting restrictions on credit language met with a flat rebuttal from the FCC May 15. The licensee of Phoenix’s KBAQ and KJZZ asked the Commission in March to approve a three-year “limited and controlled demonstration project” to relax limits on language in the stations’ underwriting credits. Maricopa County Community College District proposed allowing qualitative terms, such as “award-winning” and “experienced,” and information about sales, discounts and interest rates. Such wording is currently barred under FCC rules. Maricopa argued that the relaxed restrictions would help the stations increase underwriting income amid a challenging climate for public broadcasting funding.