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.

Why don’t more stations adopt ‘sustainer’ ways?

Public radio stations have widely adopted sustaining-member programs over the last several years. Because of this, one might assume that a significant number of sustainers contribute to public radio every month. However, the reality for most public radio stations is quite the opposite.