Everything you ever wanted to know about VPR's membership drives, but were afraid to ask!
Why does VPR have membership drives?
On-air drives are one of the most effective ways to raise money for VPR and to gauge the quality of our service. We know that VPR has more than 200,000 listeners a week from our 27 stations across the state. However, we don’t know who many of those people are, or whether they like what we do. There’s no better way to reach our audience and ask for support and feedback than an on-air drive. Believe it or not, every day there are people who are listening to VPR for the very first time; we need to explain to these new listeners how our business model works.
Why do you repeat the same thing over and over during membership drives?
If you’ve heard the same messages again and again, chances are you’re a pretty loyal listener. Which means we love you. But keep in mind that people who are less loyal may tune in and out to VPR each day or week, so to them, the messages don't sound so repetitive.
Can’t you do fewer membership drives?
It’s important to regularly remind listeners of how our unique business model works. In addition, membership drives are the best way to invite new members to the VPR family. In recent years we reduced on-air fundraising from four drives a year to three, and hope to continue that trend while meeting our financial and membership goals.
I’m a monthly Sustainer and shouldn’t have to put up with membership drives!
We are exploring the option of providing a "pledge-free stream" to our Sustainers. Stay tuned! We know that membership drives are not fan favorites. But we have tried to make listening easier on the ears by encouraging our on-air staff to be personal, energetic, and to have a little fun.
If you’d rather not listen to the membership drive, you can check out VPR Jazz24, or the BBC World Service. You might also tune in to VPR Classical for a change of pace (while our classical team also participates in membership drives, the experience sounds different).
Can’t you raise money another way?
VPR is a community licensee. That’s public media speak for the fact that we rely mostly on community funding to bring you the programs and services you enjoy. Individuals from across the region make gifts to VPR and area businesses underwrite our programs, which add up to approximately 90% of our overall support. Approximately 10% of our funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and we don’t receive grant funding from the State of Vermont.
But, like any business, VPR has fixed expenses, such as the costs of programming and maintaining our broadcast sites. We're proud of our fiscal responsibility and we're dedicated to setting financial goals based on real needs as well as to spending our members' dollars prudently. Our goals are based on our annual operating budget, which is carefully vetted and approved by our Board of Directors. For more details, please review our most recent Annual Report.
Why do you talk about giving $1,200 or more? I can’t afford that!
That’s okay! We appreciate any amount you can give. During membership drives we try to mix in many different suggested amounts, knowing of course that not every suggestion will resonate with everyone. The average gift to VPR during a drive is around $100, so we frequently mention gifts in the $90-$120 range, with mentions of higher and lower amounts mixed in. That’s the beauty of public radio; you get to put a dollar value on your listening, and then you get to choose to give. We truly appreciate every gift we receive from our 27,000 members!
Who’s taking my pledge on the phone?
VPR works with a company called ACD Direct, located in Salt Lake City, to manage our pledge phone calls. This is a service used by many public radio stations across the country, including New Hampshire Public Radio and WNYC in New York City. We began working with ACD Direct in 2013 after recognizing that due to the increase in web pledges and sustaining memberships to VPR, the call volume during membership drives is dramatically less than in the past. We didn't feel it was respectful of our volunteers’ time and energy to ask them to come in for three hours to answer phones when they'd only be busy for about 30 minutes of that time.
ACD Direct is not paid "per pledge" but rather a flat fee for their services. When we took into account the hard and soft costs of using volunteers vs. a call center - including software licensing fees, set up and break down time, and food - it is actually less expensive to use the call center, and it frees up our studios to provide better programming during membership drives, such as live performances on VPR Classical or Vermont Edition.
How do challenges work?
As we prepare for membership drives, we invite supporters to offer a challenge during membership drives. We then use this pool of challenge dollars to inspire listener support at specific times. For example, we may offer a challenge to receive a certain number of gifts during Morning Edition, or we may offer a dollar-for-dollar matching challenge. If we do not meet the challenge, we do not get the funds anyway. We always check in with the donor and ask what they'd like us to do. Sometimes they let us try again on a different day, but it's not a guarantee.
Okay, you've convinced me. What do I do now?
Giving is EASY. You can call us at 1-800-639-6391, or use one of the links below to support VPR right now. And thank you!