On Air

On Air

On Air iconManaging Successful Drives

Tips for Success in On-Air Drives

Include a Sustainer pitch at least once in every single break.

  • Do NOT use the word installments.
  • Provide scripts and expect hosts to use them.
  • Include the impact of monthly giving such as the reliability of monthly gifts and why this is the best way to support the station.
  • Make clear the benefits to the donor, "what's in it for me." It's easy… it's convenient… and it makes it easy on your budget.
  • Include simple information on how the program works. The fact that it's a set amount each month… that it's always current… and specify the payment methods offered (as well as a promotion of your preferred payment method).
  • Supply thank-you gift information to hosts in sustainer amounts, and provide a monthly breakdown chart for typical amounts so that hosts don't have to do math live on the air.
  • Train your producers and hosts. When they understand the true value of sustainers to your program, they can be your strongest assets on the air, motivated to help bring the station even more success.
  • Train your answering service or volunteers. Make sure they understand what the program is all about and can explain it in a clear and simple way. Encourage them (require this of the answering service) to remind callers about the sustainer program with simple statements such as, "Would you like to make this a sustainer membership and turn it into monthly donations?"

Messaging Basics

There are several ways to weave a sustainer pitch into a pledge break and make sure that the message remains front and center for your viewers:

  1. As a stand-alone pitch and fully thought-out idea that centers on sustainers and finishes with a strong close that directly asks for monthly support. For example,
    "Your investment in WXYZ shows that you value the programs you find here. When you choose to give monthly as a sustaining member, this means that you're here with WXYZ to support the programs you care about all year round. Becoming a sustainer is easy to do. Simply choose your monthly amount… maybe $10… $15… or $20 a month. Then set it up through your checking account or on your credit card. And then you're all done. Your giving is automatic — it's always current — and it continues until you tell us you wish to make a change. Make your difference now and become a sustaining member of WXYZ."
  2. As a part of a contribution level close. For example,
    "Perhaps a donation of just $5 a month as a sustaining member with ongoing contributions is right for you, or a $60 one-time gift today –Or maybe a $10 a month sustaining gift is right for you — or $120 as a one-time contribution. Whatever amount you choose, know that you make a big difference to the programs you care about. Please join in now to help WXYZ thrive."
  3. As part of a thank you gift pitch. For example,
    "Contribute $12 a month as a sustaining member with monthly donations from your bank account or credit card, or $144 as an annual gift, and we'll thank you with this great DVD/CD combo — perfect to enjoy this wonderful musical experience over and over again. You'll love it, and every time you play it, you'll be reminded of the powerful thing you've done for WXYZ and for our community."

In each case, you want to include key action-oriented words and ideas that make it simple, compelling and understandable, words like "sign up," "decide to become," "commit to," "ongoing monthly," "always current," "each month," etc.

The PBS Sustainer Script Samples, developed during the 2017 PBS On-Air Sustainer Initiative, include a number of samples for you to customize to your station and the Sustainer Grab and Go Pitch sheet provides useful pitches as well as bullet points for quick and easy reference.

Booster Techniques

Since most programs use $5 a month as the minimum gift, all sustainers are eligible for PBS Passport. This new benefit is proving to be a very attractive option for renewing and new sustainer acquisition. Consider integrating scripts that highlight PBS Passport as a sustainer benefit during pledge.

If you really want to encourage greater participation in your sustainer program, you can consider creating an inexpensive specially branded premium, freebie or bonus gift to offer to anyone who joins or upgrades their sustaining donation. For example, "When you join as a sustaining member with an ongoing monthly gift tonight, we'll thank you with this bonus [tote bag, window cling, restaurant certificate, pen, etc.] in addition to any thank you gift you may elect to choose."

Or, though it's slightly more complex, consider offering a discount premium level for monthly givers. For example, if you're offering a DVD for a donation of $120 or $10 a month as a sustainer, offer the sustainer choice for $9 a month, a $12 discount in the annual amount. The caveat with this technique is that not many stations have tested it, so it is critical to approach this as a test, and assess the results carefully.

Just as in every other sustainer-related activity, before you launch new techniques, make sure that your options online are clear, simple and easy to select, and make sure that your back-end processes are prepped and can handle elements such as a bonus gift AND a premium, or a premium offered at different total amounts. A well-planned and executed on-air pitch shouldn't be undermined by breakdowns at later points in the fulfillment process.

Managing Premiums

With any sustaining program, there will be at least a handful of donors who elect to receive a premium and then, later in the first year, cancel their sustaining pledge. Indeed, at many stations, as many as 40% - 50% of first year sustainers are no longer giving monthly after one year, through a combination of cancellations and failed payments.

Your station's positive and responsive treatment in the first year of your newly acquired donors who become sustainers is paramount to their long-term connection and continuation with your station as a loyal supporter. For this reason, make it your policy to fulfill premiums right away. Do not punish your good donors for the few who will fail you. It will not pay off in the end.

When it comes to cancellations with premiums attached to the donation, the first step in reducing these instances is to make sure your on-air pitching is as clear as it can possibly be regarding what the donor is signing up for. Then make sure your online forms, volunteer phone answerers, and answering service are just as clear about what the sustaining option means. And finally, be prepared with good guidelines for when the donor contacts you to cancel.

Because of the higher on-air-acquired cancellation rate, it is recommended that tickets to events are never offered with a sustainer option, but only as a one-time credit card donation. Tickets typically have high cost to donation levels. And once the concert has occurred, you have no recourse with a donor who opts out of a sustainer program because their benefit is now just a memory.

Upgrading Donors

Acquiring sustainers isn't the only purpose of on-air drives — it's just one of several approaches that should be employed.

Just as a key goal with one-time donors is to encourage them to give more or to give more often, upgrading monthly donations in small, incremental amounts can also provide significant growth over time. And since most of your sustainers joined during an on-air drive in the first place, this is one of the best places to encourage sustainers to increase their monthly giving by just a few dollars a month because they have demonstrated an affinity towards participating during on-air fundraising.

The script library includes some scripts meant to encourage upgrades.

Successful upgrades also require clear online forms that indicate to donors how and where to upgrade, as well as phone answerers who are trained to handle upgrade requests, and data entry operators trained to handle the changes on an account to ensure that the upgrade goes into effect as soon as possible.