NPR Pledge Drive Drastically Affected by the Economy

By: Callie Mendenhall

How the economy is doing affects most everything in the United States and the National Public Radio (NPR) pledge drive is no exception. When the economy is in a recession so is the pledge drive by affecting it through listener and corporate support.

A pledge drive is an extended period of fundraising activities for public broadcasting stations to increase contributors for their station. Pledge drives are used so the station can receive the majority of their funding. Local NPR stations are known for their enthusiastic and persuasive pledge drives, but pledge drives funding can quickly dwindle when the economy is in a downfall, as any NPR employee knows.

“The pledge drive is an event we have where listeners and companies give back to the station for what we do for them all year. Listeners and companies donate money and or gifts to the station to insure we can pay for everything because it is where we receive most of our funding.”  Said Rebecca McInroy, Producer for KUT— local Austin, Texas NPR station.

Other funding “..come from foundations, and business support, what we call program underwriting,” According to John Greene, General Manager of KUER.

The NPR pledge drives are a “special time when I feel good about giving money to the station that I absolutely love to listen to on my way to work.” Said avid KUER listener, James Meisinger.

Although many NPR listeners feel that they should give back during the pledge drives, it’s hard when the economy isn’t booming which causes the pledge drive to be drastically affected.

Tristin Tabish, Program Director of KUER, said, “Our fund drives are affected by the economy in two major ways: listener and corporate support. The economy affects the pledge drive as it affects every other aspect of society – consumers have to make priorities about their purchases. Philanthropy tends to be an area that is perceived as a “luxury” and so people will either give less to their favorite charities, focus on a single organization or choose not to contribute at all.”

Pledge drives may be perceived as luxuries as Tabish vocalized, but that doesn’t mean that the NPR stations reduce the need for funding when the economy is down. NPR stations need more money every year due to the increase in living prices which means that stations can’t afford to lose any funding no matter how bad the economy may be doing.

According to Tabish, instead of lowering their pledge drive goal they instead, “..have to work harder at being consistent with our message, and tell our listeners exactly why we need their support and where their contributions are going. We try to connect with our most loyal donors to give what they can, so we send e-solicitations and direct mail to give them as many opportunities as they can to give.”

NPR pledge drives are no different than any other aspect of life. It’s a simple fact, when the economy is low so is the funding that stations receive during their pledge drives.