Did You Hear That? Fundraising, Great Programming and Vehicle Donation

When Robert Siegel, Melissa Block or Audie Cornish comes on the radio to tell us what’s coming up later on All Things Considered, we hear a little slice of the program itself. It’s all there – the familiar voice and music, a little sound from an upcoming story, and a nod to the depth, breadth, information, entertainment and enlightenment that is All Things Considered and public radio at its best.

When Audie Cornish tells us what's coming up on All Things Considered, it's both entertaining and enlightening.

When Audie Cornish tells us what's coming up on All Things Considered, it's both entertaining and enlightening.

At their best, radio promos are little programs. In 30 seconds they remind us of all that we love about our favorite programs and give us reasons to keep listening.

Until recently, vehicle donation promos didn’t live up to this standard. They have been, for the most part, mere reminders that donating a car to a public radio station is a good thing to do—the NPR news equivalent of announcing a headline and forgetting the analysis. The latest promos for Car Talk’s vehicle donation program change all that.  They transform a mere transaction into a chance for donors to know what it feels like to weave the very fabric of the public radio stories, conversations and entertainment they love.

The spots include the voices we love doing the things we want them to do. Paula Poundstone smugly (but not too smugly) tells us she’s got one up on her mechanic, for once! Peter Sagal reminds us that the cars we donate might not be worth enough money to help an esteemed program like All Things Considered, but they’ll go a long way to support Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

Paula Poundstone: just the right amount of smug.

Paula Poundstone: just the right amount of smug.

This approach is brilliant not only because it’s humorous and it fits nicely into the sound of public radio, but also because it reaches donors’ emotional connection with public radio and resonates with how good they feel supporting it. Perhaps more importantly, this series of promos reminds us that all our radio spots can and should live up to higher standards.

Nez Zarragoitia donated his 1995 Ford F150 to his local NPR station, WBFO. Says Nez, " I am a lifetime believer in NPR. Wherever my travels have taken me I can always rely on being able to find an NPR station. I know this doesn't come cheap. My truck has served me well, so now I hope its sale can do the same for NPR." Daughter Jessamy is, we're sure, well on her way to being the next generation of NPR diehards in the family!

Nez Zarragoitia donated his 1995 Ford F150 to his local NPR station, WBFO. Says Nez, " I am a lifetime believer in NPR. Wherever my travels have taken me I can always rely on being able to find an NPR station. I know this doesn't come cheap. My truck has served me well, so now I hope its sale can do the same for NPR." Daughter Jessamy is, we're sure, well on her way to being the next generation of NPR diehards in the family!

Until very recently, vehicle donation has been a new channel of revenue—found money, as it were.  Every check was a bonus. Now, though, this revenue stream is maturing, and those days of easy money are in the rear view mirror.

By my way of thinking, that’s a good thing. It’ll force program vendors to deliver excellent support materials and content that’s every bit as good as everything else our stations produce. Whomever your vendor is, ask yourself one, hard question question: is the vehicle donation material you’re sharing with your fans—from on-air promos to web tiles to direct mail pieces to Facebook posts-- also great content?

Jay Clayton is a fundraising, marketing and public relations professional with 25 years’ experience in public and commercial radio.  He formed Jay Clayton Associates, an independent fundraising and marketing communications consulting firm, in 2002 to help public radio stations build and sustain strategic approaches to membership and mid-level giving. Jay's fundraising accomplishments have been recognized with honors from DEI, PRPD and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Write him at Jay Clayton Associates.