Montana Public Radio’s loyal listeners’ traditional indication of spring isn’t the sight of melting snow or the chirp of the first returning American robin, it’s the sound of their favorite public radio personalities asking for money during the station’s annual on-air fundraising drive. But this year, MTPR supporters will be asked to dip into their pocketbooks a little sooner than they’re used to.
“We’re having it earlier in the year, which is highly unusual,” says Linda Talbott, MTPR’s associate director of broadcast media. “The [University of Montana] is going to begin some planned repair work to the steam tunnel system on campus starting in late March or early April, and the place they’re starting is right next to the radio station.”
So for the first time in Talbot’s 10 years at MTPR, the station is pushing its once-a-year on-air pledge drive up to winter, from Feb. 10 through Feb. 18, in order to avoid conflicts with the construction. The pledge drive normally takes place in late March or early April.
According to Talbott, about 65 percent of the station’s nearly $1 million 2006 budget came from public donations. Last year’s pledge drive took in approximately $440,000, or 67 percent of all public donations.
Roger Gomoll is an on-air fundraising specialist for Public Radio International. He says that while most public radio stations around the country coordinate pledge drives with the spring and fall National Public Radio fundraising campaigns, the actual date of the drive means little to local public radio listeners.
“Most people don’t pay for their newspaper subscriptions until they get a bill in the mail. Public radio listeners are the same way,” Gomoll says. “People give to public radio because they absolutely depend on their station and they want to support it. The on-air pledge drive is a way to remind listeners that we rely on their support, and it gives them an opportunity to raise their hand and say, ‘Yes, I want to be a part of this programming.’” No matter, MTPR hopes, the season.