I doubt it was the sound bite in which Alec Baldwin emphatically and passionately declares that without the benefit of NPR’s news coverage I would be “foolish” and “ignorant.” However, something in my local NPR station’s spring fundraiser seemed to work. My initial “I really can’t afford to give right now” response turned into a “Well, maybe I could make just a little donation” response in less than a week.
During two weeks of fundraising, my local NPR station made it clear that it provides valuable programming that “deserves” my support. Furthermore, it “needs” me, now more than ever, as NPR faces severe federal funding cuts.
A plea for funds could be heard at least four times an hour, names of donors were read on air and examples were given of how money is used (I now know it takes approximately $52 to run my local station for a half hour).
It feels like there are two forces at work here:
1: All of the pleas evoked an emotional response. Guilt-inspiring analogies (like one that compared non-donating listeners to inconsiderate co-workers who drink all the coffee, but never put money in the office coffee fund) were the most common tactics used during this fundraiser. Most people don’t like feeling guilty, and even a small donation seems to make the icky-guilty feeling go away.
When guilt wasn’t the prime motivator, “We can’t do it without you” was a common theme, one that inspires a sense of obligation and responsibility. By referring to the relationship with the listener as a valued partnership, the station asks for the listening partner to reciprocate the value received with a monetary donation.
For any business or call to action, getting emotional responses like desire for a retail product or sympathy for a cause from your target audience helps increase the conversion rate.
2: Repeated (and repeated) exposure. The commonly-held theory on exposure is that a minimum of three direct exposures, plus at least nine indirect exposures, is required to prompt an action, like donating.
During NPR’s fundraiser, direct exposure came in the form of a specific call to action –asking for a donation and providing the phone number or Web address. As I listened to names of donors being read on air, I was indirectly exposed to the fundraising message, and there was no specific call to action.
In the end, NPR’s fundraiser provides a lesson to any organization planning a marketing campaign with a call to action: make an emotional connection, and make it often.