n : right granted by law or contract (especially a right to benefits)

[Written Wednesday, July 20, 2005]
Yet again it’s time for Maine Public Broadcasting to do it’s pledge drive. Rather than the normal NPR news programs, now much of the time is given over to folks talking about the importance of being a member. I appreciate public radio and am grateful for the programming. I really want to give money. But I’m afraid my gift may encourage them to continue raise money by interrupting my life as they’ve been doing for decades.

I couldn’t live with that on my conscience.

I think what irks me most is the sense of entitlement the MPBN folks seem to have. I’m sure they don’t mean to. But to an outsider, it often sounds like they’re whining.

Here are some examples from the 7:55 a.m. slot on Wednesday, July 20. (Not exact quotes but very close. I’ve been hearing this stuff all week.)

  • When I hear: “We’ve already committed to the programming. Our bills are coming in. So now you have to pay.”
    I think things like: “Your not being able to pay your bills isn’t my responsibility. I can’t just hop on the radio when I can’t pay my bills. I certainly couldn’t run my business that way either. If they don’t have even a rough idea if they’ll be able to cover their committments, why would I want to give money to them in the first place?
  • When I hear things like: “Membership is important. You get to decide what is played here. You get to belong. We chose programs in response to members’ surveys and comments. Now you need to do your part and join.”
    I think things like: “Who are you talking to? Me as a non-member or your current members. As a non-member, I certainly am not responsible to pay for choices you made based on member feedback. I’m not a member. I started pulling out my wallet when you talked about the importance of belonging and having a voice. But I shoved it back into my pocket when it felt like you were trying to guilt me into paying for decisions I didn’t have a voice in.”

I could go on but probably shouldn’t. Who do they think is really listening? I bet it worked decades ago when there weren’t many stations to choose from. But in an age of channel surfing, iPods, and satellite radio, interruption marketing is deadly. People will just surf away until the pitch is over.

I don’t think I’d mind a 2- to 3-day pledge drive. But keeping it going until they’ve reached the goal seems wrong. Each show always has sponsorship blurbs. Why can’t they air 10 second clips from regular members during the regular shows.

So why have I devoted so much of this issue of Extreme Fundraising to this rant? Because entitlement strikes us all.

Look at your web page or your latest fundraising appeal. How many times do you use the pronouns “we” and “us” or “you” and “yours”?

Donors aren’t really interested in us. And no organization is entitled to a donor’s money. Whether the donor’s money is just that–her money. The challenge for us is to market our benefits to donors. Yep, market.

I’ve written an article on The Rule of Threes, a tool I use with my clients to help them tell their story consistently and organically. You can download The Rule of Threes PDF file here or view it online here.

In the meantime, let’s remember that we need to earn the priviledge of being given money by a donor. And let’s work hard to earn it!

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