The main purpose of pledge drive is to gain new members. (Stations have other, more effective methods to get existing or lapsed members to contribute.) The people who are going to become members are a subset of the listening audience. They share certain characteristics:
* A thirst for knowledge - they are interested in world and local affairs, social issues, arts. They like to hear different perspectives. They like to gather factual information and then make up their own minds - they do not like being told what to think. This means they prefer factual pitches that contain real information (e.g. the percentage of station funding that comes from listener support, average pledge amount, etc).
* Motivated by Principles, not by Possessions. This strongly affects how they perceive premiums (they tend to regard them as emblems of membership and pride in their community, not as merchandise). Don't pitch premiums as reasons to pledge; they are mostly useful as reasons to increase the level of pledging from someone who has already decided to pledge.
* Sense of Community, Civic Responsibility, and Social Commitment - These are core values that cause people to pay money for services they can get for free. Pitches that appeal to these values tend to be well-received, especially when done affirmatively. This is especially true for community radio (as distinguished from Public radio), where the connection to community is particularly strong.
Last Spring we made a dramatic change in the way we conducted pledge drive. First, we shortened the drive, from 10+ days to 7.5 days. Second, we actually decreased the amount of time spent pitching during shows. Result: we reached our goals in less time, had more fun, and received very positive feedback from listeners - fewer of whom tuned out during the drive.
Some keys to doing this successfully are:
1. Make your pledge drive show sound as much as possible like your regular show - only better, if possible. Listeners turn off the radio during pledge drive mainly because it doesn't sound like the programming they are accustomed to hearing. Structured pledge drive shows can keep them listening by providing content up front, then inserting short (3 to 7 minute) pledge breaks about every 15 minutes.
2. Plan your show, and plan your pledge breaks, and stick to the plan. Start off with high-quality program content, not with pitching. At each pledge break, tell them how long it will be ("We're going back to the interview with Author in about 5 minutes, so stay tuned. Right now, I hope you will take this opportunity to join your friends and neighbours by becoming a member of this station if you haven't already..."). Most people will decide to stay tuned if they know you are only going to pitch at them for a short period.
3. Have a partner to help, and use the Case/Close format for each pledge pitch. Make it sound like a conversation between three people: the two of you in the booth, and the listener. Speak directly to the listener as if he/she was right in front of you. Script your pitches to appeal to the values and interests of the Givers - that subset of your listening audience who are most likely to become members.
4. Sound relaxed, confident, and happy. Pledge drive is a love-fest, so enjoy it! The more you enjoy it, the better you will sound, and the better response you are likely to get. Avoid the common pitfalls of Pledge Drive that turn listeners off: Begging, whining, pleading; pointless (and seemingly endless) rambling; guilt-tripping, threatening; chaotic, circus-like sound.
There's a lot more - if anyone is interested, comment here and we can have a discussion.