It’s that time of year again…


What’s the one phrase that repels public radio listeners faster than anything? On-air fund drive. But wait!! Before your eyes glaze over, it’s important to realize that when it comes to fundraising, WBHM (and all of public radio) have grown up over the years. Fifteen or so years ago public radio asked listeners how they perceive fundraising both on an intellectual level and in terms of how it sounds on-air. To this day, those answers directly inform what we do and say on-air, as well as what we don’t do and say on-air. I’ll give you two examples:

First, there was a time when WBHM offered hundreds of gifts (aka “premiums”) in exchange for a donation. While we may have meant well, it turns out these myriad gifts are perceived negatively — like a TV infomercial with the message of “give to get stuff.” Put another way, “What happened to my calm, commercial-free oasis on the radio?” Additionally, tracking who got what gift became a paperwork nightmare for the station and not a good use of your money. We’ll always have a few thank-you gifts during each fundraiser, including the popular pint glass, but we’ve done away with the days of public radio home shopping.

Second, for a listener to give to public radio, they have to listen. That may sound obvious now, but several years ago that was a new concept. In each fundraiser, there are lots of numbers: the phone number, goals, donation amounts. However, giving calm rational information about why funding is important is essential. In particular, the percentage of listener support in our budget (it’s more than half, in case you were wondering). Even something such as ringing phones contributes to a frantic sound that is perceived by listeners as highly negative.

You may think this is pretty dry stuff, and it CAN be, but it doesn’t have to be. At WBHM, we work hard to “be ourselves,” have fun, and even inject a bit of humor. We can still take our fundraising a bit less seriously even with a more focused message and reminding listeners of our quality journalism, music programs, and our public service mission.

Fundraising is programming and it’s some of the most important programming we do. It turns out that listeners don’t mind being asked for money, it’s how they’re being asked. And as program director, it’s my job to work with the WBHM team to make sure we’re delivering a consistent, listener-focused message that resonates and makes everyone feel welcome to give.

(Through “Programming Notes,” we hope to keep you connected to what is happening at WBHM both internally and on-air. Have feedback you’d like to share? Or a programming question? Let me know!)


A Quick Reminder

Just a quick reminder from Martha and me about program changes going into effect this weekend. You can sleep in a bit later Saturday and Sunday (if you’d like) and still stay on top of the latest news, hear quirky, interesting stories, and do the Sunday puzzle! Weekend Edition now airs from 7 to 10 a.m. on […]

A Change in Programming

This week, I’m writing to let you know of some upcoming program changes. TL;DR: Ask Me Another and Says You! are ending resulting in extra hour of Weekend Edition. After an impressive 25-year run, Says You! is ending production. Billed as “A public radio show of bluff and bluster, words and whimsy,” the program airs Friday nights from 6:30 to 7, and […]

You’ve got…stationality!

Last week, I wrote about stationality – the “feel” or identity of WBHM – and I asked you to use three adjectives to describe our stationality in a short survey. Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply.  The most popular words you chose to describe WBHM were: informative, friendly, trustworthy, smart and intelligent. But there […]

What the heck is “stationality”?

You’ve heard of personality? This week, I want to introduce you to stationality.     Stationality creates a sense of place and gives you another reason why you listen to WBHM. It’s the identity, the “feel” of WBHM. In other words, if WBHM were a person, would you want to hang out with us? Do you […]

The Alphabet Soup of the Public Radio Ecosystem

You’ve no doubt heard of NPR. But you’ve probably also heard of APM, PRI, PRX and a host of other acronyms and call letters such as MPR, WHYY, WAMU, and WNYC. Have you ever wondered what it all means? I’m going to give it my best shot and unpack it all for you, hopefully without […]

On Air, Online, and On the Sofa: Listening During the Pandemic

To say radio listening was impacted by the pandemic would be an understatement. As the country went into lock-down in March 2020, many people had their schedule upended and were no longer commuting. As you can imagine, at home listening surged during this time. This was especially true during the summer of 2020. Today, these […]

More Michael Krall's Program Notes Coverage