Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our tri-annual Oz-ness. . .

The air has a tang; the leaves have a tinge; the heart has a tingle. It's fall, my friends; high season for festivals.

Now as we public radio people are nothing if not festive, WMRA is launching its own annual Fall Festival of Fundraising toward the end of next week. And as with all festivals, WMRA's F.F. of F. represents hours and hours and hours of preparation and planning.

Our development people (Diane Halke, Debbie Reed, Ivette Churney and Susan Lamb) started weeks ago lining up both phone volunteers and the food to feed them. Debbie sent out her "matching gift" letters, asking you for money to support the Member Matching Fund (please, don't ignore her request; having a big pot of Member Matching Fund money really makes those phones ring during the on-air part of the WMRA F.F. of F.)

There's also physical and technical preparation. Next week, we'll turn our conference room into the WMRA F.F. of F. phone center. Jen Fuller of the JMU telecom office will spend a morning getting the kinks out of the system. (And, yes, there are always kinks. In fact, Jen has ridden in on her white horse many times during the fundraiser to subdue an errant kink or two.)

Diane and Debbie have spent hours wrangling with our fundraising software -- an area of fundraising I am never allowed near, because I would break it.

As for those of us who are slated to go on the air during the WMRA F.F. of F. . .

Our Program Director is Matt Bingay. He's shown left running a marathon, which is not all that far removed from what he does the month before an on-air fundraiser. Matt has been urging us for weeks to spend some time actually thinking about what we're going to say on the air during the fundraiser. Not only thinking about it, but making notes, writing out new, fresh phrases that come to mind.

For me, this involves spending time thinking about what I value about the station; why I support it; why I feel it is an absolutely essential part of my own life of the mind and spirit. My theory is that, when it comes to supporting public radio, I can best get you to pick up the phone and call by transmitting my own passionate love for WMRA. It's the same theory I use editing the WMRA Civic Soapbox; we communicate best when we communicate something of ourselves.

But, of course, there's a lot more than thought involved. Yesterday, for example, during our bi-monthly, on-air staff meeting, we actually listened to past fundraising each of us had done and critiqued ourselves;  rediscovering that we all have a tendency to go on, that we need to aim for having a conversation, not making speeches. Matt also played some new MemberCard spots -- (the MemberCard is that magic piece of plastic giving you 2-for1 dining at area restaurants). These spots feature interviews with restaurant owners and managers who participate in the program. These, along with all the "My Source" spots that Bob Leweke produces, put your voices on-the-air, which is a real goal of those of us who work at WMRA. This is, after all, your station.

Today we begin rehearsals. Yes, even though we've all been doing this for years, we still need to rehearse; go into the studio with a producer and a recording of whatever show we'll be fundraising during, talk into the microphone, and practice making the case that you benefit by supporting WMRA. I find these rehearsals absolutely essential. On-air fundraising requires a deep well of psychic energy, and, for me, these rehearsals prime my personal psychic energy  pump.

There. Enough. That's by no means all the preparation that goes into the WMRA F.F. of F., but you get the idea. Perhaps when you get up next Wednesday and hear Bob Leweke (and special WMRA F.F.of F. sidekick, Matt Bingay) asking you to call 1-800-NPR-WMRA and support the station (or go to and do the same), you'll smile and think "Oz," knowing there's been a lot going on behind the curtain!

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