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 Pledge Lab is a collection of articles and essays dedicated to improving the practice and effectiveness of public radio pledge drives.

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First, a few definitions.

The dollars that fund Match and Challenge programs are generally considered to be restricted gifts. The intention of the donor needs to be honored, in that the dollars are restricted until the terms of the Match or Challenge are met. Consult your station’s legal counsel as to how your station should document the acceptance, and fulfillment or return of any restricted funds.

A Match is generally defined as a pool of restricted dollars that moves portions of that pool into the general income category only when triggered by another gift.  For example: a gift of $10 from a donor during the matching period would trigger a gift from the matching fund in some proportion to the gift. Common ways to conduct these matches are on a dollar-for-dollar percentage basis, or by triggering a fixed amount- say $50- when any gift is given. The match continues until a deadline is reached or the pool of matching money is exhausted.

A Challenge is a pool of restricted dollars that move as a lump sum into the general income category only when some stated goal is reached. For example: if a goal of number of contributions or number of dollars is met by a certain time, the XYZ Foundation will contribute a promised amount of money.

 

Here are some examples on how stations have used matches:

To achieve a specific purpose

  • First Day Match The idea is to increase the effectiveness of the first day of the drive. Stations have achieved success with dollar-for-dollar matches, or matches of a fixed amount- say $25 for each contribution made on the first day

  • First Time Givers Match Listeners who have not previously contributed will be matched. Stations have found good results by announcing this match at the beginning of a drive.

  • Sustainers Match Give as a sustainer or convert your existing membership to a sustaining membership, and we’ll match. One station tweaked this by doubling the first month’s donation. A $10/month donation would trigger a $10 or $20, or $30 match. A $100/month donation would trigger a similar match, etc.

  • Micro Match or Speed Match This one-break or during the next song on a music station only match states that the first # callers in the break or during the song will be matched by a certain dollar amount. Care must be taken to preserve transparency with contributors.

  • It’s a great time to give  If the 7am hour of Morning Ed is your best listening time, a ME match from 7am to 8am may make it even more successful.

Challenges

  • End of the Program, Day, or Drive Challenge A challenge is issued to meet a drive goal. If met, an additional challenge amount will be donated. The challenge can be for a specific program, a day, or the drive. Generally these challenges are for a fixed dollar amount if a dollar or number of contributions are achieved. 

  • Support Challenges By naming one effort of your station as the beneficiary of a challenge, you’re increasing awareness for that program and identifying its need for support. Stations have established challenges for political coverage during an election season, local news gathering, funding for educational outreach for schools or communities, or to underwrite the costs of concerts and lectures. These gifts may be construed to be restricted in nature. Consult your station attorney for how accounting should be made.

 

Talking about Matches and Challenges

On-air hosts tend to get excited about these accelerators and sometimes spend a lot of time talking about them. Our recommendation is to have hosts introduce the match or challenge with a pre-worded phrase of no longer than 15 seconds,  and then refer to the match or challenge with a single sentence in later references. The exception to this would be an End of the Drive Match or Challenge, where driving a match or challenge is an essential part of creating the last-day urgency needed to hit a drive goal.

A Catalogue of Matches and Challenges

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