Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the Stairway to Given. It’s been a helpful tool in understanding our listeners’ path to membership for over three decades.




But I find it hard to implement the Stairway in fundraising scripts.

Should a script only touch on one of the steps? Should we make sure to cover all of the steps in a single break? And if we teach these steps to our on-air talent, will they remember to use them in their pitching?


But the biggest challenge was when I printed it out and handed it to my pitchers. They really didn’t know what to do with it. The Stairway to Given is an analysis of the listener’s journey. It wasn’t a guide for pitchers to lead listeners on the journey itself.


In the 1990’s I worked for Barbara Appleby in the MPR Membership Department. Barbara is one of the brightest and most focused people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work for. In one of our meetings about messaging during drives, I expressed my unease with the Stairway to Given as a tool for strategic messaging, and how it wasn’t particularly useful in the hands of on-air talent.

A few days later, Barbara waved me into her office and said she had found the solution to conveying the Stairway to our listeners. It wasn’t a list of steps, but a logical syllogism that was easy to remember. And best of all, the talent could use this framework in an number of ways. They could read it verbatim on air, or use it to construct a brief, complete 30 second case message that starts with listening, and ends with giving.

 We didn’t script drives in those days. A lot of the themes we used in drives were printed on signs and posted on the walls of the studio. I made a bunch of signs containing the syllogism and posted them. I suggested that if pitchers ever ran out of ideas during a break, they just read the sign. Or if they needed a way to start a break, use the opening line in reference to what was just on the air and run from there. It could also serve as a quick 10 second filler to hit the post at the end.


The change in the sound of our ad-lib pitching was instant, and noticeable. It was more focused on news and music and the relationship between the listener and the station. And the messaging moved effortlessly from listening to giving. More focused messaging meant more effective pitching. We were able to drastically reduce the number of drive days , and still meet and exceed our goals.


Most every script I write for pledge drives contains at least a hint of the three-part syllogism. This logical procession is my framework for opens and closes. And the syllogism serves as a recipe for quick ad-lib fills for talent on breaks that run long.

I also write scripts solely on this syllogism and put them in a folder marked “The Basics”. When I schedule messages during the drive, my rule is to include a script from “The Basics” in every other short break, or in every break that is longer than four minutes. Scripts in this bin describe the public radio mission and the funding model.


Life is Better

  • Life is better with WXYZ.

  • When you listen, you’re exposed to engaging ideas and conversations. You’re invited to participate and discuss. Everyone has something to share.

  • During our membership drive, we’re asking you to contribute to WXYZ.

  • Your donation will be used to make new connections and keep you better informed.

  • Life is better with WXYZ. And WXYZ is better with YOU. Contribute online at WXYZ dot ORG or call 8XX-222-8000.


Love of Learning

  • You listen to public radio every day because it engages you.

  • It’s radio that appeals to your sense of wonder, your love of learning.

  • And now, here’s one more appeal: Please consider contributing to this radio station – right now during this fund-raising week.

  • The dollars you give pay for appealing programs that you enjoy all year long.

  • Call now. 8XX-222-8000. Or contribute on-line at WXYZ dot ORG.


Most listeners give because they value the programming. It’s a quid-pro-quo relationship. But some listeners resonate with the fact that the station serves our community and informs our democracy. Although you can make the case for connection at any level, I tend to use these philanthropic points in larger asks.


Engaging Listeners

  • We talk a lot about goals during membership campaigns.

  • This is the goal of WXYZ: To strive to inform, educate, and engage listeners all across the region.

  • It takes resources to achieve that goal. Staff. Equipment. Connections to national and international news.

  • It also takes a substantial budget to make it all happen. Today’s goal is to hear from you.

  • Contribute a one-time gift or become a sustaining member online at WXYZ dot ORG.

The Appleby Syllogism: The Giving Freeway

Roger Gomoll

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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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