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Scripting Made Easy: Part 3

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Now that you know how to put words in front of your on-air fundraisers, what do you say during a week-long drive?

In reality, there is only one essential pledge message that is consistently delivered to listeners during pledge drive. The message is based on the granite-rock principle stated in Audience 98- “Public service begets public support”. That statement is translated into a giving message in the PledgeLab essay called “The Appleby Syllogism”. In its simplest form, the Appleby Syllogism is just six words:

  • You listen (that’s the “public service” part)

  • Listeners contribute (that’s the “public support” part)

  • Give now (that’s a call to action)

This syllogism is the basic fundraising message, which should be the basis for all scripting. A collection of a dozen or more scripts on this theme is valuable to have on hand. Generally, I try to include two of these “Basic” scripts in any given hour of a pledge drive.

But a pledge drive is more than just asking for money. It’s about supporting a mission outlined in terms of community service and funding the delivery of dependable, high quality news, and thoughtfully programmed music.

Since pledge drives are as much a public relations and marketing event as a money raising event, ask senior management at your station about what other topics they’d like to hear about during the drive. This may be the most important part of the most successful pledge drives:

Building the team to build the case for listening, and the case for giving.

  • Your GM may want to include the Mission and Values of the station. What it is that identifies your station as a public service, and that merits public support. You’ll find those words in the station’s Mission Statement. Your GM will undoubtedly have them memorized.

  • Your station’s News Director will want to tell listeners about the station’s coverage of international, national, and local issues, be they political, environmental, business related, or in education and the arts. What are the news beats- and how does the station discern community issues?

  • The Program Director’s job is to create a program schedule that maximizes listening, and that informs, entertains, enlightens, and connects the audience to the world, our nation, and our community. Talking about the whole schedule might be on that persons wish list. This person will also help you find language to be used by your pitchers to quickly and accurately describe each program on the schedule. If you’re a music station your PD will help you with describing your station’s dedication to local performers and venues. Your PD will most likely be deeply knowledgeable about audience research. That person will be able to tell you whether ATC listeners also tune into Wait Wait on Saturday. If that’s true, you can mention Wait Wait during ATC- and vice versa.

  • Your Marketing and Promotions Director will want to be assured that on-air talent uses station descriptors and language that are used in other marketing efforts. If slogans are being used on billboards and in print advertising, it makes sense to use them on the air in your drive as well.

  • Community Outreach may be putting together concerts or lectures on stage or at churches, schools, or even taverns that they’d like to have you mention. Your news department may have listening sessions in communities to identify key concerns of those communities for your news department to cover. Listening to your community is a major part of what public radio does.

  • Your Development Director will be able to provide topics that they’ve used in direct mail, major giving asks, renewal mail, and email asks. There’s also some great language to be mined for script writing in foundation and grant proposals. Most Dev Directors subscribe to the “Always Be Testing” rule, which encourages them to test language for fundraising effectiveness. If you’re fortunate enough to have a colleague that does that, you’re in luck.

Commonalities in your scripts will allow you to categorize scripts into bins. More specificity in bins gives you more control on scheduling message topics. Some bin topics are as broad as “Mission and Values”, “Connections”, and “Community”, and others are as focused as “Political Reporting” or “Traffic and Weather”. A “Funding Facts” bin explains how the station relies on many sources of support. How many scripts on each topic should you write? Ten scripts per topic would be more than sufficient.

Now that you’ve got bins filled with Case scripts, how often do you schedule them?

The technique called Optimum Effective Scheduling will give you an idea of how many times to schedule a topic during a week to make sure a percentage of your audience hears them. Ask your station’s underwriting salesperson to help you figure your station’s OES. As a rule of thumb, scheduling a message about a topic once every hour to every-other hour during the 84 hours of an average drive will get that message to about half your listening audience each week.

Place scripts thoughtfully in your program schedule. This is where a program like PledgeDriver makes things go quickly.

During Morning Edition and ATC, place scripts about your own local news department before or after your local news broadcasts. Place scripts about your station’s election coverage around political reporting. Place scripts about international news coverage during BBC Newshour or PRI’s The World. You get the idea. Use scripts about community building and connecting during call-in shows.

Building Close Scripts

If Case messages give a reason for listening or a reason for giving, Close messages tell listeners how to make a contribution. Generally, it’s beneficial to write scripts for all premiums, matches, and sweepstakes so that pitchers have dependable brief descriptions and won’t be tempted to talk on and on about the mug or trip to wherever that’s being given away.

It’s also a great idea to write basic close scripts for each dollar level, and for renewals and ad gifts. I generally work with the Major Giving Officer to write two scripts for the major giving societies or levels. To help in scheduling close messages, I’ll gather categories or premiums into separate bins. Keeping scripts to a minimum of words offers pitchers the chance to ad lib comments about premiums or other accelerators. Read more on PledgeLab's "The Art of the Close"

Manage your accelerators

Accelerators are the elements that create urgency. Thank-you gifts. Sweepstakes. Matches. Challenges. Tightly script them so pitchers can describe them quickly. Place them in the beginning of the break with a short close message for extreme urgency- like when a match is about to expire. Place them a little later in breaks- after you’ve made a convincing Case message- if the urgency is lighter. End your break with another mention of the accelerator and a close. Read more about Accelerators here.

When scheduling breaks, think like a Program Director

Generally, the flow of a five-minute break follows a case/close pattern. Handing off between two pitchers gives a nice flow to the break and keeps the energy and momentum up. Below is one example on how to create a flow for the pitchers that also has a chance of keeping listeners engaged. Ask your program director for more ideas on how to create a great flow.


  2. CASE

  3. CLOSE




  7. CLOSE

  8. CASE


If you copy and paste hours into other hours there's a really great feature in PledgeDriver called the Rotator. This feature allows you to schedule a script from a rotator-enabled bin in the slot of your choice. Like a rotator in your station's traffic system. the PledgeDriver rotator cycles through the bin whenever you schedule a script from that bin. When you copy and paste an hour of pitching into a new hour, the rotator places a different script from that same bin into that slot. In essence, it preserves the strategy of your break plan while filling the slots with different scripts.

For a PledgeLab tutorial by Jacquie Fuller on building a break, go here.

Encourage your hosts to create a break that refers to topics from the previous ten minutes of programming. Mentioning the previous story demonstrates that the host shares an interest in the programming with the listeners. Promoting the next story demonstrates that the host is encouraging the listener to continue the relationship. Giving bits of weather information or time checks makes the pledge break sound more like a regular break, and will make all of your listeners feel more comfortable about your pledge break.

In summary

  • Plan the fundraising content of each break.

  • Identify your fundraising goals and make sure your pitchers have the words to help you reach the goals.

  • Plan the hostiness qualities of each break.

  • Make sure your pitchers are informed and enthusiastic about the show they’re pitching in, and for the station in general.

Do these things and you'll have the best chance of meeting or exceeding your goal.


Roger Gomoll

OnAirFundraising LLC, creator of PledgeDriver 651.797.2161

Jacquie Fuller

managed pledge drives for MPR

Asst PD at KUTX in Austin TX


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